Update 9/4/20. Grains of paradise is an age-old spice and a popular up-and-coming health supplement that's touted to help burn fat, slim waistlines and improve gym workouts. It's been called the best spice you've never heard of. But, despite the hype, many questions remain such as are grains of paradise safe? Do they work or are they a scam? Is it legal? And if it works, how much should you look for in dietary supplements? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed in this review. If you have never heard of this spice before, you will be an authority after reading this.
What Are Grains of Paradise?
Also known as Aframomum melegueta, grains of paradise is a spice in the ginger and cardamom family of herbs. The spice mostly comes from west Africa. Other names for the spice include melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, and guinea pepper. While the herb has been used for centuries as a medicinal aid – and even to add flavor to some brands of alcohol, today most of the interest involves its reputed ability to help people lose weight and help improve exercise.
So what does the name mean? The meaning behind the boastful name may be more good marketing than anything else. Originally, it was claimed the plant grew only in Eden (paradise). The name was chosen by those in the spice trade to drive up the price.
Even today, the spice is not cheap, but that's because it's rare.
Claimed Health Benefits
Over the years, the spice has had many uses ranging from helping everything from intestinal issues like stomach aches and diarrhea to snake bites. These days though, most of the interest is whether the supplement can help weight loss and/or enhance exercise.
Like all spices, this one has no calories or saturated fat, or cholesterol. Also like other spices, grains of paradise contains many diverse plant-nutrient compounds, just a few of which include 6-paradol, 6-gingerol, and 6-shogaol.
Some of these compounds can bind to the same receptors as capsicum, which is found in chili peppers. As such, grains of paradise can also provoke a hot, burning sensation when placed in the mouth.
Grains of Paradise And Weight Loss
Here is a summary of the weight loss clinical studies on this herbal dietary supplement. This review will only include human clinical studies.
One study involved 19 men who were given 40 mg of the spice for 4 weeks. Here, the spice was shown to increase brown fat production and calory burning in 12 of the 19 men (63%). Unfortunately, the men in this study were also subjected to cold therapy which is also known to activate brown fat and enhance calorie use at rest.
In this 4 week investigation, researchers gave 30 mg of grains of paradise extract to 19 healthy women who were not overweight. Compared to those taking a placebo, women ingesting 30 mg of the grans of paradise extract showed significantly less visceral fat in the abdominal area. Those women were also shown to have slight but significantly greater calorie burning also. This is why some say the spice is thermogenic.
The supplement did not appear to reduce subcutaneous fat – the jiggly fat just under the skin. Visceral fat is more associated with heart disease. So, reductions in visceral fat would be better – medically – than subcutaneous fat. In addition, women did not lose weight. The supplement appeared to reduce visceral fat – but not body weight.
Studies like this are likely why the spice is an ingredient in weight loss supplements like Plexus MetaBurn.
The Plexus Slim supplement company (Plexus World Wide) has teamed with George Mason University to test the weight loss effects of grains of paradise. The study is expected to be completed in 2020.
Here's a quick summary of the research
Grains of Paradice and Memory
Can the supplement help memory as well as reduce dementia and Alzheimers? Currently, human research on these issues cannot be located. Preliminary evidence – mouse studies – suggest the spice may improve memory in mice that had chemical-induced memory impairment. Its thought the spice worked by improving antioxidant defenses in the brain.
The bottom line is we are a long way off before anyone can say if grains of paradise improves memory or reduces dementia in people.
Can It Help Diabetes?
Strong evidence grains of paradise help people with diabetes is lacking. Some studies in both lab animals and humans have hinted the spice, taken as a supplement may lower blood sugar levels, but more research is needed.
Lab animal research suggests the spice may help protect beta cells of the pancreas. These are the cells that make insulin. This is encouraging however human proof is lacking. See this review for more on type II diabetes and how to correct it.
What About The Heart?
Legend has it the spice can help heartburn. Since heartburn is sometimes confused with heart attacks, some may thin grains of paradise benefit heart health. While lab animal and some human studies suggest there may be some effects that benefit the heart, concrete human evidence cannot be located. Laboratory animal research does not appear to show the spice affects heart rate or blood pressure.
Can It Help Arthritis?
Some research suggests Aframomum melegueta may reduce COX, an enzyme involved in inflammation. If the spice acts as a COX inhibitor, it may act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and be of use to people with arthritis and other pain disorders. The evidence so far is preliminary. Research involving people with arthritis and other issues like fibromyalgia cannot be located.
Do Grains of Paradice Help Exercise?
