Spices are food or drink additives of botanical origins. And they give foods appetizing and delicious aromas. Spices also impart appealing and appetizing colours and flavours to food. And diets rich in spices have several health benefits. In this article, I will explain 13 of the most amazing African spices that have medicinal benefits.
African spices and culinary herbs have faced neglect for too long. And as a result, their knowledge has been lost over the years. These spices have been part of African cuisine since ancestral times. It is only fitting that we know them. As this allows us to enjoy the spices as African ancestors used to do. And experience the health benefits discovered by ancient Africans.
Amazingly beneficial African spices
1. African pepper/Grains of Selim
This is one of the most common African spices and culinary herbs. The botanical name of Grains of Selim is Xylopia aethiopica. And this spice is native to Northern African countries. These include Nigeria, Ghana, Siera Leone and Senegal. The name Xylopia means bitter herb in Greek. This spice is used in many African dishes.
Medicinal uses and health benefits of Grains of Selim/African pepper.
The African pepper spice has traditional uses in the treatment of several health problems. Grains of Selim treats infertility and haemorrhoids. It also treats uterine fibroids, coughs, syphilis, malaria and amenorrhea. Grains of Selim has uses in diabetes and dysentery treatments.
Boiling Grains of Selim seeds for more than five minutes produces a medical decoction. This decoction is an epilepsy treatment. Chewing seeds directly also treats epilepsy. Grains of Selim also treat numbness and anaemia. Whilst chewing the seeds also enhances post-birth placental expulsion. This African spice protects the body from inflammation and inflammatory illnesses. The fruit of the African pepper tree is a well-known spice with several health benefits.
Other medicinal benefits
This spice also has anti-atherogenic effects. It is good for heart health. Eating the grains of Selim prevents cancers and allergic reactions or diseases. Like many other African spices, grains of Selim has blood pressure-lowering properties.
This spice also neutralises harmful aflatoxins in food. It also reduces dementia risks.
Also, African peppers reduce risks and offers protection from ulcer development. The spice contains a lot of bioactive compounds. These protect the body from oxidative damage.
So as can be seen, grains of Selim is awesome! This African spice enhances your dietary experiences. And also, it offers a wide range of health benefits. I would try it if I were you!
2. Calabash nutmeg/African nutmeg
The botanical name of calabash nutmeg is Monodora myristica.
As the name says, this spice is the African version of the spice called nutmeg. It’s found in the evergreen forests of Nigeria, Liberia, Angola and Uganda. The seed of the calabash nutmeg has an odour and taste that is similar to nutmeg. Calabash nutmeg is also one of the most popular African spices. It dominates West African cuisine and several other diets. Several studies have identified several bioactive compounds in African nutmeg. And these provide the spicey aromas and health benefits.
The spice contains saponins, flavonoids, tannins, terpenes and phenols. And these compounds contribute to the several characteristics of calabash nutmeg.
Benefits and uses of calabash nutmeg as an African spice
Like other African spices, calabash nutmeg has many medicinal and culinary uses.
The stem and bark of African nutmeg treats haemorrhoids, stomach ache, fever pains and eye diseases. They also treat headaches and high blood pressure conditions in the Central African Republic. In Nigeria, it is one of the African spices used as a post-birth tonic in women. Calabash nutmeg has anti-sickling properties. Therefore, it reduces the risks of developing sickle cell anaemia.
The seed kernel of Calabash nutmeg is ground into a powder used to make soups. This calabash nutmeg soup relieves constipation. It also prevents passive uterine haemorrhage immediately after childbirth. The spice and the berry fruits of African nutmeg can treat treat mild fevers.
More medicinal and health benefits
Calabash nutmeg spices are good for fat metabolism in the body. They produce favourable blood lipid profiles. This is good for overall heart health. Using calabash nutmeg in your African dishes improves blood antioxidant levels. This makes the spice a potent protector from free radical-induced organ damage. African nutmeg reverses liver damage due to high cholesterol diets.
Eating this African spice can reduce your blood cholesterol levels. This ensures a healthier heart for you. The spice is also rich in many bioactive compounds. And these have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
From all this evidence, it’s hard to exclude this awesome spice from the list of healthy African spices!
3. Pepper fruit: another West African spice
Pepper fruit is a common part of West African cuisine. The spice has a distinctive spicy taste. It is highly nutritious. And it is rich in carbohydrates, proteins and antioxidant vitamins. Pepper fruit is a good source of vitamin A, C and E. And also, pepper fruit contains a lot of beneficial phytochemicals. These chemicals include tannins, flavonoids, terpenoids and glycosides. And they are responsible for the health benefits of pepper fruit.
The uses and health benefits of eating pepper fruit as an African spice.
