10 Superb Health Benefits of Pepper Fruits (mmimmi)
Pepper fruit is widely consumed due to its distinctive spicy taste, but many people are not aware of the many health benefits of pepper fruit (mmimmi). It is usually served together with kola nuts, bitter kola, garden eggs and palm wine, during events like , cultural ceremonies, coronations, traditional marriages, naming ceremonies, new yam festivals etc in the eastern part of Nigeria.
Pepper fruit is a spicy, pungent and peppery fruit found in the tropical region of West African especially Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. It’s botanical name is Dennettia tripetala G. Baker. It belongs to the Annonaceae family. In Nigeria, the Igbos call it mmimmi, it’s also known as Ako in Edo, Nkarika in Ibibio, Ata Igbere or igbere in Yoruba, imako in Urhobo and aki in Bini.
Pepper fruits are usually chewed due to it’s peppery taste and stimulating effects. It can also be used to prepare food. According to Okwu and Morah (2004), Dennettia tripetala fruits can serve as food and herbs for producing herbal medicines. Both the fruits, leaves and roots of the pepper fruit are useful for medicinal purposes Iwu (1989). The fruits are usually green but turn pink, red or orange when ripe.
The highly nutritious fruit is rich in fatty acids, carbohydrates, proteins,potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus,niacin, riboflavin,thiamine, vitamins A,C and E. A study carried out by Nwaogu et al. (2007) showed that pepper fruit contain phytochemicals tannins, alkaloids, steroids, flavonoids, cardiac glycosides, saponins, and terpenoids. It also contains volatile, essential (oleoresins) oils which is responsible for its taste, aroma and pungency.
Health benefits of pepper fruit (mmimmi)
1. Treat Glaucoma
Studies has shown that seeds of Dennettia tripetala can significantly reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) up to 25% in people suffering from glaucoma. Timothy and Okere (2008) . This shows that pepper fruit can be used in the prevention and management of glaucoma.
2. Prevent and Treat prostrate cancer
A recent report from the University of Illinois at Chicago, United States (US), showed that pepper fruit extract inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells. Jagla, S.W (2013). The extract of pepper fruit was found to possess growth-inhibitory and cytotoxic effects on the prostate cancer cell lines in vitro.
3. Ameliorates liver and kidney damage
Aqueous extract of Dennettia tripetala has been found to ameliorates liver and kidney damage. This was revealed in a research carried out by Sylvia O. Iseghohi and Noghayin E. J. Orhue which showed that aqueous extract of Dennettia tripetala ameliorates liver and kidney damage caused by multiple exposures to carbon tetrachloride.
4. Insecticidal property
The hexanolic extract of DT fruits has been found to be toxic to the larvae of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and this points to the potential for generating insecticides from Dennettia essential oil .
5. Lowers Blood sugar Level
Pepper fruit has the ability to lower blood sugar level (antihyperglycemic effect). A research conducted by Anaga and Asuzu in 2010 showed that pepper fruit can reduce the plasma glucose level in drug-induced hyperglycemic rats to levels comparable with that of normal rats.
It was found that pepper fruit exerts this effect partly by recruiting glucose uptake proteins from the interior of the cell to the plasma membrane Ananga and Asuzu (2011)
6. Treats Infant Convulsion
A compound ,1-nitro-2-phenyl ethane, found in pepper fruit oil extract exhibits hypnotic, anticonvulsant, and anxiolytic effects in mice puritan et al(2008). This shows that extracts from fruit, seed and leaves of pepper fruit can be used in the treatment of infant convulsion.
7. Anti microbial properties
Aqueous extract from pepper fruit has been found to be effective against micro organisms. A research conducted at Delta state University, Abraka, revealed that the essential oil and phenolic acid extract of pepper fruit can inhibit the growth of food-borne microorganisms such as Staphyloccocus aureus, Salmonella sp., Escherichia coli, and a host of others 
8. Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory properties
Essential oil extracted from pepper fruit can be used to treat inflammation and relieve body pain. The ability of pepper fruit to relieve pains is as great as that induced by the powerful opioid morphine as well as aspirin and indomethacin. Oyemitan et al., (2008)
9. Antioxidant properties
Pepper fruit contains antioxidants like flavonoids and ascorbic acid which are able to mop up free radicals from the body. The antioxidant in pepper fruit has been found to decrease as the fruit ripened. A research conducted by Adedayo et al (2010) concluded that, as pepper fruit undergoes ripening, its total phenol content increases, but its antioxidant potentials decreases.
10. Post partum tonic
The active compound in pepper fruit makes it a veritable ingredient alongside Uziza seed in preparing soups given to nursing mothers as it helps to heal the womb after child birth. Achinewhu et al., (1995) reveal that pepper fruit seeds are essential for preparing food for newborn mothers immediately after childbirth as the spice aids uterus contraction.
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I. Achinewhu, S. C., Ogbonna, C. C. and Hart A. D. (1995), Chemical composition of indigenous wild herbs, spices, fruits, nuts and leafy vegetable used as food, Journal of Plant Food Hum. Nutrition, 48, pp. 341-380.
2. Adedayo, B.C.; Oboh, G.; Akindahunsi, A.A. Changes in the total phenol content and antioxidant properties of Pepperfruit (Dennettia tripetala) with ripening. Afr. J. Food Sci. 2010, 4, 403–409.
3. Anaga, A.O.; Asuzu, I.U. Antihyperglycaemic Properties of the Ethyl acetate Extract of Dennettiatripetala in Diabetic Rats. J. Complement. Integr. Med. 2010.
4. Anaga, A.O.; Asuzu, I.U. Glucose uptake-enhancing activity of the ethyl acetate extract of Dennettia tripetala in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. J. Complement. Integr. Med. 2011.
5. Iwu, M. M. (1989), Food for medicine, in Dietary plants and masticastors as sources of biologically active substances, University of Ife Press. Pp. 303 – 307.
6. Jagla, S.W. Effects of Seed Extracts from Traditional Nigerian Medical Plants on Prostate Cancer Cell Growth. M.S. Thesis, Chicago, IL, USA, 2013.
7. Nwaogu, L. A., Alisi, C. S. & Ibegulem, C. O. (2007), Evaluation of β – carotene content and presence of some Phytochemical in Five indigenous Fruits. Plant products Research Journal, 10, pp. 13–14.
8. Okwu, D. E. and Morah, F. N. I. (2004), Mineral and nutritive value of Dennettia tripetala fruits, Fruits, vol. 59 (6), pp. 437-439.
9. Timothy, C.O.; Okere, C.O. Effect of Dennettia tripetala (Mmimi) seed intake on the IOP of normotensive emmetropic Nigerian Igbos. JNOA2008, 14, 14–17.
10. Oyemitan, I.A.; Iwalewa, E.O.; Akanmu, M.A.; Olugbade, T.A. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oil of Dennettia tripetala G. Baker (Annonaceae) in rodents. Afric. J. Tradit. Complement. Altern. Med.2008, 5, 355–362.