Alligator pepper (grains of paradise) means different things to different people. It is served along with Kola-nuts to guests for entertainment, as communion. It is a common ingredient in pepper soup, a spicy delight in most parts of West Africa. But since antiquity, alligator pepper has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of many diseases. The alligator pepper plant has both medicinal and nutritive values and the extracts of its seeds has been used as an antidote to dysentery and diarrhoea. But alligator pepper, which is called names such as grains of paradise, Atare (in Yoruba), chitta (Hausa), or Guinea pepper.
The medicinal uses of alligator pepper dates back into ages and recently scientists in a new study corroborate its usefulness in lowering blood sugar under laboratory conditions. Researchers in ascertaining the blood-sugar lowering effect of alligator pepper had 25 albino rats that were randomly divided into five groups of five rats each. Two control groups: non-diabetic (positive) and diabetic (negative) were administered tap water as vehicle solvent, throughout the duration of the experiment. The remaining three groups received 100 mg/kg of metformin, 200 and 400 mg/kg orally and aqueous(water) seed extract of alligator pepper respectively and simultaneously.
The seed comes from a harvested plant from West Africa called: Aframomum Melequeta witch is also part of the ginger family. They are inside pods at the roots of the plant and are dried before getting to us. We’re pretty far from the fancy stories but it doesn’t matter, the process doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. Alligator pepper is one seed individuals with diabetes might find very well in ensuring the regulation of their blood sugar, thus protecting them from complications of the disease such as blindness and limb amputation
The grains of paradise is also said to have some health benefits and other uses which includes:
- as a cure to malaria fever (the leaves)
- used to treat wounds and prevent infection (the seeds)
- to improve the state of drunkenness (the seeds)
- has great digestive properties (the seeds)
- used for the treatment of disorders linked to male infertility, such as erectile impotence, disorders of ejaculation, and toxic effects on the testes and accessory sex organs.
- the dried roots are chewed and the sap is swallowed for appetite stimulation, stomach pain, and body pain, dysentery, gonorrhea, post-partum bleeding, asthma in children, and to stop vomiting.
You may not come across a lot of recipes which include alligator pepper, but what you could do though is to include it in dishes you would normally use black pepper, cardamon, and cinnamon. Once you get more use to the taste, you can then make your own judgement as to which foods to add it to. Even though this spice is not the most popular from the list of spices, I'm sure you will find good use of it, no why not just add it to your list.