In the Mbaise zone of Imo State is a dish unique to the people: the Aju Mbaise soup, also known as Mmiri Ogwu. The name means “a wrap from Mbaise.” The chief ingredient is a herb made from the leaves and bark of a medicinal tree, which are tied together in a bun.
Aju Mbaise can be served as a drink or used for pepper soup. When boiled, it has a bitter taste and a rich, heady aroma, and turns light brown.
As pepper soup, Aju Mbaise is cooked with aromatic spices like uda and vegetables like oha, nturukpa, and uziza. People add fresh fish, stockfish, smoked fish, catfish, and goat meat.
Traditionally, the Aju Mbaise soup is prescribed for nursing mothers to flush out post-pregnancy fat and substances clinging to the stomach. It enhances fertility in women by removing dead cells. It helps in regulating ovulation and serves as detoxification for women who have miscarried or had an abortion. It further serves as a remedy for early-stage fibroid and tumours.
The soup, though, could be harmful to pregnant women and their babies, and when drunk too much, it can cause dizziness.
Aside women, men and children who want to achieve weight loss can also drink the soup.
The soup is best drunk while hot, as this increases its efficacy.
Uzoma Ihejirika is a Nigerian creative writer and journalist. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa and has written for Open Country Mag. He has a short story on Lolwe.