What’re the health benefits of Okpei?

5 minutes read. 

okpei Igbo from castor beans. Living Good image


Before the inception of the recent type of artificial seasonings in Africa today, Africans were comfortably cooking their different tribal recipes with healthy and disease-protecting spices which they normally produce locally using a combination of natural plant seeds, leaves, or roots.

These plants are found to be medicinal by our ancient scientists. As a result, most of our ancient people lived long and never suffered from any degenerative diseases, especially cancer. Today there’re cancer health issues everywhere. Why?

Among these plants are the ones found in Nigeria and another part of Africa called castor bean and locust bean, while different tribes in Nigeria give it different names.

For example, the Igbos call it okpei/ugba okpei/ogiri okpei, the Yorubas call it iru, and the Hausas call it dawadawa.

The okpei is made from fermented castor bean seed while iru and dawadawa are made from fermented locust bean seed.

They use these plants called castor beans and locust beans and sometimes with the combination of other plant seeds to formulate a special aromatic spice called okpei/ugba okpei (Igbo), iru (Yoruba), and Dawadawa (Hausa).

iru or dawadawa from locost beans

Think of all the health benefits of castor bean oil /seed and locust bean seed, the same health benefits hold for okpei, iru, and dawadawa and in addition to the fact that it has been fermented their health benefits have been improved by friendly probiotics bacteria which is introduced via fermentation.

Okpei has amazing health benefits because of its nutritional content. In this article, I will review to you strong reasons you should start adding all these local spices especially open to your diet.

As for me and my family, I have started substituting synthetic spices with okpei.  Feel free to read on

What’s okpei?

Okpei is a natural food flavoring produced from fermented castor bean seed.  After fermentation, the okpei is normally shaped in a ball or triangular form.

okpei trianggle. Living Good image

Okpei is quite expensive these days because of the unstoppable inflation in Nigeria. Secondly, only a few people involved in processing it. 

Okpei is different from ogiri which is another natural food flavoring made from the fermentation of different seeds such as mkpuru egwusi (melon seed), and fluted pumpkin.

Okpei is used mostly by the southeastern and middle belts of Nigeria in flavoring soups and other varieties of traditional recipes.

It has a very strong aromatic flavor that can alert someone outside your compound to notice that there’s delicious food on fire.

You can use okpei with salt alone plus dry and fresh fish to spice up your food without adding any artificial seasoning like Maggi cubes and its members. But most people are ignorant of this.

Do you think you cannot cook soup, pepper soup, stew, chicken meat, and beef meat with only okpei?

Well, that’s what most people think of okpei.

But I bet you to try this.

How to cook with okpei

In our home, my elder brother was the first person to initiate this. He suggested one Easter day “let’s try to cook all our food today with only okpei without adding artificial seasoning cubes and see how it will taste,” he said.

At first, I kicked the idea and disagree with him. I was like that day, “brother how will the food taste without seasoning cubes, the food won’t taste good” I said. So all my siblings kicked the idea as well but my mother supported my brother’s idea.

My brother insisted we experiment it. “But our grandmothers were cooking delicious tasteful food with only okpei before the invention of artificial seasoning cubes,” he said.

After a few arguments, we decided to experiment with it. I entered the kitchen and started the whole cooking process. Three hours later the soup, stew and chicken meat was ready.

I added ginger, garlic, rosemary, nutmeg, green curry leaves, salt, pepper plus the okpei (about 5 balls/triangles depending on the quantity of the food) in the stew.

In the chicken meat I added onions, pepper, Garlic , Ginger , and salt plus the opkei.

In the soup (which was egwusi soup), I added dry fish (mangara) and ice fish, salt, onion, pepper, okpei (about 6 balls), ehulu (another aromatic local spice)

Can you imagine how the food tasted? “Very yummy and tasteful” I must confess I never believe this will be possible at first.

Do you know what? Ever since that Easter day, we stopped cooking with artificial seasoning cubes or powder in our house to date.

And we have noticed a whole lot of changes in the way our digestive system processed food cooked with artificial seasoning cubes/powder and those cooked without okpei. There were great better differences. IBS symptoms that I and my brother normally reduce entirely

Guess what? On another day we tried using only ogiri, dry fish, ice fish, salt, and pepper to cook ofe aku (banga soup) without any single artificial seasoning cubes or powder.  And the soup was wonderfully yummy.

All artificial seasoning cubes and powder have effects in the body but because it happens slowly your body people don’t seem to notice that.

Health benefits of okpei

There are ten proven health benefits of okpei:

1.Okpei is very high in potassium, and potassium is a good element that helps in the regulation of body fluids.

2. It can be used in the treatment of stroke and hypertension and it promotes good sight.

3. It contains friendly probiotic bacteria that protect your gut (intestine) from ulcers or inflammation.

4. Calcium is present in Okpei and calcium is needed for bone development and strong teeth.

5. It is found to be rich in protein and other essential nutrients.

6.Okpei aids digestion and body functions due to the presence of Zinc.

7. It can be used in bacterial infection management.

8. Manganese is present in Okpei and manganese is known to aid the formation of the skeleton and cartilage of the body.

9.Okpei helps in the function of enzymes as a result of its copper content.

10. The Iron in Okpei carries oxygen to the cells and is necessary for the production of energy.


Okpei is a natural food flavoring produced from fermented castor bean seed.  After fermentation, the okpei is normally shaped in a ball or triangular form.

One of the key health benefits of okpei is that it contains friendly probiotic bacteria that protect your gut (intestine) from ulcers or inflammation.  

Okpei, iru, and dawadawa can be used alone with any kind of African food without the addition of any artificial seasoning cubes or powder.

I have tried it in different Igbo recipes as I narrated in this article and the food tasted so yummy.

Trust me, give any of these (okpei, iru, or dawadawa) a try and come back to this website and share your testimony with me in the comment section.

In addition, to increase the production of these local seasoning flavors, everybody should learn to process them instead of leaving only our elderly mothers alone to do it. You may not learn to process it for the purpose of selling but just for your family’s needs.

 I hope you get the value worth your time. I appreciate the time you spend with me. Leave a comment if you like this post. Do you have any questions as regards this topic I didn’t touch here? Do you have a testimony to share either? Feel free to share with me in the comment below.


The content provided in living Good Blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal doctor. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Living Good Blog takes no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person(s) reading or following the information in this educational content. Viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medication, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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