Alligator pepper is a native to West Africa and a member of the ginger family, this pepper plant can grow up to five feet tall. It has thin, lance-like leaves that produce trumpet-shaped, purple flowers. As the flower blooms, it begins to develop into 5-to-7-centimeter-long, grayish-brown, wrinkled, alligator-skin–like, dried pods that contain the very small seeds.
Alligator pepper is a good source of various minerals, including calcium, magnesium and zinc. The amino acids, which are used to build proteins, found in alligator pepper include l-Threonine; humans don’t naturally produce this amino acid so we need to get it from our diet.
Uses and Benefits of Alligator Pepper to humans
- Alligator pepper contains many antioxidants, which come in the form of flavonoids, tannins and terpenoids, providing benefits that include scavenging free radicals in the body that can cause inflammation.
- Alligator pepper is a popular spice that is normally snacked upon especially by elders and sometimes youths. In traditional meetings and events such as baby naming ceremonies, traditional marriages, burial ceremonies, town meetings etc., the alligator pepper is usually served together with kola nuts and peanut butter as part of the customary rites.
- Both the seeds and leaves can also be used for garnishing salads and for preparing assorted dishes such as pepper soup, stews, chicken and lamb dishes etc. It’s hot peppery and pungent flavor augments dishes and makes them spicy. While cooking, alligator pepper can be substituted with black pepper, grains of paradise, piper guineense or black cardamom. The seeds are usually ground before adding to dishes as they tend to be a little bit hard. Furthermore, the beer industry normally uses the alligator pepper for strengthening and flavoring alcoholic beverages such as gin, beer, wine and ale.
- The seeds extracts of the alligator pepper can be used for treating gastrointestinal disorders such as “stomach pain, diarrhea, ulcer and intestinal worms”. Wound Healing: The seeds can be crushed and used for preparing concoctions for treating and healing wounds.
- Also, Alligator pepper contains a high amount of tannin that is distinguished by its stringent property and as such it is very effective for healing wounds, treating burns and soothing inflamed mucous membrane.
- The leaves of alligator pepper are equally used for preparing herbal medicines which are used to prevent and treat malaria. Meanwhile, the seeds aid easy digestion of food thereby preventing constipation and bloating.
There are no recorded side effects of the alligator pepper, however, pregnant and lactating mothers are encouraged not to consume. In the case of when ingested in high doses, alligator pepper causes discontinuation of first trimester pregnancies in rats and as such might not be appropriate for humans.