Africa is one of the most diverse continents of the world that stands out for its culture and cuisine. Due to her large array of herbs and spices, African meals have been known to soothe hunger, health and soul.
Most people boast of a long and healthy life because of the health and nutritional benefits gotten from herbs and spices.
Spices are seeds, fruits or any plant substances used to add flavour and colour to food. This is slightly different from herbs which are plant leaves, flowers or stems used to garnish or add flavour to food for medicinal purposes.
Herbs are the leaves or flowering part of a plant while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, which might include seeds, stems, bark, roots and fruits.
Some specific spices and herbs are prominent in the region of African and they’ve become more accessible to people over the years. From Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Central Africa, Western Africa to Eastern Africa, each region is accustomed to different spices and herbs.
If you’re curious about the indigenous spices and herbs in Africa, you’re at the right place. This article aims to list and explain these herbs and spices and their sources.
Below are the top indigenous herbs and spices in Africa and their sources.
SPICES INDEGENOUS TO AFRICA
KAN KAN KAN – BURKINA FASO
This is a spice blend that consists of peanut powder, chilli powder, allspice, and Maggi bouillon cubes. It’s popular in Burkina Faso and some parts of Senegal.
They are mostly sprinkled over grilled meat. This spice brings a combination of grassy and spicy flavour to foods.
FERMENTED LOCUST BEANS / IRU – NIGERIA
Iru is a type of fermented and processed locust beans used as a condiment in cooking by different tribes in Nigeria. It may come in both fresh and dried versions, either whole or mashed.
The spice signature aroma is often described as reminiscent of bad body odour and smelly feet. Despite its incredibly strong smell, the seasoning is still extensively used to add flavour to a great variety of traditional stews and soups such as okra soup, efo riro stew, ewedu soup, egusi soup and many others.
This spice provides nutritional benefits that include lipid(29%), protein(35%), and carbohydrate(16%). It is also a good source of calcium and fat.
NEGRO PEPPER / UDA SEEDS – GHANA
This is a spice that has medicinal properties and is widely consumed by the Ghanaians and some Ethiopians. Negro pepper contains essential vitamins and minerals that help to soothe body pains.
It gives a nutmeg-like taste and flavour when used sparingly on food while in excess, it has a bitter taste. The spice is best used in soups, stews, and in cornmeal porridge.
TUMERIC (QUEKOUM) – MOROCCO
This spice is obtained from the dried root of the Curcuma longa plant. It is distinctively bright yellow and is closely related to ginger. Turmeric is mostly used as a food colouring spice in Moroccan cuisine for dishes such as rice and tagines.
It’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a suitable choice for reducing the symptoms of arthritis.
MITMITA – ETHIOPIA
This is a spice blend prominent in Ethiopia. It contains lots of ingredients such as cloves, cardamom, salt, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and bird’s eye chilli. They’re always in a powdery form.
Traditionally, it is used as a deep for cooked and raw meat dishes, but it can also be sprinkled on different foods. Amazing health benefits are supplied when used in any cooking.
HERBS INDEGENOUS TO AFRICA
MAU FOREST DRIED NETTLES – KENYA
For generations, nettles have been used by Kenyan natives as a herb and staple in Kenyan cuisine. The plant which is usually available during drought, are manually harvested from March to June and from September to October.
They can be used as a fresh vegetable, as a medicinal herb and as a herbal tea. They are also recommended as a dietary supplement for breastfeeding mothers because of the nutritional benefits of the plant.
The leaves contain 6% protein, 3.5% minerals which includes iron and Vitamin A. The dry powder can also be diluted in water and sprayed on the soil to improve fertility.
BUFFALO GRASS (ALFAFA) – GHANA
This is one of the most common and indigenous herbs in Ghana. Alfalfa’s stem, leaves, and sprouts are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and all other nutrients.
This makes it suitable for treating arthritis, digestive problems, and can serve as a diuretic and for reducing high cholesterol.
The plant has a high concentration of beta-carotene which builds the immune system. The herb is also a home remedy for bad breath and body odour.
BITTER LEAF – NIGERIA
Bitter leaf also known as Onugbu, Efo Ewuro, or Shuwaka stands out for its bitter taste. Some people boil this leaf to remove the bitterness and then add it to soups or dishes.
Bitter leaf has a lot of detoxification properties which makes it one of the top choices for helping the body fight against many diseases and infections.
One of the well-known uses of the bitter leaf is that it is a remedy for stomach ache. Using bitter leaf for your health is quite easy;
You can either chew on the tender part of the plant stem or leaf stalk or swallow the bitterness.
Pounding the leaves and squeezing out the juice from the leaves is also another easy way to use the bitter leaf for your health.
Put three tablespoons of the juice in a small cup, add a pinch of salt to it and drink it. The stomach ache will be relieved just in a matter of minutes.
BUCHU – SOUTH AFRICA
The buchu herb (Agathosma Betulina) is cultivated in the Western Cape, South Africa. The leaf is widely known for its medicinal properties and oil-producing abilities.
Buchu has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that help to treat high blood pressure, UTI infections, arthritis, gout and countless other ailments.
The herb applied can also be applied to the skin as an insect repellant as well as treating other skin infections.
DEVIL’S CLAW – NAMIBIA
Devil’s claw is a herb that got its name from the appearance of its fruits, which is covered with hooks. It is mainly found in the Eastern and Southern eastern part of Namibia.
Studies have proven that devil’s claw might help to reduce the pain experienced by people who suffer from osteoarthritis.