If you were to ask a pediatrician, “Is scent leaf good for babies?” There’s a high chance you will not get a straight answer or an answer that does not discredit scent leaf but focuses on questions like, “how old is your baby?”, “Does he or she have a medical condition?”, “how long have you been feeding him or her with food you made for the family?”
These questions are meant to help make more findings that will help the pediatrician give you an informed answer. In the same vein, you will get an answer on the question, “Is Scent Leaf Good for Babies?” after we have considered some general outlook on scent leaf.
In this article, we will delve into how scent leaf is of benefit to everyone, babies inclusive. We will also see when the right time to feed babies with scent leaf begins. Also, at what quantity should babies be given scent leaf, and for what purpose?
Scent Leaf: An Overview
Scientific name, Ocimum gratissimum, commonly called scent leaf, African basil, or clove basil is a native herb of African origin that is popularly used for culinary, as well as medicinal purposes. It is commonly called Efirin among the yorubas, Ebe-amwonkho among Edo people, Daidoya by the Hausas, Nchuanwu or Arimu by the Igbos, and ntong in Ibibio, to mention a few. The different names it bears in different languages in Nigeria and Africa shows its extensive use.
It is usually found in almost every home in the rural areas of Nigeria as it is used in preparing vegetable soup that has medicinal value among the people. When combined with bitter leaf – which can also be used as the main ingredient in a particular type of soup – it helps to improve the immune system of the consumer. However, when cooked alone as a soup, it is usually used to address issues of the stomach, such as stomach upset.
Scent leaf is believed to possess some antibacterial properties and is often used to fight against fungal infections, such as ring worm, locally called lapalapa. It is also believed to be effective against the tropical and subtropical infection called Leishmaniasis – a disease that is spread by sand fly and characterized by ulcers of the skin, mouth, and nose. It can also lead to liver and spleen enlargement and loss of red blood cells.
Scent leaf contains an essential oil that has application in many industries, including medicine and perfume – Eugenol. Eugenol is a pale yellow, or sometimes, colourless oily liquid extract that is gotten from plants, such as cinnamon, bay leaf, African basil (scent leaf), among others. It is popularly used in dentistry as a local anaesthetic and antiseptic – when combined with zinc oxide – for individuals whose tooth needs to be removed despite their dry socket. It also used to seal root canals.
Although this essential oil is effective as an anaesthetic as its efficacy is evident in helping numb pain, it can be quite toxic, especially when used excessively. In children, a study showed its toxicity in a 2-year-old child that consumed above 5 ml of eugenol.
Read more: How to Treat Alefo in Babies Effectively
Nutritional Content of Scent Leaf
|Scent Leaf Nutrient||Composition|
|Vitamin C||197.35 mg|
|Vitamin E||31.46 mg|
Source: International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, Volume 5, Issue 12. December 2014.
Scent leaf contains some of the essential nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and low level of fats, that help a baby grow well. Protein helps a child grow its muscles and repair its fast-growing tissues fast. It also helps to supply some amount of energy to the body. Carbohydrates help to fuel the energy reserve of kids, helping them to be active all day. The low fat content of scent leaf helps to ensure that a child does not carry too much fat, that may cause health challenges later in life.
Also, vitamins C and E are essential in boosting the immune system and helping to maintain good skin conditions, respectively. The other nutrients, such as alkaloids, flavonoids, and saponins, are effective against cancerous growths. They also help to fight free radicals and protect the cells from them by helping the body eliminate them.
Benefits of Consuming Scent Leaf
Scent leaf is widely used around the world for medicinal purposes. Some of these purposes are backed scientifically, while others are not. Regardless, it is important that you know why your child should, often times, take scent leaf, either as tea by drinking its extract, or as part of a vegetable. Here are some of the benefits you and your child stand to derive from it.
Eye Health Improvement
One of the usefulness of scent leaf is derived from its abundance in vitamin A, called retinol. It helps to strengthen the light receptors in the eyes and consequently makes the eyes more effective in seeing objects by making them appear clearer.
In children, the eyes’ development is considered a serious matter. Children with weak rods and cones have sight issues and sometimes are required to wear glasses as per recommendation. However, from a very early age, children who are given small amounts of scent leaf usually have a better eye health compared to those who do not.