The spice is used to flavour foods. Pepper fruit treats coughs, fever, toothache, diarrhoea, diabetes and nausea in pregnant women. The saponins, tannins and flavonoids of pepper fruit reduce diabetes risks. The cardiac glycosides present in the spice have anti-asthma effects. Pepper fruit is one of the African spices rich in alpha-linoleic acid, an omega 3 fatty acids. This fatty acid reduces cardiovascular disease risks. It also reduces the risks of prostate cancer.
Pepper fruit has anticonvulsant properties. This makes it effective to reduce epilepsy. And like other African spices, pepper fruit is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect tissues from oxidative damage.
It also makes prevention and management of glaucoma easier. Pepper fruit also has anticancer properties against prostate cancer. Also, the spice also has uses in herbal chemotherapy.
Also read: 5. Healthy foods for prostate cancer prevention
4. Lemon bush/ Zumbani/ mosukudu
The botanical name of the lemon bush is Lippia javanica.
This is one of the most common African spices and herbal plants. Lemon bush occurs naturally in Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. It is known as zumbani in Zimbabwe and mosukudu in Botswana. This spice is used as a food flavourant and spice in Central and Eastern Africa. In southern Africa, Zumbani is one of the most common traditional herbal teas.
Lemon bush is used as a food additive in parts of Kenya. It is also a very popular herbal tea in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
Steaming leaves and stems in boiling water create a lemon bush tea. Boiling lemon bush leaves and stem for more than 5 minutes makes a stronger decoction. The spicey plant produces a vanilla or lemon aroma.
Lemon bush health and medicinal benefits.
The lemon bush plant treats asthma, bronchitis, coughs and chest pains in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Lemon bush treats colds in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Zumbani is a beneficial herbal plant because it is caffeine-free naturally. The lemon bush tea gives a calming and relaxing effect. Zumbani can also treat tuberculosis, influenza, pneumonia, and bronchial problems. These respiratory disorders are treated by the leaf decoction of lemon bush.
This spice also treats blocked nose, fatigue, tonsillitis, sore throat and fever. Also, it can be safely used with other spices and herbs. These infusion remedies help with digestive problems. The infusion remedies also treat cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery. Lemon bush has also been used to treat HIV/AIDS opportunistic infections. Zumbani is also a malaria remedy. Also, lemon bush provides a remedy for women infertility as well as menstruation treatment.
Lemon bush is one of several African spices that have antimalarial activity. So, it’s good to make Zumbani part of your diet.
5. African Sage group of African spices
This is a group of sage like African spices. They are termed Salvia Africana L, botanically. These sage-like spices are native to Africa. They are perennial shrubs native to the coast of Cape provinces in South Africa. They have a strong aroma. This is why they are used as a spice and food flavourant in traditional African dishes. South Africa has a high usage of African sage spices. As a result, overcollection threatens the plants. The sage like African spices has always been used as spices, condiments, flavourants and herbal medicine in Africa.
In this article, I will focus on dune sage/beach sage (Salvia africana lutea) and Blue African sage/blue sage (Salvia Africana caerullea).
Uses and health benefits of African sage
Beach or Dune sage
This species of sage like African spices have many uses and benefits. They treat flu, coughs and women’s ailments. The spice also has protective effects against oxidative damage of tissues and organs. Beach sage also has anti-inflammatory properties. It protects the body from inflammatory processes. Dune sage reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
It also has anticancer and antitumor activities. Also, the spice can treat bronchitis, rheumatism, arthritis and fibrosis properties. Dune sage is also rich in several bioactive compounds with anti-diabetic properties. It controls the damage done by diabetes by improving glucose metabolism. It improves the insulin secretion process.
This spicey plant alleviates throat inflammation, stomach ache, tuberculosis and influenza.
Blue African sage/ blue sage/ wild sage/ purple sage/ beach sage
This spice is related to the previous one. It alleviates heartburn, colic, gripes and indigestion. Blue sage is used in fever and measles medication. The tea reduces severity of coughs, even whooping cough. It also reduces the severity of sore throat and night coughing. This African spice has prominent use in flavouring teas. Like several African spices, a blue sage can treat chest ailments. It also alleviates painful excessive menstruation. Eating foods flavoured with blue sage restores lost voice.
It is important to note that, there is a lot of sage like spices in Africa and South Africa in particular. Many of these African spices have culinary and medicinal value. They are good for the treatment of cancer, malaria and bacterial infections. Some African sage species enhance memory retention. These spices, medicinal and culinary plants are beneficial to health.
6. Basil: An African Spice?
Basil is usually referred to as the king of spices. The spice is not one of the native African spices. However, it is used to season food. And also as a condiment of many African dishes. This spice king originated from Southern Asia.
