Spice Of The Week: Negro Pepper (Uda Seed) – An Exceptional African Spice

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Negro pepper popularly called ‘Uda’ by the Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria is an exceptional spice  known by different other names in Africa such as selim pepper, 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.

Negro pepper 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 flavour.

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uda spice

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.

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, 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.



Ghanaians normally use whentia (Negro pepper) for making their spicy black pepper sauce known as shito. The Igbos use the spice in preparing meals for mothers immediately after childbirth as it is believed to remove bad blood and aids the healing and recovery process of wounds after delivery.

Nsala soup
Nsala soup prepared with Negro Pepper

Negro pepper, which is botanically called Xylopia aethiopica from the Annonaceae family is in high demand around the world not just for its high nutritional values but also for its constituents of essential phytochemical compounds.

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.

Also See: African Spices: Amazing Facts About African Locust Bean You Never Knew

Other Facts About Negro Pepper You Should Know

  • Every part of the Negro pepper plant such as the bark, seeds, stem, fruit, leaves are of great importance in folk medicine for therapeutic purposes.
  • Negro Pepper can be combined with other plant parts to tackle many ailments and diseases. Research has revealed that the Negro pepper contains anti-oxidizing, calmative, laxative and antimicrobial properties.
  • It 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.
  • Making a tea from uda seed and administering it to newborn mothers helps clear blood clots in the womb after child delivery. Some studies reveal that the spice can also be used for inducing labour.
  • It helps to stimulate appetite, reduces pain and helps the breast milk to flow.
  • Negro pepper can be used as a herbal stimulant for treating gastrointestinal problems such as stomachache, dysentery and gastric ulcers.
  • The seeds can be crushed and applied topically on the skin for treating boils, itches and skin eruptions.
  • Dried Uda seeds 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.
  • 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.
  • The pepper contains antimalarial properties thus can be used for making herbal drugs for preventing and treating malaria.
  • 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.
  • Negro pepper can also serve as a contraceptive. 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.
  • The essential oils of the Negro pepper can be used for producing cosmetics such as creams, soaps, foaming liquid, perfumes, and repellents.
  • The aqueous extracts of uda seeds help to improve steroid hormonal levels.
  • Research has also shown that Negro pepper contains anti-spirochetal properties capable of destroying pathogens that cause syphilis, relapsing fever, yaws, and other related diseases.

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A study by Obembe et al., (2015) has, however,  revealed that the aqueous extract of the Negro pepper can significantly reduce the haemoglobin concentration. 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, you should be careful when using this spice to prevent any anomalous effects on the blood system.