Alligator pepper or Grains of paradise (scientifically known as Aframomum melegueta) is a species in the ginger family whose seeds and leaves are used for medicinal, culinary, as well as traditional purposes.
Part of the therapeutic benefits of this wonderful plant is that it helps in boosting the immune system and reducing the risks of certain health conditions, while it is also used as a spice to season a variety of foods.
In Nigeria, alligator pepper is an expensive spice. Alligator pepper is called ósè ọ́jị́ in Igbo. It is called atare in Yoruba, and chitta in Hausa.
This article will discuss the uses of alligator pepper, health benefits of alligator pepper and it’s side effects.
Uses of Alligator Pepper
Alligator pepper is mainly used as common ingredient in West African cuisines, because of its pungency and a spicy aroma it adds to soups and stews.
Alligator pepper is used traditionally for entertaining guests, making local herbs, preparing special prayers, and lots more.
Alligator pepper is said to have spiritual benefits and uses.
In Yoruba culture, for example, once babies are born, they are given a small amount of alligator pepper you taste, as part of the routine baby-welcoming process. The local spice is also used at traditional meet-and-greets in Nigeria.
In igboland, alligator pepper along with kola nuts are used in naming ceremonies and are presented to visiting guests.
Many other customs in West Africa use alligator pepper in religious rituals. It is also used in cultural ceremonies of some tribes in West Africa.
However, we here to talk about alligator pepper’s health benefits. But before that, let’s find out the nutritional contents of alligator pepper. 
Nutritional Contents of Alligator Pepper
Alligator pepper contain gingerols, a chemical compound that is also found in ginger. It is also rich source of phytonutrients, like saponin, tannins, flavonoids, alkaloids, oleanolic acid, terpenoids and phenolic compounds.
Health Benefits of Alligator Pepper
1. Possesses Powerful Antioxidant Properties
Alligator pepper seeds are very rich in phytonutrients, including terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, cardiac glycosides, saponin and phenolic compound, all of which are beneficial to human health.
To be specific, phytonutrients are chemicals produced by plants and they contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in combating harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout your body.
And by so doing they help in reducing the risk of health conditions like asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer, heart attacks, to mention but a few.
Also, the phytonutrients in Alligator pepper helps in fighting eye problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration while also improving your immune system and overall wellbeing. 
Aside from the above, the seeds extracts of alligator pepper are also used in certain parts of the world for treating gastrointestinal disorders, including stomach pain, diarrhea, ulcer and intestinal worms.
2. May Boost Sexual Performance
Multiple studies reveal that alligator pepper contain aphrodisiac properties which helps in stimulating sexual desires and combating various sex-related problems.
With these properties, alligator pepper is able to treat erectile dysfunction, premature ej, and impotence, etc. 
In addition to that, alligator pepper also helps in boosting sexual life as it enhances some areas of sexual arousal in the central nervous system by increasing the blood flow to the penile area as well as numbing the genital area, which makes sex more enjoyable and long-lasting. 
A scientific study in Cameroon described the libido-boosting effect of alligator pepper, seen in rats. It specifically shows that the spice improves fertility in men. 
3. Might Help In Treating Fibroid
Research shows that about 40% of women have fibroid before reaching menopause, and this is often caused by several factors, including excess consumption of alcohol and caffeine, overweight, genetics, hormonal changes, to mention but a few.
Some of the common symptoms of fibroid include – lower back pain, increased urination, extended menstruation, enlarged abdomen or uterus, constipation, pain during sex, miscarriages or infertility, etc.
However, one of the benefits of alligator pepper is that it contains certain properties which are very effective in dealing with this muscular tumor, and due to this alligator pepper is being used as a natural remedy for fibroid, especially in Nigeria and other African countries.
Aside from regular consumption of alligator pepper, other things you can combine to reduce the appearance of fibroid include – eating balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, eating low-sugar diets, eating fresh fruits, eating foods rich in beta-caterone, folate, Vitamins C, E, and K.
Additionally, research also shows that combining alligator pepper with Coconut, Ginger, and West African black pepper are very effective in shrinking and eliminating fibroids in women. 
4. Treats Hypertension
Cardiovascular disease like heart attack, kidney failure, heart failure, and stroke – all of which are a by-product of hypertension and high cholesterol levels has claimed many lives than several other diseases in Nigeria as well as other countries of the world. 
On the plus side, alligator pepper contains a good amount of amino acids and antihypertensive effects, which helps in lowering blood pressure and regulating cholesterol levels so as to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Another reason why alligator pepper is a perfect remedy for hypertension is because it is natural and has little or no side effects on the patient, unlike many other conventional drugs that may pose some risks on your health. 
5. Heals Wounds
This is yet another crucial benefit of Alligator pepper – the ability to heal wounds.
Alligator pepper seeds extracts is rich in alkaloids, flavonoids and tannin, which have been proven severally to be effective in promoting and boosting the wound healing process, and this is because of their antioxidant and antimicrobial activities. 
As a result of this, there are several countries [such as Nigeria] where alligator pepper is being used for healing wounds and treating burns, preventing infections, as well as a soothing inflamed mucous membrane.
All you need do is to crush the seeds and apply on the affected area.
Similarly, a study by Doherty, V. Funmilayo et al. at the Biology Department, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos state, hypothesized that the seed extract of alligator pepper blocks the growth of common disease-causing germs, including Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherictaia coli, Salmonella typhi and even klebsiella pneumonia. 
6. May Treat Malaria
The health benefits of alligator pepper is not limited to the above alone as you can also use it to treat or prevent malaria, one of the dominant diseases in Nigeria.
For this reason, there are certain countries and states where the leaves of alligator pepper are used in preparing natural remedies for malaria, and it is very effective for this purpose. 
7. Treating Digestive Disorders
Extracts from Alligator pepper seeds can be used for treating a lot of digestive disorders. The nutritional contents present in alligator pepper seeds can be useful in the treatment of ulcers, diarrhea and stomach pain. 
Side Effects of Alligator Pepper
They are few side effects of consuming alligator pepper. One of them is the effect of alligator pepper on pregnancy. A study was conducted on the Effect of alligator pepper on first-trimester pregnancy in Sprague Dawley rats in 2009.
The study showed that Alligator pepper had an adverse effect on the first-trimester pregnancy of the rats. The study claimed that pregnant women need to avoid eating Alligator pepper, especially in their first trimester. 
Alligator pepper is used as a spice in many cuisines, and it also has a wide variety of religious and cultural uses. The health benefits of alligator pepper include treating malaria, boosting sexual performance and antioxidant properties. More medical research needs to be done on the effects and properties of alligator pepper.
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