Uses and health benefits of basil in African cuisine
Basil is rich in phytochemical compounds like quercetin and kaempferol glycosides. These compounds have rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
This spice also has stress-relieving effects. It is also good for the treatment of respiratory, gut and kidney ailments. Basil has protective effects against blood and eye disorders.
It also lowers post-meal glucose levels. As a result, basil improves glucose tolerance in diabetes patients.
It reduces anxiety, depression as well as improve social problems.
Basil is a brain-healthy spice. It improves memory and cognitive well being. It also elevates the alert state and improves brain functions.
Basil has immune-boosting effects. It improves immune responses by enhancing cells of the immune system. This spice also improves immune responses to viral infections.
Basil enhances vital capacity in the lungs and offers relief from asthma attacks. Also, basil reduces gum and gingival bleeding. It inhibits plaque growth and gingival inflammation.
7. Wild mint: the African mint?
This spice is botanically known as Mentha longifolia. It is extensively grown in North African countries. This African spice has a peppermint-scented aroma.
Uses and benefits of wild mint
Wild mint has many medicinal uses. It protects the body from oxidative damage. This is due to its high antioxidant properties. The spice also enhances smooth muscle contraction. Wild mint also protects red blood cells from hemolysis. Thus, it prevents rupture and disruption of red blood cells.
The main bioactive compound of wild mint is menthol a monoterpene. This compound has high antifungal and antibacterial activity.
Wild mint use in African dishes alleviates throat irritation and sore throat.
This minty spice also has anticandidal activities. It reduces the risks of Candida infections. It also has bactericidal activity against dental bacteria. Therefore, wild mint reduces the risks of dental caries.
It also enhances the ability to respond to a harmful foreign object in the body.
Wild mint helps improve gut health. And it also has beneficial effects against gas or blotting troubles. The spice also improves cell viability and overall health.
8. Grains of paradise/ alligator pepper.
The next spice on the list of healthy African spices is grains of paradise. The botanical name of grains of paradise is Aframomum melegueta. Grains of paradise has several other names. These include melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, ossame, Guinea grains and Guinea pepper.
Alligator peppers have origins in West Africa and they grow well in tropical regions. This spice is one of the commonest in condiments in African cuisine. However, alligator peppers also have uses in traditional African medicine.
So, what are the uses and health benefits of Alligator peppers?
Alligator peppers like other African spices alleviate stomach problems. The spice also has antiulcer properties. And it protects cells from oxidative damage. Grains of paradise peppers enhance sexual activity. In traditional medicine, alligator peppers have peripheral pain killer activities.
They also have blood pressure-lowering properties. And they also offer protection against inflammation linked diseases.
Alligator peppers can induce fat and weight loss. They do this by increasing body energy expenditure. Daily ingestion of alligator peppers activates brown adipose tissue. Brown adipose tissue induces energy through thermogenesis. The thermogenesis process burns fat. Therefore daily intake of alligator pepper spices reduces body fat. It does this by preventing the accumulation of visceral fat.
All these benefits make alligator pepper one of the most valuable African spices.
9. West African Pepper/ Ashanti pepper: another of the West African spices.
The botanical name of West African pepper is Piper guineense.
Like any African spice, West African pepper goes by many names. It is also known as Ashanti pepper, Benin pepper, false cubeb, Guinea, Sasema and nziza.
The plant originates in West Africa and it is highly used in Cameroon cuisine.
Ashanti pepper benefits and uses
Ashanti peppers are rich in antioxidant compounds. As a result, they protect the body from oxidative damage and stress. This West African pepper aids the digestive process. It does this by stimulating the digestive enzymes of the pancreas.
Traditionally Ashanti pepper treats coughs, bronchitis, rheumatism and intestinal diseases. Besides, this African spice reduces lipid peroxidation in the body. As a result, it protects the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
Ashanti pepper is added as a condiment to food for pregnant and nursing women. It aids smooth muscle contraction and makes it easier to give birth or breastfeed.
All this shows the significance of the Ashanti pepper in African cuisine and traditional medicine.
10. Senegal pepper/ Chimba
This spice belongs to the Xylopia group of African spices. It is termed Xylopia striata/quintasii in botany.
It is also called negro pepper, moor pepper or hwentia.
Ghana is the largest producer of Chimba or Senegal pepper. However, the spice also grows in most of Sub Saharan Africa. Smoking Chimba during the drying process gives it a deep flavour. It can be crushed and mixed with coffee. It also adds flavour to soups, meat, stews and many other African dishes.
Health benefits of chimba or Senegal pepper.
- The root of the plant treats pulmonary troubles. The root of Senegal pepper also treats venereal diseases. Also, the root helps alleviate constipation.
