Liberians’ Favorite Spice
In Liberian culture, a soup without pepper is considered to have no taste. From a very young age, children are introduced to hot peppers such as cayenne so that by adulthood they’ve become accustomed to its burning sensation.
Not only is this spice use to season food in Liberia, it is also used for punishment. When a child does something wrong, the parent or guardian may use a traditional punishment method called “peppering” (pouring pepper water in the nostrils, eyes, and other parts of the body). Others, mostly the Kru tribe, may use “peppering” as a treatment for cleansing.
Nutritionists believe hot peppers have many components that are good for one’s health, the main one being capsaicin. Capsaicin has many benefits, some of which include relieving headaches and allergies, protecting against stomach damage, increasing metabolism, and reducing hunger. Capsaicin is also loaded with antioxidants as well as vitamins A, B-6, C and K.
One of the greatest benefits of capsaicin is its ability to increase circulatory blood flow thus preventing abnormal clotting, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Also, capsaicin has the ability to lower blood pressure. Additionally, it is a very effective pain killer by stimulating the body’s production of endorphins, the natural opiate pain killer. Therefore, many heat rubs products and topical salves contain capsaicin.
There are misconceptions that hot peppers can be harmful to the body. Many believe that they may aggravate ulcers. However, it has instead been found that hot peppers may help kill bacteria that can lead to ulcers.
It is no doubt that Liberians love hot peppers for the burning sensations, however they aren’t the only ones who seem to enjoy the spice. Studies have shown there’s a low rate of gastric and colon cancer in Latin America, which they believe may be connected to the high intake of capsaicin. Hot peppers are the main ingredients in their diets and cuisines.
Despite all the misconceptions about hot peppers, nutritionists believe it is a great spice with many nutritional benefits.