• General: Alligator pepper; Seeds of paradise.
  • Hausa: Chitta.
  • Igbo: Ose oji; Ose ora.
  • Yoruba: Atare.


It is a tropical reed-like herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 1.5m tall, belonging to the Ginger family Zingiberaceae. It grows from the rhizome which ramifies into the soil, and produces aerial shoots which bear leaves that are alternate, lanceolate, narrow, bamboo-like, and about 35cm in length 15 cm in width. The flowers are beautiful, trumpet-shaped, orange-colored at the lip and rich pinkish-orange in the upper part. The flowers enclose a reddish-brown wrinkled, fig-shaped dried ovoid capsule/fruit, about 5- to 7-cm long pods which contain several red to brown angular seeds, in a jelly-like pulp that is pungent in taste. The seeds are peppery and can be eaten raw or cooked.


  • The seeds are used for the propagation of the plant and they grow well in the tropics especially in well drained fertile soil. The seeds have been found to grow faster and better when they are pre-treated using warm sand. When planted in nurseries, they are transplanted when the seedlings attain a height of 6-8cm. 

Medicinal Benefits

  • It is a known Diuretic; Analgesic; Antioxidant; Anti-inflammatory; Anti-hypersensitivity; Anticancer; Antidiabetic; Anti-obesity; Antidiabetic; Antibacterial; Antimicrobial; Antifungal; Antiparasitic; Abortifacient; Analgesic; and Aphrodisiac.
  • Used for dermatological preparations for treating skin diseases; rashes from diseases like measles, chickenpox, smallpox; and wounds. 
  • Used for the treatment of Fibroid; Post-Partum bleeding; Reduction of the flow of breast milk; and management of Menstrual cramps.  
  • It is used for the management of Nausea; Vomiting; Gastrointestinal disorders; Indigestion; Worm infestation; and Dysentery.
  • It is a stimulant that is used to boosts metabolism; boost energy; promote loss of body fat; and boost immune system.
  • Used for the relief of joint pain; toothache; stomach pain; arthritic pain; and rheumatoid pain.
  • Combined with other herbs for the treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases like Gonorrhea
  • Used for the treatment of Asthma; Respiratory tract infections like Cold and Flu;
  • The leaves are combined with other herbs and used for malaria treatment
  • Treatment of muscle and body ache; and Inflammations of arthritis
  • Enhances blood flow; and improves Cardiovascular health
  • Used for boosting male libido; and sperm count. 
  • Improves mood and combats depression

Other Benefits:

  • It is considered to be a spice with supernatural properties and is used in some cultures for divination and rituals. 
  • It is added to soups; salads; marinade; groundnut paste; confectionaries; to enhance their flavor.
  • It is used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages such as beer, ale and gin.
  • The seeds can be used to sweeten the breath.

How it is Used:

  • The pulverized seeds are mixed with ginger and other preferred spices and rubbed over meat to marinade before roasting or cooking; or used as spice for ‘pepper soup’ and other dishes.
  • A decoction of the root is used for the treatment of indigestion; relief of spasm; treatment of painful menstruation and excessive lactation; treatment of postpartum hemorrhage and infertility.
  • The pulverized seeds are combined with Coconut oil or any other suitable oil for the treatment of skin diseases and wound healing.  
  • The root is boiled and taken for the eradication of intestinal worms; treatment of constipation; and management of Asthma.
  • The leaves as well as the seeds are used as garnishing for salads and soups. The seeds can be substituted for piper guineense (Uda).
  • The whole plant is boiled and the fluid taken for the treatment of arthritic pains; toothache; stomach pain; and rheumatoid pain. 
  • The pulverized seeds are mixed with bitter leaf (Verona amygdala) and decocted in water for the treatment of diabetes.
  • The pulverized seeds are added to alcoholic drinks and beverages for flavouring and spicing.
  • The seeds are chewed with carrots or other fruits to enhance libido and boost sperm count.
  • It is served and eaten with kola nut (Cola acuminata) as part of traditional ceremonies.
  • The powdered seeds are applied on the skin to combat irritations and inflammations.
  • The leaves are combined with other herbs for malaria treatment preparations. 

Reported Side Effects/Caution:

  • It should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women; persons with high blood pressure and Gastrointestinal ulcers.
  • The seeds when eaten in large quantity can cause gastrointestinal and urinary tract irritation.