Some of the most delicious meals are prepared in West Africa, particularly Ghana. The magic behind these foods is the spices used while making them. Ghana is endowed with a wide variety of spices and herbs that not only add an amazing flavor to your food or beverage but also they have outstanding health benefits. A spice like African Bird Pepper not only makes your chicken cuisine hot, it helps to lower your blood pressure. This article gives a list of herbs and spices in Ghana, how they may be used in foods or beverages, and their health benefits.
List of local spices in Ghana
The list of natural spices in Ghana does not include processed spices such as Maggie cubes and Onga, which are common to Ghanaians. The types of spices in Ghana include peppers, which make the food hot and spicy. Barks like cinnamon add that spicy flavor to stews or tea, and leaves such as Waakye leaves enhance the taste and color of the meals they are added to.
Most local names of spices in Ghana come from the prominent languages such as Twi, Ga, and Fante among others. Below is a list of common herbs and spices in Ghana.
Cloves are known as Dadoa Amba or Pepre in Twi, or Mbrego Amba in Fante.
Cloves add a burst of flavor to foods while helping in the body’s digestion. Some of the health benefits of cloves include:
- It is inflammatory and an anti-bacterial
- It protects the liver
- It prevents mutation
- It enhances the immune system
- It improves oral health
- It cures respiratory infections, headaches, relieves stress, heals wounds
- Regular taking of cloves ensures a youthful skin
2. Anise seeds
Anise Seeds are known Nkitinkiti in Twi or Osu kon in Ga. Consuming anise seeds helps improve digestion, reduces nausea, and alleviates cramps. The seeds contain thymol, terpineol, and anethole, which are good at relieving coughs. Anise seeds can be taken in tea after meals in which case they relieve bloating, constipation, and stomach gas.
Basil is known as Akuko Besa in Twi. The herb is an antidepressant that is also used for stress reduction, depression, and anxiety. It helps to maintain good health and general well-being of a person. Basil is commonly used in tea and may be added to your soups or vegetables.
4. Negro pepper
Negro pepper, also known as Uda seeds or grains of Selim, is known as Hwentia or Ahentia in Twi or Soh in Ga. It also goes by the names Senegal pepper, Ethiopian pepper, and Moor pepper. The spice has medicinal uses due to its microbial properties. When used sparingly, it gives a nutmeg-like taste but in excess, it has a bitter taste. The spice is best used in soups, stews, and in cornmeal porridge.
5. West African black pepper
The spice is known as Esoro Wisa in Twi or Wie Din in Ga, Masoro in Hausa, Kale in Ewe, and Uziza in Igbo. What is unique about this type of pepper is that the leaves are also eaten. West African black pepper is not as hot as other peppers such as the African bird pepper. When used in minimal quantities, it has a clove-like flavor in soups, stews, and cornmeal porridge. It increases your appetite while reducing constipation and indigestion in the body.
READ ALSO: Spiritual uses of Prekese
6. African bird pepper
African bird pepper or chili is scientifically known as known as Akweley Waabiin in Ga or Misewain in Twi. It also goes by the name Piri-piri, Malagueta pepper, or African Devil. The name African bird pepper comes around due to the fact that there always are birds that hover around the plant while eating pepper seeds, and of course, dropping some poop on the plants.
The taste of this chili is very hot and is good for spicy foods. Medicinally, African black pepper is used for enemas. Its use in the body is that it reduces blood pressure, helps in the digestion of foods by stimulating peristalsis, breaks up phlegm, and eases stomach upsets.
7. Guinea pepper
Guinea pepper, Grains of Paradise or Alliin Gator Pepper are known as Efom Wisain or Efom Wisa in Twi, Wire Tsuruin in Ga, or Essa in Nzema. This spice also goes by the name Guinea pepper, alligator pepper, and Melegueta pepper. Guinea pepper has a characteristic pungent flavor and medicinally used for its antimicrobial and aphrodisiac properties.
8. African nutmeg
African Nutmeg or Calabash nutmeg is known as Wedie Abain or Awerewain in Twi or Ehuru in Igbo.
9. Turkey berry
Turkey Berry is known as Abeduruin or Kwahu Nsosuain in Twi. Turkey berry is also known as wild eggplant or prickly nightshade. Other local names are Kwanwu nsosuaa, Kantɔsi, and Abeduru. The leaves of turkey berry are rich in iron and vitamin C making it good for pregnant women.
10. African locust bean
African Locust Bean is known as Dawadawa in Twi. Dadawa in Hausa, or Soumbala/Sumbala by West Africans. The spice contains the minerals riboflavin and thiamine.
When burnt in a coal pot like incense, it gives off a sweet aroma. Some say that Aridan is a symbol of power while others claim that it increases the quality of baby milk in lactating mothers. It also increases their blood flow and eliminates blood clots. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
The name means ‘stinking fish.’ Momone is prepared by fermenting fish by leaving it to nearly rot then leaving it in brine (salt solution) for several days. Afterward, the fish drys for a few days in the sun. Another variable is the Koobi, which means dried salted tilapia. Momone is commonly used in soups.
Dried or smoked fish such as prawns or crayfish are ground into a powder and used as a seasoning in spinach stew. The result is commonly known as Nkontomire or a beans stew locally known as Aboboi.
Potash - Potassium Carbonate (K2CO3) is locally known as Kanwu or Kaawe. Besides its chemical use in industries, potash is used in the preparation of Waakye, which is a mush of rice with beans. In Waakye, potash raises the texture and increases digestibility. The local spice is also a substitute for salt, a food thickener, and a food tenderizer. You may also use food grade quality potash to increase the pH of wine.
15. Waakye leaves
Waakye is the local name for sun-dried leaves or stalks of red sorghum. When added to food, it adds a red coloring that is appealing to the eye.