Sometimes, the food we eat can cause issues of indigestion. In children, it can be more serious, especially when they have eaten more than they can handle. Sometimes, it comes with stomach aches, and in babies, who cannot express their discomfort in understandable words, it can be frustrating.
Including small amounts of scent leaf in their food helps them digest food better, due to its fiber content, and helps to avoid stomach ache episodes that may arise.
Heals fungal infections
The anti-fungal property of scent leaf makes it effective in fighting fungal infections, such as ringworms in the scalp, nail, feet, groin area, and so on. The presence of phenols, alkaloids, and saponin, ensures that the causative fungus is dealt with and it dries up.
Effective against bacterial infections
The use of antibiotics in children can be tricky. Some bacterial conditions require high doses of antibacterial which may not be advisable for children. However, their bacterial infections, such as sinusitis and gastroenteritis, which is common in children can be treated using either antibiotics or scent leaf tea.
Some bacteria that have gone resistant to certain antibiotics can be killed using scent leaf as tea or as part of meals.
Protects cells against abnormal growth
Scent leaf contains flavonoids. Which are known to be effective in removing free radicals from the body. Free radicals are a leading cause of the cancerous growths that cells experience. Therefore, consumption of scent leaf by children, helps to remove these free radicals, and help the cells grow normally.
Effective against Stomach upset and diarrhea
One of the common reasons many African homes use scent leaf is due to its ability to help manage stomach upset and diarrhea. When children complain of stomach pain or begin to vomit and frequently visit the toilet, parents pluck some scent leaves, extract the juice and give the children to drink. In some minutes, the pain subsides and normal health is restored.
This effect can be attributed to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
Read more: Pregnancy Nutrition: Is Locust Beans Good for Pregnancy?
Promotes heart health
No one wants their child to be obese, even though an underweight child is not anyone’s desire as well. However, to prevent obesity, especially in childhood, a parent is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring what his or her child consumes. More vegetables and fruits helps keep obesity, which may lead to heart stress, at bay.
Scent leaf contains low fats and high levels of sodium and magnesium, which helps to reduce the level of fats in the body. Consistent consumption of scent leaves, makes the heart healthier by removing unwanted fats from the arteries.
Acts as insect repellents.
Some insects are annoying to have around the house, while others are outrightly dangerous, as they are vectors of diseases. Scent leaf contains essential oils that repel insects, such as mosquitoes and sand fly, thereby, protecting children against diseases such as malaria and Leishmaniasis.
How Much Scent Leaf is Too Much for Babies?
There is no research that has portrayed the amount of scent leaf or its extract that should be consumed by adults, neither has there been any for babies. However, there have been reports of a child who is about 2 years old that had complications, such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and unconsciousness, due to an overdose of more than 5 ml of Eugenol, an oil that can be found in scent leaf.
Also, this same oil is known to have allergic properties for some people as it can cause contact stomatitis and allergic cheilitis when used in dental procedures.
Although there are no scientific backings on what dosage of scent leaf or its extract anyone should take, it is important that you consider the health of your child when using this.
For a child that is about 6 months old to 1 year old, avoid the use of scent leaf, except otherwise advised by a doctor. For children above 1 year old, use about 2ml of scent leaf, diluted with warm water for them, to avoid accidental overdose. However, for older children, you can dilute about 3 – 4 ml of scent leaf juice for them to use.
Whatever you do, do not exceed 5 ml of scent leaf juice per day for your children.
For better informed decision, consult your doctor before you use scent leaf for your babies.
Scent leaf is a traditionally important herb in Africa. It is used to treat many diseases caused by bacteria and fungi. It is also effective in warding off some vector insects, such as mosquitoes and sand fly that cause malaria and Leishmaniasis, respectively.
However, the debate of its safety for children continues as there are scientific researches that back its safety for children, despite its widespread use for babies in African homes. The concern surrounding this has increased in recent times, after the issue of the boy that almost died from eugenol, an oil contained in scent leaf.
Despite its many health benefits, it is safer to consult your doctor before you give your baby scent leaf or its extract.
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