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) Moench OKRA

Hibiscus esculentus Linn.

Local name: Okra (Engl.).

Okra is usually cultivated for its edible fruit and is nowhere naturalized. It
is pantropic in cultivation.

This is a coarse, erect, branched, more or less hairy, annual herb 0.6 to
1.5 meters in height. The leaves are orbicular or orbicular-ovate and 25
centimeters long or less; the base is heart-shaped and the margins are 3- or 5-
lobed. The petioles are equal to the blade in length, or longer. The flowers are
axillary and solitary. The calyx is hairy, and about 3 centimeters long. The
corolla is large, yellow, and deep purple at the base, inside. The fruit is an
elongated capsule which tapers gradually to a rather blunt point, is 10 to 25
centimeters in length and 1.5 to 3 centimeters in breadth, and contains rows of
rounded, kidney-shaped seeds.

Okra is grown for its fruit which when immature, is succulent and edible. It
is eaten in various ways and is prized as an ingredient of soups and stews. When
cooked it is very mucilaginous. Analyses of the unripe capsules show that they
have the general characteristics of a succulent vegetable, and are a fair source
of iron and a good source of calcium.

Wehmer records that the fruit contains abundant pectin; mucilage; starch;
some fat, 4 percent; water 80.7 percent; and ash, 1.41 percent. Popp analyzed
the seeds and found nitrogen, 2.4 to 2.5 percent; their ash finding K2O39 percent;
MgO 12 percent, CaO 7.8 percent and P2O5 24.7 percent. Jamieson and
Baugham analyzed the seeds of okra; their results are as follows: palmitic acid,
27.23 percent; stearic acid, 2.75 percent; arachidic acid, 0.05 percent; oleic acid,
43.74 percent; linolic acid, 26.62 percent; Unsaponifiable matter, 0.37 percent.
Read reports that the roots contain gum, 16 percent; and the seeds, vitamin C.

The fruit is official in the Mexican (2s-4) Pharmacopoeia.

According to Dey the whole plant is aromatic, with an odor slightly

resembling that of cloves. On distillation with water the leaves yield an essential
oil which, in time solidifies as a crystalline camphor allied to menthol and called
‘Basil – camphor’. The seeds are mucilaginous.

According to Guerrero, a syrup which is useful in sore throat attended with

hoarseness is made from the mucilaginous fruit.

Burkill and Haniff report that an infusion of the roots is used for syphilis.
Drury and Dey state that externally the leaves form a useful, emollient
poultice. Dymock, Warden, and Hooper recommend a mucilage prepared from
the roots and leaves in gonorrhea.

The fruit is used as a demulcent in gonorrhea and dysuria. In India a

decoction of the young fruit is used in catarrh, urinary troubles, gonorrhea, etc. It
is most serviceable in fevers, catarrhal attacks, irritable tates of genito-urinary
organs – such as dysuria, gonorrhea, and leucorrhea --- and in all cases
attended with scalding, pain, and difficulty in passing urine. In dysentery
especially in the chronic form, the bland mucilage is often most beneficial. It is
generally given in the form of soup. The mucilage is considered to have an
aphrodisiac effect. The tender pods are eaten in cases of spermatorrhea. The
mucilage from the fruit and seeds of the fresh, bruised capsules forms an
efficient, emollient poultice. A decoction of the fruit is recommended as a
valuable soothing and demulcent remedy in irritation of the throat caused by

The seeds are used as a substitute for coffee. They are rubbed to a paste
with milk and used to cure itches. An infusion of toasted seeds has sudorific
properties. The aromatic seeds are regarded by the Hindus as cooling, tonic, and
carminative. The seeds are considered antispasmodic in Annam. In the Antilles,
Guiana, the seeds are regarded as stimulant, cordial, and antispasmodic.