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Health Benefits of Alligator Pepper You Don’t Know

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alligator pepper

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.

Alligator pepper:

alligator pepper image
Credit: Wikipedia

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.

Amazing Health Benefits of Alligator Pepper Include:

  •  Anti-oxidizing properties: The phytonutrients in alligator pepper seeds are excellent anti-oxidants that offer protection against viruses, allergens, tumours and opportunistic bacteria in the body. They also scavenge and mop up free radicals from the blood stream.

  • Antimicrobial properties: Recent scientific studies have proven that alligator pepper possess a broad spectrum activity against microorganisms thereby inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria, fungi, and viruses like Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, klebsiella spp etc.

  • Wound healing and Analgesic properties: Herbal concoctions made from crushed seeds of alligator pepper have been effectively employed in folk medicine for treating wounds. Alligator pepper also contains Tannin in copious amounts which are highly effective for treating burns, healing wounds and soothing inflamed mucous membrane. Aqueous extracts of alligator pepper are incorporated into hot balms to alleviate rheumatoid and arthritic pains.
  • Treatment of Gastrointestinal disorders: Extracts of alligator pepper seeds can be used for tackling intestinal problems like diarrhoea, stomach pain and ascariasis caused by excessive population of intestinal worms. It is also recommended for constipation because it aids easy digestion and prevents stomach bloating.

  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: The seeds protect the body against inflammation. This is due to its constituent of gingerol that inhibits the synthesis of leukotriene and prostaglandins (the key mediators of the inflammatory process).

READ: Medicinal Values of Ginger and Garlic

  • Serves as a stimulant: With the peppery pungent taste of these tiny seeds, alligator pepper can keep the body alert hence serving as a stimulant. Also, research reveals that alligator pepper stimulates sexual desires thereby making it a natural aphrodisiac.

  • Dermatological care: Measles, Chickenpox, Smallpox and Cutaneous tinea infections can be treated with herbal concoctions prepared from Aframomum meleguetawhich is an element found in alligator pepper.

  • Treatment of Malaria: Herbal medicines prepared from the leaves are used for preventing and treating malaria. When chewed with bitter kola, it offers a fast relief to the problem of sore throat.

READ ALSO: Malaria – the journey so far

  • Regulates blood sugar levels: Alligator pepper help patients with diabetes maintain their blood glucose, thus protecting them from complications of the disease such as retinopathy (loss of vision), nephropathy (deterioration of kidney function) and neuropathy (weakness).

  • Culinary Purposes: The grounded seeds of alligator pepper can be substituted with black pepper or grains of paradise to spice up dishes like pepper-soups, stews and other assorted meals. Alligator pepper is a good source of various minerals including calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

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.

Conclusion

alligator pepper
Credit: Canva

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.

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Eunice Archibong (MBBS in view) is a certfied content writer and a skilled proofreader. Her interests lie in health and fitness research.

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