Some pre-workout supplements contain this compound. The reasons why include
- Enhanced fat burning
- increased brown fat production
- reduce belly fat
As discussed in the weight loss section above 2 human studies have hinted grains of paradise may do all of thee things. But, since there are only 2 studies and they have some issues, it is difficult to know whether pre-workouts containing this ingredient are better or not. If you are considering grains of paradise supplement, it may help to remember the studies used 30-40 mg per day.
Currently, no human research has investigated whether -grains of paradise supplements improve gym workouts.
Some have said the spice is a powerful aphrodisiac. These claims, however, appear to be based on lab rat studies. It is not known if supplements or the spice can enhance erections or sexual arousal in men and women.
Are Grains Of Paradise Legal?
The spice is legal. It can be found in many supermarkets, specialty shops, and Amazon too. The spice is also used in the making of Bacardi Gin.
Over 150 years ago it was thought the spice -when mixed with alcohol -would turn people into crazed lunatics. This caused selling the alcohol-spice mixture to become a felony in Florida. This law promoted one man to file a class-action lawsuit against Bacardi, which uses grains of paradise in its gin and Winn Dixie supermarkets, which sell it. Bicardi won the lawsuit. One of the reasons for the lawsuit is the contention that the spice may cause abortions in those who use it.
Preliminary evidence – lab rats – does suggest the spice (also called alligator pepper) may prevent pregnancy. Ironically, another lab rat study noted lower pregnancy weight gain and no effect of the spice on the health of baby rats. Human evidence to support or refute either of these investigations could not be located.
The use of the spice in dietary supplements is not prohibited.
While the spice has been used for centuries, grains of paradise supplements have not. While human research is scarce, this will likely change due to the popularity of this spice. With that in mind, here are some things to consider when taking dietary supplements. containing this ingredient. This list is not complete.
- Start with less than suggested for the first week
- Avoid if trying to get pregnant
- Don't take if pregnant or breastfeeding
- if you take blood thinner medicine, ask your doctor and pharmacist first
- Grains of paradise may lower blood sugar levels.
- Stop taking the supplements at least 2 weeks before surgery
- Speak to your doctor and pharmacist if you take ANY medications. Preliminary evidence suggests supplements may interact with some medicines.
Some lab animal research suggests the spice may be toxic to the liver when taken in large amounts. Amounts found to this would be much higher than found in most supplements. Ironically, another lab rat research appears to show a liver protection effect when lab animals are given large amounts of alcohol. How relevant any of this is to people needs more study so until we know more, speak to a physician/pharmacist if you have liver problems.
Grains of Paradise Substitutes
In the past, the spice was used as a substitute for black pepper and vice versa. Both have a pepper-like flavor. Some have speculated that capsicum – found in chili peppers -may work similarly to grains of paradise. Both capsicum and grains of paradise contain similar chemical compounds. As of yet, no clinical trials are comparing these substances in humans. So, which is better? We just don't know yet.
Where To Purchase It
So where can you buy grains of paradise? It may be available at your local supermarket. It can also be found online and spice shops likely have it too. Some dietary supplements may use it as an ingredient too.
Why do people use it?
Today, it's likely to be used mostly as a thermogenic fat burner. Some human research suggests the spice – given as a supplement may burn fat from the abdominal region as well as ramp up brown fat production. See the weight loss section above for more information. Traditionally, the spice has been used for many things such as calming stomach upset and diarrhea. Like many things in herbal medicine, the herb may be used for many reasons.
Is it safe?
When used in amounts found in food yes. Preliminary studies involving supplements note no side effects. Because people in research tend to be healthy, see your doctor if you are not. See the side effects section above.
What part of the spice is used?
The key ingredients are extracted from the seeds of the plant.
Is it gluten-free?
There is no gluten in this seasoning. Keep in mind if taking this spice as part of a dietary supplement, its possible the supplement may contain gluten. When in doubt, contact the supplement company or leave a comment below with the name of the supplement and I will look it up for you.
Where does it come from?
Mostly west Africa
Does it raise testosterone?
Lab animal studies suggest grains of paradise may raise testosterone levels. In this study, sperm production was also increased. While encouraging, it will require human clinical studies to know if Aframomum melegueta boosts testosterone levels in people.
Does it slim waistlines?
One investigation has noted grains of paradise may reduce visceral fat from the midsection. The women did not lose weight nor did their body mass index decrease. Visceral fat in the abdominal area is associated with heart disease and diabetes so reducing fat from this area is a good thing.
Does Grains of Paradise Work?
The spice has been used as a seasoning in food and alcohol flavor enhancer for centuries. Most of the evidence used to support its benefits stems from laboratory animal research. Early human studies suggest there may be a weight loss effect although it's too soon to know if this is true and/or how significant the effects may be.