We add spices to food as a condiment that improves the taste of food. Not only that, the spices also improve the colour, flavour and shelf life of food. And in addition to these uses, spices often have medicinal uses and benefits. The bioactive compounds in the spices are responsible for the medicinal properties. Many spices are used around the world to flavour food and medicine. We also have several medicinal spices from Africa. Most of the spices native to Africa play an important part in herbal medicine.
Medicinal spices from Africa: African spices list
Also read: Calabash nutmeg benefits for the best health
1. Grains of Selim/ Selim pepper/ Ethiopian pepper/ Africam pepper/ Guinea pepper (Xylopia aethiopica)
The Selim pepper spice is produced from the Xylopia aethiopica. The tree is about 20 m or more high. This tree has a diameter of 60 to 75 cm and it grows in forest zones. Especially along the rivers and in arid areas. The Selim pepper fruit is a slightly hooked cylindrical pod reaching 2 to 3 mm in width. The mature fruits are green in colour. However, the fruits take a brown-black colouration after drying. These fruits are commonly used as spices. In addition, the African pepper also has many medicinal uses.
Selim pepper medicinal uses list
- It lowers inflammation in your body.
- It also helps treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Selim peppers are used to treat fever.
- In Nigeria, they use Selim peppers to treat bronchitis, dysentery, diarrhoea and biliousness. A decoction of the Selim pepper fruits is used for this.
- The spices help you get rid of intestinal worms.
- Selim peppers are a fertility spice. You can eat the spice to enhance fertility.
- Selim peppers boost female fertility and baby delivery.
- Grains of Selim is a powerful pain and fever remedy.
- The spices help treat rheumatic pain, arthritic pain, asthma and chronic pain.
- In some countries, this spice is used as a herbal remedy to treat all stages of syphilis.
- Eat this spice to improve oral health and prevent oral problems.
- You can also use it for nasal and pharynx infections.
- Grains of Selim is a healthful spice for the heart.
- It can help you manage your blood pressure.
- It is a healthy herbal remedy for pulmonary problems.
As you can see, this Ethiopian pepper/ selim pepper is one of the most powerful medicinal spices from Africa. It has a wide range of medicinal uses. Therefore making it part of your diet is healthful to both you and your family.
Also read: Benefits of grains of Selim
2. Grains of paradise/ alligator pepper (Afromomum melegueta)
Like grains of Selim, this African spice also goes by the Guinea pepper name. This spice is native to West Africa. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows up to 1.5 meters in height. Alligator pepper produces purple flowers that develop into 5 to 7 cm long pods. These pods contain small aromatic and pungent seeds that are reddish-brown. In the region of West Africa, the seeds are used as a spice for flavouring food. However, these seeds also have potent medicinal properties.
Grains of paradise/ alligator pepper medicinal uses list
- The spice is useful as a herbal remedy for stomach aches, diarrhoea and snake bites.
- It also helps in fighting inflammation and inflammation-related ailments in your body.
- It can help in treating cardiovascular diseases.
- Grains of paradise also help in numbing and treating peripheral pain.
- The alligator pepper is also one of the special spices with antidiabetic activity.
- It is helpful in diabetes management.
If you prefer healthful medicinal spices from Africa, this is one of the many choices. These spices can provide you with more than flavour.
3. Ehu seeds/ Calabash nutmeg/ African nutmeg (Monodora myristica)
Ehu seeds are one of the most popular medicinal spices from Africa. I have written several articles on calabash nutmeg and you can find them here:
European explorers used this spice as a cheap nutmeg substitute. Nowadays it’s use seems to have declined except in the native countries.
The seeds of the Calabash nutmeg tree are used as a spice. They produce an aroma, odour and taste that is almost similar to nutmeg. Like other African spices, calabash nutmeg also has a lot of medicinal uses.
A list of calabash nutmeg medicinal uses
- Spice is a treatment for headaches and hypertension in the Central African Republic.
- It’s also helpful as a post-birth tonic in Nigeria.
- A healthful treatment for lowering excessive blood cholesterol levels.
- Can help treat and prevent sickle cell anaemia as well as cell sickling.
