Health Benefits of Alligator Pepper You Don’t Know
As though the mild conflict with his father over disobediently partaking in a football match on a hot sunny harmattan afternoon wasn’t enough, 10-year-old Lawrence had to endure the sore discomfort he was feeling from the scalding of a hot cup of tea and the few bruises he sustained on the field.
To him, his father’s remedy of alligator pepper and bitter Kola was something he wouldn’t try right away as the combination always had him spitting. He wouldn’t add that displeasure to his present discomfort.
Lawrence’s fear assailed when he remembers that he may be required to take his occasional lead vocals during music class.
Inasmuch as he anticipated Fridays for this, he feared he won’t be able to live up to his reputation as barely two days to the class, he still croaked like a frog. Alas, he would have to try his father’s concoction; his ultimate remedy for almost everything, from a slight fever to a sore throat. It was either that or embarrassments from his class bullies.
The alligator pepper plant can grow up to five feet tall and is easily distinguished by its thin, lance-like leaves that produce trumpet-shaped, purple flowers.
As the flower blooms, it begins to develop into five to seven centimetre-long, greyish-brown, dried pods that contain small brownish seeds with sharp peppery, bitter and aromatic flavour.
Alligator pepper is one of such plants whose chemical properties have been found to play a number of roles that are of nutritional, medicinal and therapeutic benefits to the human body.
Studies have found the extracts of its seeds to contain significant amounts of secondary metabolites and phytonutrients amongst which are tannins, phenolic, flavonoids and alkaloid compounds that have been used as antidote against several diseases.
The peculiarity of alligator pepper is seen in its skin which has close similarity with the back of an alligator, hence the origin of its name. It has a distinct reddish colour when fresh and turns brown when dry.
Both the leaves and seeds of alligator pepper are used in the brewery industry for strengthening and flavouring beverages ranging from gins, beer and to wine. Kolanuts and alligator pepper are served in events such as traditional marriages/meetings, burial rites, baby naming ceremonies, and have been a part of the Nigerian culture from time immemorial.
Although there are no recorded side effects of the alligator pepper, however, pregnant and lactating mothers are advised against consuming it. Following the report of a 2009 experiment by Inegbenebor et al., pregnant women in their first trimester are strongly advised to abstain from eating alligator pepper in order to avoid miscarriages.
Furthermore, lactating mothers should avoid taking alligator pepper in high quantities as it can reduce the secretion of prolactin that is responsible for stimulating milk production after childbirth.