African oil bean, also known as (Ukpaka or Ugba), is a type of legume native to tropical Africa that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its potential health benefits. The seeds of the African oil bean plant have a lot of oil in them. This oil is taken out and used in cooking, making cosmetics, and making other things. In addition to its medicinal and culinary uses, the African oil bean is also grown as a food crop in some parts of Africa, with the seeds roasted and ground into flour and the leaves eaten as a vegetable.
It is popularly known as “Ukpaka” or “ugba” in Igbo land, “apara” in Yoruba land, and is called “Ukana” by the Efiks in Southern Nigeria.
The African oil bean tree has numerous benefits for both medicine and the economy. Its shiny brown seeds, contained in flattened pods that burst open when ripe, are the most commonly used part. These seeds disperse widely around the tree when the pods explode
Sliced ukpaka seeds can be used to make nkwobi, abacha, soups, and vegetables with yam.
Nutritional content of African Oil Bean Seed (Ukpaka or Ugba)
African oil bean seeds contain various essential nutrients, such as sodium, copper, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These seeds are also rich in phytochemicals, including tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, sterols, glycosides, and saponins, which can provide various health benefits to humans
Health Benefits of African Oil Bean Seed (Ukpaka or Ugba)
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Ukpaka seeds may help reduce inflammation in the body, which may be beneficial for people with conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory conditions.
- Antioxidant properties: Ukpaka seeds are rich in antioxidants, which may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
- May help regulate blood sugar levels: Some research suggests that Ukpaka seeds may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control, reducing blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity.
- May help with weight loss: Some research suggests that Ukpaka seeds may have weight loss benefits, reducing body weight and fat mass in animal studies.
- Anti-tumor effects: Some research suggests that Ukpaka seeds may have anti-tumor effects, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies.
- Antimicrobial effects: Ukpaka seeds may have antimicrobial effects, helping to kill or inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Liver-protective effects: Some research suggests that Ukpaka seeds may have liver-protective effects, helping to prevent liver damage and improve liver function.
- May have cardiovascular benefits: Ukpaka bean seeds may have cardiovascular benefits, helping to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease.
- Anti-diabetic effects: Some research suggests that Ukpaka seeds may have anti-diabetic effects, helping to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- Skin-protective effects: Ukpaka bean seeds may have skin-protective effects, helping to reduce skin inflammation and improve skin health.
It’s important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of African oil bean seeds and to determine the appropriate dosage and frequency of use. As with any supplement, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before adding African oil bean seeds to your diet.
How to prepare African Oil Bean Seed (Ukpaka or Ugba)
To prepare African oil bean seeds for consumption, the shells must be cracked to reveal the seeds. These seeds are then boiled in water for a period of 14 to 18 hours. After cooking, the seeds are sliced into thin strips and soaked in water, then rinsed multiple times. They are then wrapped in green leaves and left to ferment for three to four days. Once the fermentation process is complete, the Ugba can be incorporated into various delicious dishes.
Notable Side Effects of African Oil Bean Seed
It is important to be aware that African oil bean seeds, also known as Ugba, contain a poisonous alkaloid called “paucine” and a growth depressant called “caffeoylputrescine.” To mitigate these effects, it is recommended to cook and ferment the oil bean seeds before consumption. However, it should be noted that the fermentation process may decrease the levels of certain minerals and vitamins found in the seeds.