Crassocephalum crepidioides (ebolo in Yoruba) belongs in the family Asteraceae. The stem is erect, round and hairy. Leaves are alternate, deeply-lobed and oval-shaped with toothed margins. The inflorescence is a capitulum consisting of orange disc florets. This plant is characterised by a cluster of heads at the apex of the stem. The seed is an achene with hairs (pappus) on top. It is a special pot vegetable among the Yorubas distinguished by its fragrance about which the Yoruba weighty wisecrack “No treatment can remove the fragrance of ebolo which is from its source, the wild” was coined!
Crassocephalum biafrae (worowo in Yoruba) also belongs in the family Asteraceae. It is a scrambling herb, so described because it uses twigs and canopies of weeds as support). It is a sub-succulent herb with leaves petiolate, that is having stalks, blade triangular or sagitate (like the head of an arrow) with base slightly cordate (which means that the leaf base has a depression into which the tip of the stalk is attached) shortly decurrent onto the petiole.
Let me start by emphasising that ebolo is not Parsley and it is not coriander. Coriander is coriandrum sativum, an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Parsley is petroselinum crispum and it is in the same family as coriander. Crassocephalum crepidioides (ebolo) is in the Asteraceae family.
There was a time it was everywhere online that ebolo should be juiced for kidney health. I noticed that it was the picture of Parsley that was always put on display. Identification of herbs has always been a problem and many people have used a wrong remedy on the basis of spurious botanical identities. This remains a potent threat to safety in the use of herbal remedies; be sure of your herbs before you take them.
A research was carried out to determine the nutritional qualities of crassocephalum crepidioides (ebolo) and crassocephalum biafrae in (worowo) at the Department of Animal Production and Health Sciences and the Department of Biochemistry of the University of Ado, Ekiti Ekiti State. The conclusion was that the two vegetables are good sources of vegetable proteins whose quality could be enhanced through supplementation. According to an article, Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, Aniya et al. (2005) found that it is a potent antioxidant and protects against hepatotoxicity. Studies have also confirmed wound healing, anti-diarrheal, anti-tumour, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective and radical scavenging properties for this vegetable species. It is also used as green fodder for poultry and livestock.
crepidioides is used in traditional African medicine to treat indigestion, stomach ache, epilepsy, and sleeping sickness. The lotion of the leaves or decoction can be used to treat headache. Applied externally, the leaf sap is used as a treatment for fresh wounds. The dried leaf powder is applied as a snuff to stop nose bleeding. It is used to treat swollen lips.
Crassocephalum crepidioides has been used successfully as a trap plant to collect adult corm weevils in banana plantations; this is classical biological control by native people. In Cóte d’Ivoire, leaf preparation by anal enema is used to facilitate childbirth. In Papua New Guinea, the leaves are used externally to treat sores and irritation of the penis. Some other Crassocephalum species are used in traditional medicine internally to treat liver complaints, colds and externally, to treat burns, sore eyes, ear ache and breast cancer.
Last rainy season, I ate this vegetable species so much with lots of locust beans added to it. It has a flavour too. Some people steam it to remove the mucilage. I do not steam mine.
Fresh succulent leaves of C. biafrae are used as a leafy vegetable in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. They are especially popular in the southwestern part of Nigeria. The Yoruba often say ‘a vegetable soup prepared with worowo does not need meat.’ However, fish or meat can be added to the soup. In Sierra Leone, where it is called ‘bologi’, the leaves are eaten as a steamed vegetable in combination with okra and fish.
An infusion of the leaves is taken as a drink. Among the Yoruba-speaking people of South-West, Nigeria, a leaf extract of C. biafrae is used to stop bleeding from cuts or injury and, in Sierra Leone and Cameroon, the leaf extract is used to treat sore eyes. In Côte d’Ivoire, pulped leaves are applied to the breasts as a galactagogue. In Congo, it is used to treat cough and heart troubles as a tonic and to relieve rheumatic pain, prurient allergies and localised oedema. The leaves are applied in Nigeria to dress wounds.