‘Why alligator pepper, zobo treat hypertension’

Can regular intake of alligator pepper be the cheap treatment for hypertension and high cholesterol levels, two conditions that predispose to stroke and heart attack? Well, scientists have discovered that regular intake of alligator pepper lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In a new study, researchers linked its blood-pressure lower effect to the synergistic or/and additive actions of its components with blood pressure and cholesterol lowering effects.

For the study, they characterise the amino acids in alligator pepper seeds and  tested their effects on body fat and enzyme linked to blood pressure regulation in rat feed a high-cholesterol diet for 30 days.

Alligator pepper, also sometimes called Grain of paradise, is a spicy, edible fruit that is often served along with kola nuts and alcoholic drinks to entertain guests.

When babies are born in Yoruba culture, they are normally given a small taste of alligator pepper shortly after birth as part of the routine baby-welcoming process.

Alligator pepper pot soup has both medicinal and nutritive values and the extracts of its seeds have been used as an antidote to dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, heart-burn and some infections.

Alligator pepper is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac, worm expellant, stimulant and diuretic as well as useful in the treatment of measles, leprosy, snake bite, low breast milk production and excessive bleeding after child birth.

The 2016 study, published in the journal, Pathophysiology, showed that alligator pepper caused a comparable and significant reduction in bad cholesterol level like simvastatin. Simvastatin is a common drug currently in use for the treatment of high cholesterol level.

Also, regular intake of alligator pepper, the study found,  protects the liver from the bad effects of a diet high in cholesterol.

Meanwhile, researchers have named other spices and vegetables such as garlic, fluted pumpkin, bitter leaf, African garden egg, clover bud, fermented soya bean, and zobo drink (water extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa) as helpful in high blood pressure management.

Zobo drink has been widely researched and reported to possess antihypertensive actions. In fact, the speculation that it has antihypertensive action has greatly increased its consumption by everybody, including persons with hypertension.

In 2015, experts’ comparison of the blood lowering effect of zobo drink and lisinopril in persons with mild to moderate hypertension indicated that zobo drink achieved 76 per cent successful reduction in blood pressure to normal level, while lisinopril achieved 65 per cent. Lisinopril is a known medicine for treatment of hypertension in blacks.

The clinical study involved Dr Daniel Chukwu Nwachukwu of the Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu, Enugu State, in collaboration with Eddy Ikemefuna Aneke; Leonard Fidelis Obika; and Nkiru Zuada Nwachukwu.

The study excluded patients with conditions such as diabetes, kidney, liver or heart problem, as well as pregnant women, chronic smokers, and alcoholics.

No side effect was recorded in all the participants that had zobo drink. When compared to the control group, zobo drink significantly decreased systolic BP (SBP) at weeks 2, 3 and 4 while lisinopril significantly decreased SBP only at week 4.

In addition, the effect of zobo drink on SBP when compared to that of lisinopril was significant at week 4

Moreover, zobo drink produced a significant reduction in mean arterial pressure (MAP) from week 2, whereas lisinopril did from week 3.

This study, published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, involved 78 newly diagnosed but untreated mild to moderate hypertensive subjects aged 31 to 70 years attending Medical Outpatients Clinic of Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Enugu.  They drank 150 mg/kg of zobo drink once daily before breakfast for four weeks.

In preparing the zobo drink, 20 grammes of dry Hibiscus sabdariffa flower were ground in electric mill, added to a litre of boiling clean water and allowed to stand for 30 minutes.