- The ground seeds of calabash nutmeg are prepared into a soup that relieves constipation.
- This soup also prevents passive uterine haemorrhaging immediately after birth.
- You can also use it as a treatment for fever, stomach ache and eye diseases.
4. Blue sage/ Wild sage/ African sage/ Purple sage/ beach sage (Salvia africanus species)
This medicinal spice from Africa is native to the Cape provinces of South Africa. It is a very popular spice in the local communities. Its high popularity had threatened it with the collection which can result in extinction. The spice has a strong sage-like aroma. Additionally, it is also a powerful medicinal herb
Medicinal uses of blue sage/ African sage (Salvia africanus)
- Its tea can treat colds, flu, fever coughs and women ailments.
- Can fight inflammation and related diseases such as bronchitis, fibrosis, rheumatism, arthritis and throat inflammation.
- It has potential cancer-protective effects.
- African sage helps in controlling the detrimental effects of diabetes mellitus.
- It improves insulin levels and secretion in the blood.
- Can improve blood glucose regulation
- Helps you reduce and fight oxidative stress.
- A remedy for heartburn, gripes and indigestion.
- Treat chest ailments and painfully excessive menstruation.
- Reduces night coughing and sore throat.
5. Wild mint ( Mentha longifolia)
This wild mint species grow extensively in North Africa. It has a peppermint-scented aroma which is utilised in its usage as an African spice.
Uses of Mentha longifolia as a medicinal spice from Africa
- It protects you from oxidative stress due to its high antioxidant properties.
- The leaf extract can induce muscle relaxation.
- Can protect against several bacterial infections.
- Helps in protecting your red blood cells from rapture and disruption.
- Can help your fight and prevent candida infections.
- Improves your defensive and protective responses to harmful compounds.
- A good herbal remedy for gut problems.
- Help in fighting bloating and abdominal pain: also see Avocadoes cause bloating.
- Helps fight inflammation.
- A remedy for digestive problems, headaches and ulcers.
6. Pepper fruits (Dennetha tripetala); a medicinal spice from Africa
Pepper fruits are one of the most prominent West African medicinal spices. It is a common part of the diet in Nigeria. Pepper fruit has a distinctive spicy taste. In addition to its aroma, pepper fruit also had beneficial phytonutrients and bioactive compounds. These are responsible for its medicinal uses.
Medicinal uses of pepper fruit
- It is rich in antioxidant vitamins like vitamin A, C and E therefore it helps you fight oxidative stress in your body.
- It is useful in treating coughs, fever, toothache, diarrhoea and diabetes.
- Herbal treatment for asthma.
- Treats nausea in pregnant women; Also read: Pregnancy sickness: What’s the best dietary treatment
- The spice helps fight inflammation.
- It reduces risk of getting prostate cancer.
- It helps in the herbal management of cancers like prostate and glaucoma.
- Useful in herbal cancer chemotherapy.
8. African Basil (Ocimum gratissimum)
Is a common spice in West Africa. In Nigeria, it goes by Nchanwu in Igbo. The herb is a spice used for cooking but it also has several medicinal uses.
Medicinal uses of African Basil a medicinal spice from Africa
- Diabetes management.
- It has liver protective effects.
- Helps in fighting inflammation.
- It is a remedy for diarrhoea.
- African basil assists in fighting inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Helps lower blood pressure.
- It can also stimulate your immune system function.
9. African Chili (Capsicum frutescens)
African chili produces smaller fruits than regular chilis but it is more spicy and pungent. It is widely cultivated in Africa and is also known as red pepper or bird chilli. It is green when unripe but it turns red-orange when ripe.
Medicinal uses of African chilli as a medicinal spice from Africa
- Helps in fighting inflammation and cancer.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Can protect you from oxidative stress.
- Help you manage your blood sugar levels and diabetes.
- It has pain killer activities as it helps you numb pain.
- It is a heart and blood vessel protective spice.
Conclusion on the best medicinal spices from Africa
There are many medicinal spices from Africa some of which are too good whilst some have been lost in history. If you prefer flavoured food using healthier spices, these are the spices for you. They are more than just spices and plants of the wild, they are healthful African spices.