Piper spp.



Pepper.

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Piper spp.

Botanical information

Piper auritum: An evergreen shrub, it grows to a height of 5m with a spread of 2m. The stem is erect and branching; the leaves are large, heart shaped, furry green and acuminate; the flowers are whitish, occurring in short, axillary spikes; the fruit are numerous small drupes.

A native of South America it prefers rich, moist, well-composted soils in a protected, partially shaded position, and it is drought and frost tender. This is a very vigorous plant which has proven weedy in tropical climates like Hawaii.

Propagation is by cuttings, suckers or seed.

Piper betle: An evergreen vine, it climbs to a height of 3m. The stem is slender, twining and rounded; the leaves are oval-acuminate, green and smooth; the flowers are green, occurring in spikes; the fruit are fleshy, red berries.

A native of India, it prefers well-composted, moist, well-drained soils in a protected, semi shady position, and is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by seed, by cuttings or by layering.


Piper kadsura: An evergreen vine, it climbs to a height of 1m. The red stem is slender, twining and rounded; the leaves are heart shaped and dark green.

A native of South West India, it prefers well-composted, moist, well-drained soils in a protected, shady position, and is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by cuttings or by layering.

This is the species originally sold as Piper betle by Medicine Garden.


Piper methysticum: An evergreen shrub, it grows to a height of 2m with a spread of 2m. The stem is erect and branching; the leaves are heart shaped, green and acuminate; the flowers are whitish, occurring in short, axillary spikes. There are many different varieties, each with particular morphological and pharmacological differences.

A native of Polynesia, it prefers rich, moist, well-composted soils in a protected, partially shaded position, and it is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by cuttings. Piper methysticum does not produce seed under normal circumstances.


Piper nigrum: An evergreen vine, it climbs to a height of 3m. The stem is slender, twining and rounded; the leaves are oval-acuminate, green and smooth; the flowers are green, occurring in spikes; the fruit are fleshy, red berries.

A native of South West India, it prefers well-composted, moist, well-drained soils in a protected, shady position, and is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by seed, by cuttings or by layering.


Piper novae-hollandia: An evergreen vine, it climbs to a height of 10m. The stem is slender, woody and twining; the leaves are alternate, broadly ovate-acuminate, 10cm long and prominantly veined; the flowers are small and insignificnt, occurring in 2cm long spikes; the fruit are red, ovate berries.

A native of NSW, Qld, and NT (Australia), it prefers well-composted, moist, well-drained soils in a protected, partially shaded position, and is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by seed or cuttings.


Macropiper laterifolia: An evergreen shrub, it grows to a height of 2m with a spread of 2m. The stem is erect and branching; the leaves are heart shaped, glossy green and acuminate; the flowers are whitish, occurring in short, axillary spikes; the fruit are small drupes.

It prefers rich, moist, well-composted soils in a protected, partially shaded position, and it is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by cuttings.


Traditional uses

Piper auritum: The aromatic leaves are used in Mexico and Panama to first catch fish and then to flavour them by wrapping the fish into the large leaves for cooking. The laves are also smoked in Belize.

Piper betle: Betel pepper is one of the oldest plants respected as holy in India. The cultivation, harvest and consumption is steeped in tradition and religion. It is consumed by itself, fresh or dried, as tea or in combination with betel nuts (Areca catechu). Its use is not always connected to rituals, but always respected. As a medicinal it is used for infections, stomach problems and as an aphrodisiac and life tonic. More recent research has shown betel leaves to strengthen the immune system and to inhibit certain cancer cells. But its greatest role around the world is most likely as the leaf that holds the betel quid together, which is made from Areca catechu seeds, hydrated lime, and optional herbs and spices. Betel chewing is one of the most widely distributed stimulant indulgences.

Piper kadsura: The stem is a popular remedy in TCM for rheumatic or rheumatoid arthritis with joint pain, muscular contracture and ankylosis. It makes a good ground cover for wet areas or as potplant in low light rooms.

Piper methysticum: The use of Kava as a psychoactive drug is widespread and an integral part of social life and ceremonies especially on the Polynesian and Melanesian islands, where it is widely consumed on a daily basis. The typical effects of relaxation, numbness and pleasure have translated into the sedate and peaceful lifestyle of the cultures that consume it. Kava ceremonies mark most official events such as statevisits and have been televised when Hilary Clinton or Pope John Paul were parttaking. Medicinally Kava is used in many ways and may treat conditions from gonorrhoe, elephantitis and bronchitis to poisonings by strychnine, insects or fish. Its most obvious use is as a local and general anaesthetic, as can be experienced in the chewing or drinking of Kava. In recent years Kava has become very popular in the West as it was shown to be highly effective as a substitute for sedatives and sleep aids and moderately effective in relieving mild depression. While its reputation as an intoxicant prevents many people from utilising it for these conditions, the dosages for effective treatment are actually below the psychoactive threshold. The general method of preparing the Kava beverage is to emulsify the active ingredient into a water suspension by soaking the chopped or ground root pieces in water and then repeatedly squeezing it by hand. The resulting milky liquid of a very distinctively spicy flavour is traditionally served in half coconut shells and it is not uncommon for a local to drink 5 to 10 of these shells in an afternoon. The resulting state is one of complete drunkenness of the body, but with a very clear and usually highly stimulated mind. Control of the limbs becomes very slow and difficult. In can also be effectively consumed by stirring a couple of teaspoons of the powder into hot-chocolate or into yoghurt.

Piper nigrum: The unripe and ripe berries are the pepper of commerce and are used universally for flavouring food.

Piper novae-hollandia: The berries have a disagreeable chavicol type flavour.

Macropiper laterifolia: We dont know anything about this plant, except that the roots taste just like kava. Further bioassays will reveal if they indeed contain kavalactones.

Pharmacology

Piper auritum: The leaves contain about 0.5% essential oil which is composed to 70% of safrole. Piper auritum and the very similar P.hispidinervum are considered commercial sources for the industrial production of safrole in tropical areas.

Piper betle: The leaves contain about 0.2 % essential oils, including eugenol, isoeugenol, allylpyrocatechol, chavicol, safrole, anethole and others. Piperin, the constituent that gives other Piper species the hot taste, is not present in Piper betel.

Piper kadsura: Unknown

Piper methysticum: The active principles of Piper methysticum are known as Kavalactones, a group of closely related compounds including kawain, methysticin, desmethoxyyangonin, yangonin, dihydrokawain, dihydromethysticin and a few others. The roots contain the highest proportion of kavalactones, with only traces in the stems and leaves.Generally roots contain about 5% kavalactones, but this can vary greatly between 0 and 10%. The Black Kava variety is said to have a high percentage of kavalactones in the leaves as well as the roots. An alkaloid of unknown pharmacological action is present in the leaves.

Kavalactones cause mild euphoria and stimulation of the mind, a strong physical intoxication and a variable anaesthetic effect. They have a potentiating action on alcohol, where even a small amount of alcohol consumed after heavy kava ingestion may have drastic and uncontrollable effects of drunkenness, nausea and vertigo. Kavalactones are closely related to the longistylines found in Lonchocarpus violaceus commonly consumed in preparations of Balche.

Piper nigrum: Contrary to popular belief Piperazines (such as BZP and TFMPP) are not natural compounds and they do not accur in Piper nigrum or any other pepper. The main constituent of black pepper is piperine, which provides for the hot taste and irritant action. Piperine is not psychoactive.

Piper novae-hollandia: Unknown

Macropiper laterifolia: We dont know anything about this plant, except that the roots taste just like kava. Further bioassays will reveal if they indeed contain kavalactones.

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