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aw Food Index


© Brigitte Mars

Okra (Hibiscus esculentus) is also known as gumbo and lady's fingers. It is a member of the Malvaceae (Malva) Family, which makes it a relative of cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. Okra is native to Africa, probably near Ethiopia. The word okra is derived from nkruman, from a language spoken on Africa's Gold Coast called Twi. The Moors brought okra to Europe.

Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. It is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression. Okra is used for healing ulcers and to keep joints limber. It helps to neutralize acids, being very alkaline, and provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract. Okra treats lung inflammation, sore throat, and irritable bowel. In India, okra has been used successfully in experimental blood plasma replacements.

Commonly used in Creole cooking, okra can be sliced into wheel like shapes and added to salads or used in soups as a thickener. It combines well with tomatoes, which minimizes its gelatinous consistency. Try okra sliced in salads, used for dips, or added to vegetable juices. It is a rich source of beta-carotene, B complex, vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. It' s rich content of electrolytes helps the body's balance of fluids, necessary for nerve impulse transmission. Okra contains pectin, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Select small okra, less than four inches long, that are firm and resilient for maximum tenderness.

Dried okra pods have been ground into high protein flour. Okra seeds are pressed for their edible oil. Topically, an okra poultice has been applied to heal burns, soothe poison ivy and psoriasis when other remedies are not available. The juice can be used as a gargle for sore throats.

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About The Author
Brigitte Mars is an herbalist, author and nutritional consultant in Boulder, Colorado. She is author of ...more
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