Spices are natural plants or vegetable mixtures such as seeds, leaves, barks, flowers, buds or roots that are used either whole, crushed or in powdered form mainly for seasoning, boosting, flavoring or adding aroma to the taste of food. From time immemorial, human beings rely immensely on spices as the key ingredient for preparing and processing food all over the world. Plants used as spices normally have strong pungent and aromatic smells that make dishes very delectable.

People use different types of spices such as the South American paracress, sichuan pepper, piper guineense, Tasmanian pepper, scotch bonnet pepper and Eurasian water pepper etc to boost the hotness of dishes and impart the taste. Among the countless lists of food spices in human era is the Negro pepper, which is botanically referred to as Xylopia aethiopica from the Annonaceae family.

The high demand for the Negro pepper as a spice is due to its high constituents of essential phytochemical compounds and beneficial nutritional values.

Negro pepper is also known as selim pepper, uda, Sénégal pepper, kimba pepper, Mohrenpfeffer, kili pepper, Ethiopian pepper, Kanipfeffer, African pepper, kieng, Selimskörner, moor pepper, Guinea pepper, Negerpfeffer, kani pepper, Senegalpfeffer, Chimba, Eeru alamo, Hwentia pepper or whentia. Ghanaians normally use whentia (Negro pepper) for making their spicy black pepper sauce known as shito.

Uda is originally from Africa, South America and Brazil where it is categorized among the top lists of aromatic spices. Even though the Negro peppers are often confused with grains of paradise spice yet they are distinguished by their pungent peppery musky flavor. The fruits have a similar physical appearance like that of small twisted bean-pods and tend to turn dark brown in colour after few weeks of post harvesting and drying. The smoky aroma of the Negro pepper is because the green pods are usually smoked while drying.

Each uda pod comprises of approximately 5 to 9 kidney-shaped seeds that measure approximately 5 mm in length. The pods usually grow in clusters that are attached at the top and each pod is aromatically scented. 

Chemical Composition of the Negro Pepper (Uda seed)

Negro pepper contains flavonoids, alkaloids, cineol, phytosterols, tannins, saponins, glycosides, carbohydrates, β-pinene, paradol, α-terpineol, terpinene-4-ol, terpenes, cryptone, verbenone, β-phellandrene, spathulenol, bisabolene, trans-pinocarveol, limonene, linalool, α-farnesene, β-caryophyllene and myrtenol.

Benefits of the Negro Pepper

Every parts of the Negro pepper plant such as the bark, seeds, stem, fruit, leaves are of great importance in folk medicine for therapeutic purposes. Furthermore, some parts of X. aethiopica can be combined with other plant parts for tackling many ailments and diseases. Researchers reveal that the Negro pepper contains anti-oxidizing, calmative, laxative and antimicrobial properties.

There are several health benefits of guinea pepper that we shouldn’t neglect and some of them are discussed below;

Culinary Purposes

Negro peppers can be added whole or crushed before using to prepare assorted food dishes such as soups, yam porridge, pepper soup, stews, sauce, meat and fish etc. It can be used alone or mixed with garlic or ginger for making herbal tea. Negro pepper can also be used as a preservative.

Treatment of Infections

Negro pepper can be crushed and mixed with the roots of Annona senegalensis, Strychos inogia, Uvaria chamae and Gardenia tennifolia for preparing herbal tonic for treating coughs, fever, flu and cold.

Postpartum Herbal Tonic

Negro pepper is used together with piper guineense, utazi leaves and pepper for preparing local soup such as nsala soup served to newborn mothers immediately after childbirth. These spices help to boost the healing and recovery process of wounds after delivery.

It also helps to stimulate appetite, reduces pain and helps the breast milk to flow. Some studies reveal that the uda spice can also be used for inducing labour. Administering Xylopia aethiopica to newborn mothers helps to clear blood clots in the womb after child delivery.

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Problems

The uda spice can be used as a herbal stimulant for treating gastrointestinal problems such as stomachache, dysentery and gastric ulcers.

Treatment of respiratory System Diseases

The bark of the Negro pepper tree can be soaked in palm wine and used for treating respiratory system diseases such as bacterial pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis.

Treatment of Menstrual Problems

Dried Negro peppers are usually used in folk medicine for increasing the menstrual blood flow. It can also be used for treating amenorrhea, which is an abnormal absence of menstruation.

Treatment of Dermatological Problems

Negro pepper seeds can be crushed and applied topically on the skin for treating boils, itches and skin eruptions.

Antimalarial Properties

Negro pepper contains antimalarial properties thus can be used for making herbal drugs for preventing and treating malaria.

Anti-fertility Properties

Some researchers reveal the possibility of the anti-fertility abilities of negro pepper. Anti-fertility substances are contraceptives that are capable of reducing or destroying fertility.  

As a contraceptive, some women prepare a herbal concoction with uda seeds, which they take immediately after sexual activities to reduce the chances of falling pregnant.

