Saturday, July 16, 2016

The benefits and side effects of grains of paradise

grains-of-paradiseImage Source: Wikimedia Commons

Grains of paradise is an herb that essentially belongs to the same family as ginger, zingiberaceae. Just like ginger, they are considered to be very good for improving digestive as well as intestinal health.

They are extracted from an African plant “aframonum melegueta” which is also its botanical name.

The plant bears fruits that contain hundred of reddish brown seeds. These seeds have several medical as well as culinary benefits to them.

Also called as “alligator pepper”, the seeds of this plant have a peppery taste and were a popular option to season food with.

Research is still going on to determine the herb’s full compositional analysis.

Very few studies (1) have been conducted which would tell us clearly how grains of paradise actually work.

However, the limited amount of studies that we do have tell us a few things about what this grain actually does that brings about its effects.

The oil extracted from the seeds of this herb may help with:

Enhanced testosterone levels- The oil extracted from this plant contains steroids, flavonoids, cardiac glycosides, etc which have been found to be effective in increasing the testosterone levels in male albino rats. (2)

Aiding weight loss- This herb activates the brown adipose tissue, which causes fat to burn, consequently leading to weight loss in rats. (3)

An important thing to note here is that while grains of paradise does seem to bring about results, but these results are the findings of studies does on rats, not humans.

There have been very few studies conducted on human subjects for us to conclude whether the same findings can be applied to human bodies as well.

One human based study which was done to see the anti-obesity properties of this seed required subjects to have brown fat and have cold exposure. (4)

This tells us that even if this herb does have anti-obesity properties, they would only be applicable to certain people, when exposed to certain types of conditions.

Hence, it is difficult to arrive at a solid conclusion about what these herbs can or cannot do.

For now, one thing we know for sure is that they are good for lending peppery taste to food, but whether or not they have any impact on testosterone levels and fat burn needs to be backed up with more human based studies.

Health benefits of grains of paradise:

There are a few other health benefits associated with this herb as well. For example, in a number of areas in Nigeria, the seeds of this plant are used as a cure for diabetes. (5)

Using fruits and seeds from plants to treat many medical conditions is actually a very common traditional treatment in many places across the world. Especially in the African countries, this herb is believed to have the following health benefits:

  • This herb is also considered as a highly effective anti-fungal as well as antimicrobial agent.
  • It can also increase the production of breast milk.
  • It also has antiparasitic properties; it can be used for cleansing and riding the digestive system of any worm infestation.
  • The contents of this herb are also believed to help make the blood purer.
  • In many African countries, grains of paradise is used for treating measles and leprosy.
  • Hemorrhage that is often associated with childbirth may also be dealt with using this herb.
  • It can help with indigestion.
  • Grains of paradise can also help with heartburn.
  • They are also considered as a powerful aphrodisiac. However, their aphrodisiac properties are considered to be weaker than other popular herbs used for this purpose.

To find out whether these benefits actually have any scientific value to it or they are simply just myths, more research needs to be conducted.

Side effects of grains of paradise:

Some of the side effects of this herb include:

  • Irritation of the stomach
  • Irritation of the intestine
  • Irritation of the urinary system

Grains of paradise can be considered safe for most, if not all, adults.

There is no safety warning for women who are pregnant or are breast-feeding because there no studies have been conducted with pregnant/breast feeding women as subjects to date.

However, to be on the safer side of things, such women should stay away from using any herb unless they have been medically prescribed by a doctor.

It would be a good idea to keep this herb out of children’s reach as well. No actual safety warnings exist for children, but again, it is better to be on the safer side of things and not give them any.

Since this herb also belongs to the ginger family, people who are allergic to ginger or cardamom may likely be allergic to this, too.

Dosage instructions

The dose of grains of paradise depends upon the user’s health condition, his age, weight, gender and other conditions.

Based on these conditions, every user would be having their own recommended dose.

Due to lack of human based studies done using grains of paradise, there is no recommended dose for this herb either.

The only human study that was done using this herb gave a dose of 40mg and nothing more than that. (6)

This drug is listed in the FDA approved list of drugs that are generally safer to use, but again, lack of human based studies should make us think twice about this.

Not all natural products are always safe, and while this herb is 100% natural, you can never be too careful. It is prudent to always consult your physician or your pharmacist before you start on any product.

This warning holds twice as much weight for herbs like grains of paradise because there is little scientific evidence backing their effects.

Summary: Despite being listed in the FDA approved list of safe drugs, there is still a lot of human based research that needs to be done on grains of paradise to really settle the deal. That being said, it is a naturally occurring herb with minimal side effects, and can be used to improve intestinal health.

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