Grains of Selim or Selim pepper refers to the seeds of the Xylopia aethiopica plant. These seeds and fruits have many medicinal uses however they are also used as a spice. I have received several requests to write about Selim pepper benefits/ benefits of grains of Selim. So, I have decided to do exactly that. This is a welcome development since the requests show that people now know the importance of African spices and herbs to their health.
Selim pepper is one spice that has many names. Sometimes, you may be confused by the many names. Grains of Selim/ Selim pepper is also known as:
- African pepper
- Guinea pepper
- Ethiopian pepper
- Negro pepper
- African grains of Selim
Xylopia aethiopica/ Selim pepper/ Grains of Selim
Xylopia aethiopica (bitter wood) is an aromatic evergreen plant. It is tall and slim and it grows up to 15-30 m high with a diameter of 50-70 cm. The plant is native to the Savanna region of African countries. This includes Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Senegal among others. The tree produces fruits that look like twisted bean pods. Each pod has about 5 seeds. And the hulls of each seed are highly aromatic not the grains themselves. The aromatic fruits and seeds have important medicinal and culinary values. Dried fruits are used as a spice and traditional medicine.
Traditionally Selim pepper/ Grains of Selim are used to treat:
- Female infertility
- Uterine fibroids
- Amenorrhea (period pains)
- Colic pain
Traditional medicinal uses and Selim pepper benefits/ benefits of grains of Selim
Whilst most of the benefits of grains of Selim are traditional, they are also backed by research evidence. So you can safely use this African spice as traditional medicine or remedy.
Research studies show that Selim pepper/ grains of Selim have many benefits including:
- Analgesic/ pain killing properties
- Antiinflammatory properties
- Antidiabetic properties
- High nutritional value
- Antimicrobial effects
- Anti-cancer effects
Grains of Selim is rich in many bioactive compounds including kaurines, xylopic acid, alpha and beta-pinene, paradol and alpha farnesene. These compounds may be responsible for some of the medicinal uses exhibited by the plant.
Traditional Selim pepper benefits
You can crush the seeds of the grains of Selim/ Guinea pepper into a powder. This powder is topically applied to the forehead to treat headaches and neuralgia.
You can also chew the seeds or take them as a decoction tea for epilepsy, numbness and anaemia. The teas can also induce postpartum placental expulsion traditionally. To make a decoction tea you must boil the seeds in water for more than 5 minutes. Decoction teas are stronger remedies than infusions. However, the temperatures used can also destroy some bioactive compounds in the spice.
To treat bronchitis and dysentery you can infuse the fruit or bark in water for some time. You can then drink the infused water as a remedy/ tea. You can do cold water infusions but they take longer. Cold water infusions cause minimal damage to our bioactive compounds. Warm water infusions are faster and also have minimal damage to bioactive compounds. Hot water infusions are faster and stronger but the damage on bioactive compounds is higher. So, you have to choose what works for you.
The leaf and bark infusions are also used as mouthwashes for toothaches. And also as medicine to treat biliousness and febrile pains.
In Senegal they use Selim pepper seeds as essential ingredients for soups given to breastfeeding mothers.
As you can see there are many traditional medicinal benefits of grains of Selim. So, you can make this spice part of your herbal remedy cabinet.
Selim pepper fruits
Grains of Selim fruits have several health benefits and medicinal uses.
You can use decoctions of dried fruit for treating and managing asthma. You can also use the decoction teas to treat pain from rheumatic conditions.
Some people smoke dry fruits like tobacco and inhale the smoke. This relieves respiratory ailments.
You can also mix the dried fruit powder with shea butter for healthy skin.
Selim pepper roots benefits
You can disolve powdered roots in alcohol. And you can take them orally as antihelmintic agents and mouthwash for toothache.
People also use powdered Selim pepper roots as dressings for skin wounds and cancers. You can also rub them on your gums for gum diseases and infections.
Some people use aqueous root concoctions as an antiinfective drug after childbirth. They also administer the decoction orally as an antihemorrhagic agent
Selim pepper benefits: leaves
You can use the leaves to manage wounds, cuts and boils. You can also use leaf and root decoctions as tonics for fever and debility. Some use leaf decoctions as an antiemetic.
Bark help in making a tonic to promote easy childbirth.
Many studies have supported the traditional Selim pepper benefits.
Selim pepper/ grains of Selim/ Guinea pepper seed extracts have cytotoxicity on several cancer cell lines.
Studies show Selim pepper anticancer activities on:
- Pancreatic carcinoma cells
- Leukaemia cells
- Colorectal carcinoma cells
- Human promonocytic cancer cells
- Human prostate carcinoma epithelial cells.
The cytotoxicity is attributed to diterpenoid kaurine compounds. Making grains of Selim part of your diet can help protect you from some of these cancers. You can take it as a spice in food or as an infusion, tea or decoction. In some countries, they use it to flavour fermented beverages.
Antiinflammatory properties of grains of Selim
The festering of inflammation inside your body usually results in chronic diseases. Many people are now resorting to traditional African herbs to fight inflammation. Selim pepper and other spices like calabash nutmeg have anti-inflammatory properties.
Selim /Guinea pepper possesses compounds that inhibit the release of histamine from mast cells. Histamine is one of the main inflammatory compounds in the body. The compound xylopic acid in Selim pepper has both anti-inflammatory and painkilling activities.
Selim pepper kaurines give the spice anti-inflammatory properties.
Antimicrobial activities of Selim pepper
Research shows that Selim pepper can inhibit the growth of several microorganisms. These include:
- Bacillus subtilis (bacteria)
- Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria)
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa (bacteria)
- Candida albicans (yeast)
This means that grains of Selim can help fight infections from these microorganisms.
Studies show that Selim pepper has antidepressant activities. This means that it can help alleviate depression. Depression is a very common health problem. And using grains of Selim regularly in your diet may help you fight depression.
Painkiller/ analgesic properties
Selim pepper has analgesic and painkilling activities. This may be due to the presence of xylopic acid. This compound helps in pain relief and provides painkiller activities in Selim pepper.
All these pharmacological Selim pepper benefits show why the traditional uses of the spice are justified.
How to use Selim pepper
You can use Selim pepper as:
- Decoction teas
- Concoction teas
- Infusion teas
- You can chew the seeds and swallow.
- You can also add them as spices to your food, in powdered form.
Selim pepper is one of the most powerful African spices you can use medicinally. We have many traditional and pharmacological Selim pepper benefits. We can safely use Selim as a herbal remedy for different problems. Leave a comment!