Treatment of Rheumatism

The bark of uda tree can be soaked in palm wine and taken for treating rheumatism, arthritic pain and other inflammatory health conditions. This is due to the anti-arthritic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties of this spice as well as its constituent of nimbidin compound.

Antimicrobial Properties

Researchers reveal that Negro pepper possesses antimicrobial effects against gram positive and gram negative bacteria and as such can be used for fighting against microbes.

Anti-spirochetal Properties

Negro pepper contains anti-spirochetal properties thus can potentially destroy pathogens that are capable of causing syphilis, relapsing fever, yaws, and other related diseases.

Anti-oxidizing Properties

Negro pepper is an excellent source of antioxidants, which are substances capable of removing free radicals and oxidizing agents in a living being. Due to the  anti-oxidizing properties of this spice, it can be used for preventing and destroying cancerous tumors.

The anti-oxidizing abilities of this spice is due to its constituent of flavonoids, phenolics, limonoids and polysaccharides. It is important to note that phenolic extracts have free radical scavenging activity and interestingly, the water extract of Xylopia aethiopica fruit contains high amount of phenolic compounds.

Manufacture of Cosmetics

The essential oils of the Negro pepper  can be used for producing cosmetics such as creams, soaps, foaming liquid, perfumes and repellents.

Boosts the Hormone Levels

The aqueous extracts of the Guinea pepper helps to improve steroid hormonal levels.

Analgesic Properties

Negro pepper can be used as an analgesic for relieving pain.

Other Uses of the Negro Pepper

The spice helps to boost the production of prostaglandin and have equally been proven effective for treating neuralgia and lumbago. Negro pepper can be used as an insecticide for killing insects.

Side Effects of the Negro Pepper

A study by Obembe et al., (2015) reveals that the aqueous extract of the Negro pepper can significantly reduce the haemoglobin concentration. Moreover, it also increases the bleeding and clotting time as well as reduces the white blood cell count and mean corpuscular haemoglobin.

As a result of these side effects of the uda seeds, people should be careful when using this spice to prevent any anomalous effects on the blood system.


This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.


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Adewoyin F. B., Odaibo A. B., Adewunmi C. O. (2006), Mosquito repellent activity of Piper guineense and Xylopia aethiopica fruit oils. African Journal of Traditional Complementary Alternative Medicine 3(2): pp. 79-82.

Ezekwesili, C. N., Nwodo, O. F. C., Eneh, F. U. and Ogbunugafor, H. A. (2010), Investigation of the chemical composition and biological activity of Xylopia aethiopica Dunal (Annonaceae) African Journal of Biotechnology; 9 (43): pp. 7352-7354.

Igwe, S. A., Afonne, J. C. and Ghasi, S. I. (2003), Ocular dynamics of systemic aqueous extractsof xylopia aethiopica (African guinea pepper) seeds on visually active volunteers, Journal of Ethnopharmacol., 88(2-3): pp. 139-141.

Ijeh, I. I., Omodamiro, O. D. and Nwanna, I. J. (2005), Antimicrobial effects of aqueous extract and ethanolic fractions of two spices,Ocimum gratissimum, African Journal of Biotechnology, 4(9): pp. 953-955.

Kolawole D. O. and Omafuvbe B. O. (2003), Microbial Profile of Alligator Pepper (Aframomun melegueta) and Negro Pepper (Xylopia aethiopica) During Processing. Journal of Food Technology 3: pp. 113-115.

Abd-Algader, N. N., El-Kamali, H. H., Ramadan, M. M., Ghanem, K. Z. and Farrag, A. R. H. (2013), Xylopia aethiopica Volatile Compounds Protect Against Panadol-Induced Hepatic and Renal Toxicity in Male Rats, World Applied Sciences Journal 27 (1), pp. 10-19.

Obembe A. O., Ofutet E. O., Okpo-ene A. I., Okon V. E., Eyong E. E. (2015), The Effect of Aqueous Extract of Xylopia Aethiopica (Nigro Pepper) on some Haematological Parameters in Albino Rats, World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, Vol 4, Issue 10, pp. 2580-2581.

Okigbo RN, Mbajiuka CS, Njoku CO (2005), Antimicrobial Potentials of (UDA) Xylopia aethopica and Ocimum gratissimum L. on Some Pathogens of Man. Intern. J. Mol. Med. Adv. Sci. 1(4): pp.392-396.

Puvanendran, S., Wickramasinghe, A., Karunaratne, D. N., Carr, G., Wijesundara, D.S.A., Andersen, R. and Karunaratne, V. (2008), Antioxidant Constituents from Xylopia championii Pharmaceutical Biology, 46(5): pp. 352-354.

Tairu, A.O., Hoffmann, T. and Schieberle, P. (1999) Characterization of the key aroma compounds in dried fruits of the West African peppertree Xylopia aethiopica (Dunal) A. Rich (Annonaceae) using aroma extract dilution analysis, Journal of Agric Food Chem.;47 (8), pp. 3285-3287.


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