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Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam) - A Valuable Medicinal Food: A Review


Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam, also known as sweet potato, is an extremely versatile and delicious vegetable that possesses high nutritional value. It is also a valuable medicinal plant having anti-cancer, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory activities. Sweet potato is now considered a valuable source of unique natural products, including some that can be used in the development of medicines against various diseases and in making industrial products. The overall objective of this review is to give a bird's-eye view of the nutritional value, health benefits, phytochemical composition, and medicinal properties of sweet potato. Specifically, this review outlines the biological activities of some of the sweet potato compounds that have been isolated, the pharmacological action of the sweet potato extract, clinical studies, and plausible medicinal applications of sweet potato (along with a safety evaluation), and demonstrates the potential of sweet potato as a medicinal food.


Alex’s Notes: I once read a book called Sweet Potato Power, so I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across this review of its nutritional and medicinal benefits. I mean, most research is focused on medicinal herbs but many vegetables and fruits also possess medicinal properties. Interestingly, the leaves of the sweet potato are used to treat type-2 diabetes by Akan tribes of Ghana, and in the treatment of inflammatory and/or infectious oral diseases in Brazil. In some areas of Japan, raw sweet potato consumption is used to treat anemia, hypertension, and diabetes. Now I personally don’t use this tuber for these purposes, but I do eat it because it tastes good! Especially with some cinnamon!

In a nutshell, sweet potatoes are little nutrient bombs. They are rich in starch, fiber, and simple sugars, as well as 90% of the micronutrients, and various antioxidants such as beta-carotene. And the leaves are indeed more nutritious than the tuber. The leaves are also rich in lutein, and offers protection from diseases linked to oxidation such as cancer, allergies, aging, HIV, and cardiovascular problems.

The review at hand goes into detail into all the major phytochemicals present in the sweet potato, but to make things easy I summarized them in the table below.


Biological Activities


Potent inhibitory activity towards rat lysosomal beta-glucosidase


Hypoglycemic, antimutagenic, antioxidant, inhibition of HIV replication, antifungal, antispasmodic, collagenase inhibitory


Hepatoprotective, spasmolytic, inhibition of prostate cancer proliferation, acetylcholinesterase inhibitory, antioxidant, anticoagulant, anti HIV


Antioxidant, antimutagenic, antihyperglycemic




Antinociceptive, antibacterial, antifungal

The total antioxidant capacity of the sweet potato has been reported to be about 43% that of ascorbic acid, with purple fleshed varieties doing better than white-fleshed. It has also shown potent anti-diabetic activity, beating out actual diabetic drugs such as diabense, and the fiber of sweet potatoes may be useful in combination with other therapeutic agents for skin wound therapy. Really the only downside is the oxalate acid that could form kidney stones in some susceptible individuals, but cooking can destroy most of it. Pretty cool tuber if you ask me, now if only it contained some resistant starch…

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