16. Unripe pawpaw
Unripe pawpaw is diced and added to meat to tenderize it. The enzyme papain is responsible for this. You may also marinate the meat with the pulp before cooking.
Pettie belle pepper is locally known as Kpaposhitɔ and is the tiny habanero-like pepper. The spice may be used while is still green or dried and ground for a salsa, chile sambal. This spice also tastes great in soups.
READ ALSO: List of Indian restaurants in Accra
Herbs in Ghana
Ghana is also endowed with herbs, some of which grow naturally while others can be purchased from local dealers.
1. Ashwagandha [Roots, leaves, seeds]
Common names: Ajagandha, Winter cherry, Indian ginseng
Ashwagandha is commonly used as a stress reliever and to boost the immune system.
- Leaves possess sedative, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties
- Seeds possess a diuretic effect
- Roots have an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, sedative, immune boosting, and analgesic properties
2. Aloe Vera
Common names: Aloe, Barbados, Cape
Common in Ghana, the leaves of Aloe Vera contain a gel that is a major ingredient in many skin care products. When applied on the skin, it acts as a moisturizer and treats sunburns, minor burns, cuts, poison ivy, and scrapes. It also helps to eliminate acne on the skin.
Common Names: Buffalo grass, Lucerne, or Chilean clover
Alfalfa’s stem, leaves, and sprouts are rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It is suitable for treating arthritis, digestive problems, as a diuretic and for reducing high cholesterol. It also has a high concentration of beta-carotene which builds the immune system. The herbs chlorophyll is good for people with body odor and bad breath.
Caution: Alfalfa is rich in vitamin K, which is an anti-coagulant making it bad for people taking blood thinning medication. Alfalfa seeds should never be eaten as they contain high levels of canavanine, which is a toxic amino acid. Also, the seeds contain stachydrine and homostachydrine that promote menstruation and causes miscarriage, making it unsuitable for pregnant and lactating mothers.
4. Amla [Fruit]
The Amla fruit is rich in vitamins (especially vitamin C), minerals and antioxidants. Amla is good for people with joint pains, fevers, blood sugar level issues, and urinary tract infections. It is high fiber content helps in preventing constipation.
5. Arnica [Flowers]
Common names: Mountain Arnica, Leopard’s bane, or mountain daisy
Arnica flowers are crushed and applied externally to relieve bruises, sore muscles, and sprains. The herb possesses antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. However, it should not be used in the long-term as it leads to skin irritation. Arnica is also not ingested into the body.
Common names: Brahmi, Coastal Water hyssop, Water hyssop
Bacopa is used as a brain tonic to boost both long-term and short-term memory. The herb is also good for treating depression, asthma, bronchitis, and allergies. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory.
7. Ghana bearberry [Leaves]
Ghana bearberry is good for treating inflammation of the urinary tract and urinary tract infections. The herb has diuretic and antiseptic properties.
8. Ghana black cohosh [roots, rhizome]
The herb is a diuretic and a remedy for TB and fatigue. In the past, the herb was used to treat menstrual irregularities, rheumatism, and sore throat.
9. Boswellia [Resin]
The herb is a remedy for diabetes, rheumatism, asthma, cardiovascular disorders, and fevers. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory and to ease joint pains. Excessive intake of bosweilla may cause nausea and diarrhea. It is also not good for pregnant women.
10. Burdock [Seeds, leaves, and roots]
Burdock is good for treating wounds and external infections.
When ingested into the body, burdock is loaded with beneficial. This herb is loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, which are good for treating liver and digestive problems, urinary tract infections, ulcers, and to boost energy and stamina. It has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that make it an immune system booster
and a blood purifier, in addition to treating external wounds. Burdock should not be taken together with diabetes medication.
11. Cayenne pepper [Fruit]
Common names: Red pepper, capsicum, chili pepper
Cayenne is used to relieve pain and combat infections. It is also good for toothaches, arthritis and to aid in digestion.
The herb's anti-bacterial properties stimulate blood flow and are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants which help maintain cardiovascular health. Cayenne is a skin irritant and may cause skin discomfort.
Chicory is a blood cleanser, a diuretic, and a nerve tonic. It also helps deal with a loss of appetite and indigestion.
13. Cinnamon [Bark]
Cinnamon aids in digestion, treat nausea, colds, and inflammations. The bark has essential oils that possess anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
14. Clubmoss [Whole plant]
Clubmoss is used for treating fever, postpartum pain, general body weakness and to aid in blood clotting. The herb is also used to treat urinary and kidney disorders, urinary disorders, diarrhea, stomach upsets and for treating skin conditions.
This plant contains a substance called Huperzine is a chemical component in clubmoss which is effective in treating memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
15. Ginseng [Root]
Ginseng's root has adaptogenic properties that help a person to handle stress better, both mentally and physically. The herb is good for warding off fatigue, sharpening mental abilities, and energizing the body. Ginseng is an immune system booster. It also has a warming effect which makes it suitable for cold days.
However, it is not suitable for high blood pressure patients and prolonged use causes irritability.
16. Schizandra berries [Fruit]
Schizandra berries also have adaptogenic properties that cause the body and mind to adapt better to stress. The berries are also an energizer and have skin benefits.
17. Turmeric [Root]
Turmeric contains a chemical substance known as curcumin, which is a natural liver detoxifier.
With the country endowed with so many herbs and spices, Ghanaians have the liberty to enjoy their meals as spicy and hot as they desire. Funny thing is that most people only think of pepper when they hear about spicing food. I hope that this article has shed light on what is available in Ghana, how the different spices may be used in foods, and their nutritional benefits to the body. Additionally, there is an assortment of herbs that have medicinal properties, which can be effective remedies for common illnesses and infections.
READ ALSO: Ginger benefits for men