- Chimba fruit has laxative properties. It also helps with menstrual cycles. It can also help with childbirth.
- The chimba bark has cancer and tumour prevention and treatment properties.
- This African spice can also treat broncho-pneumonic properties. Senegal pepper also has gonorrhoea treating properties.
This is one of the healthiest spices native to Africa.
11. Zambezi Almond: one of the few Southern African spices?
Called Rinodendron heudelotii in botany. This is another African spice of West African origin. It is njangsa, Manketti nut and African oil nut tree. The spice tree grows naturally in Senegal, Sudan, Kenya, Angola and Mozambique. The seeds of the Zambezi almond spice produce a sweet-tasting yellow oil used for cooking. Also, the leaves of the Zambezi almond tree make a protein-rich vegetable. The ash of the wood has salt like flavours in food.
Health benefits and uses of Zambezi Almond.
The bark of the plant prevents abortion. Also, the root decoction of Zambezi almond prevents dysentery. Mixing the root and bark with pepper produces a constipation remedy. And also Zambezi almond bark treats cases of painful menstruation. The liquor of the bark reduces pain during childbirth. It also prevents miscarriages.
Zambezi almond is one of the few African spices that can kill stomach worms. Also, it is a remedy for oedema and rheumatism. The leaves of the Zambezi almond tree treat female infertility and dysentery.
The ground kernels of the Zambezi almond seeds are the main spice. They are used in African cuisine to flavour several dishes. The paste of the ground kernel thickens soups and stews. Also, the soup is an antidote against poison. The African spice also treats yellow fever, stomach pain and inflammatory disorders.
Zambezi almond is only one of the numerous African spices you can try!
12. Voatsiperifery: A king of African spices?
Voatsiperifery is the wild pepper of Malagasy and Comoros. This African spice has an earthy and wood tasting flavour. It also has a gingery flavour with a hint of cloves. It is one of the rarest peppers traded on the international market. This is because it is only produced from wild plants in Madagascar or Comoros.
This African spice has a high value among gourmet experts. This being due to its rich and unique aroma. The spice has a rich and pungent aroma. And as a result, it gives a long-lasting flavour that gives freshness to the palette. This pepper is an integral component of Malagasy cuisine. When dried voatsiperifery has a brown-black colour similar to that of black pepper.
Health benefits of voatsiperifery as an African spice
Voatsiperifery treats tooth decay. It also treats bronchial infections as well as male sexual disorders. The stems of voatsiperifery plants make a herbal tea that restores liver function.
The leaves have beneficial effects against malaria, diabetes and diarrhoea. Voatsiperifery is also one of the few African spices that kill stomach worms. The spice also treats women reproductive problems.
Voatsiperifery has anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory properties. It is also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols that have rich antioxidant properties. The spice also has powerful antimicrobial activities.
Voatsiperifery is used as a spice in place of black pepper. It has been a secret ingredient in Malagasy dishes for centuries. The spice can also be used as a finishing spice or condiment after cooking. Or it is added just before serving. Some people use voatsiperifery as a curry substitute.
This is one of the most expensive African spices, if not world wide. It would be worth to give it a try, if you have the dollars of course!
13. Ajwain/ Carum seeds
This plant closes the list of healthy African spices. Ajwain is a spicy herbal plant that originates from Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia. However, it is extensively grown in India, Pakistan and Iran. The botanical name of ajwain is Trachyspermum ammi.
Ajwain is a spice with a strong pungent aroma. It is a highly valued seed spice of African origin. The seed is bitter and pungent. Ajwain is commonly used as a spice or curry in Indian cuisine.
So why is Ajwain a special African spice
Ajwain has many benefits to the health of the consumers.
Ajwain has antimicrobial and antioxidant activities. It also protects the liver from damage due to different problems. Also, ajwain has gastroprotective effects. As a result, it reduces the risks of ulcer development. It is also good for the treatment of diarrhoea and stomach worm problems. Ajwain is also a good laxative.
Like most African spices, ajwain treats bronchial problems. Also, it is good for the treatment of sleeping disorders.
Ajwain is also used to treat abdominal tumours, abdominal pains and piles. It also has anti-spasmodic effects. Ajwain consumption reduces blood pressure in consumers. It offers relief to coughs and detoxifies aflatoxins in food.
So what’s the conclusion on African spices
From what I have studied whilst writing this article, I have come to realise that most herbal plants and spices in Africa offer many health benefits. Take these African spices, for example, they have a lot of health benefits. Some of them have similar benefits. So what does this mean? This means we need to go back to the roots and find out our road to a healthier lifestyle. Please feel free to comment or subtract, and subscribe!
Do you think I left any African spices out? Well that’s what the comment section is for!
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