Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Piper angustifolium (R. and P.)
Family: N.O. Piperaceae

Synonyms: Artanthe elongata. Stephensia elongata. Piper granulosum. Piper elongatum. Yerba soldado. Soldier's Herb. Thoho-thoho. Moho-moho.
Part Used: The dried leaves.
Habitat: Peru.

The classical name for the genus came originally from the Sanscrit pippali. 'Matico' is the name of the Spanish soldier who accidentally discovered the properties of the leaves when wounded in Peru.

The plant has spread over many moist districts of tropical America, and though grown as a stove-plant in English botanical gardens it does not flower there. It is a shrub of about 8 feet high, with many branches thickened at the joints, the younger ones thickly covered with hairs that fall off later. The alternate, bright green leaves are of distinctive shape, oblong-lanceolate with a broad, uneven base and a long, bluntly-tipped point. They are 5 to 7 inches long, entire and rather solid, with a fine network of sunken veins, hairy along the prominent veins of the underside.

The long, flexible spikes, 4 to 7 inches long, consist of tight rings of tiny yellow flowers packed round a fleshy axis. The seed fills the black fruit, which is about the size of a poppy-seed.

Two principal varieties in the shape of the leaves are recognized, the 'cordulatum' as described above, and the 'ossanum' with narrowed leaf-bases.

The drug is imported in bales, via Panama, the whole herb being pressed into a greenish-yellow mass. It is aromatic in taste and odour.

Constituents: A volatile oil, slightly dextrogyrate, containing in some specimens Matico camphor. Some of the later specimens of oil are said to contain not camphor but asarol.

A crystallizable acid called artanthic acid and a little tannin and resin are also found.

Medicinal Action and Uses: In South America Matico is used like cubeb. Its styptic properties are due to the volatile oil, and it is used for arresting haemorrhages, as a local application to ulcers, in genito-urinary complaints, atonic diarrhoea, dysentery, etc.

In Peru it is considered aphrodisiac.

It is effective as a topical application to slight wounds, bites of leeches, or after the extraction of teeth. The under surface of the leaf is preferred to the powder for this purpose.

Dosages: 45 to 75 grains. Of fluid extract, as intestinal astringent and diuretic, 1 fluid drachm.

Other Species:
Piper aduncum, of Central America, yieldsa 'false matico'; the leaves are less tessellated above and hairy below, but the chemical properties are similar.

The name of Matico is also given to Eupatorium glutinosum and Waltheria glomerata, and possibly also to a species of Phlomis, but these are not recognized officially.