Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Piper nigrum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Piperaceae

Synonyms: Black Pepper. Piper (United States Pharmacopceia).
Part Used: Dried unripe fruit.
Habitat: In South India wild, and in Cochin-China; also cultivated in East and West Indies, Malay Peninsula, Malay Archipelago, Siam, Malabar, etc.

Description: The best Pepper of commerce comes from Malabar. Pepper is mentioned by Roman writers in the fifth century. It is said that Attila demanded among other items 3,000 lb. of Pepper in ransom for the city of Rome. Untrained, the plant will climb 20 or more feet, but for commercial purposes it is restricted to 12 feet. It is a perennial with a round, smooth, woody stem, with articulations, swelling near the joints and branched; the leaves are entire, broadly ovate, acuminate, coriaceous, smooth, with seven nerves; colour dark green and attached by strong sheath-like foot-stalks to joints of branches. Flowers small, white, sessile, covering a tubular spadix; fruits globular, red berries when ripe, and surface coarsely wrinkled. The plant is propagated by cuttings and grown at the base of trees with a rough, prickly bark to support them. Between three or four years after planting they commence fruiting and their productiveness ends about the fifteenth year. The berries are collected as soon as they turn red and before they are quite ripe; they are then dried in the sun. In England, for grinding they mix Peppers of different origin. Malabar for weight, Sumatra for colour, and Penang for strength. Pepper has an aromatic odour, pungent and bitterish taste.

Constituents: Piperine, which is identical in composition to morphia, volatile oil, a resin called Chavicin. Its medicinal activities depends mainly on its pungent resin and volatile oil, which is colourless, turning yellow with age, with a strong odour, and not so acrid a taste as the peppercorn; it also contains starch, cellulose and colouring.

The concrete oil is a deep green colour and very acrid.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Aromatic, stimulant, carminative; is said to possess febrifuge properties. Its action as a stimulant is specially evident on the mucous membrane of the rectum, and so is good for constipation, also on the urinary organs; externally it is a rubefacient, useful in relaxed conditions of the rectum when prolapsed; sometimes used in place of cubebs for gonorrhoea; given in combination with aperients to facilitate their action, and to prevent griping. As a gargle it is valued for relaxed uvula, paralysis of the tongue. On account of its stimulant action it aids digestion and is specially useful in atonic dyspepsia and torbid condition of the stomach. It will correct flatulence and nausea. It has also been used in vertigo, paralytic and arthritic disorders. It is sometimes added to quinine when the stomach will not respond to quinine alone. It has also been advised in diarrhoea, cholera, scarlatina, and in solution for a wash for tinea capititis. Piperine should not be combined with astringents, as it renders them inert.

Dosages: Black Pepper, 5 to 15 grains in powder. Piperine, 1 to 8 grains.

The root of the Pepper plant in India has been used by the natives as a cordial tonic and stimulant.

B.P. dose of Pepper, 1 to 2 drachms.

Oleoresin, U.S.P.: dose, 1/2 grain.

Heliotropin is recommended medicinally as an antiseptic and antipyretic. It is obtained by the oxidation of piperic acid and is used in perfumery. From the time of Hippocrates Pepper has been used as a medicine and condiment.

Adulteration of Pepper: Linseed mustard seed, wheat and pea-flour, sago, ground rice. At one time when the duty levied on Pepper was very high, fictitious peppercorns were made of oil-cake, clay, with a little cayenne added.

Other Species Used: Piper trioicum White Pepper Long Pepper Piper Betel Piper Amalago Piper Pellucidum Piper Rotundifolium Piper Umbellatum Piper trioicum Piper trioicum, nearly allied to P. nigrum, is also used in commerce.

The female plant does not ripen properly, and is deficient in pungency, but the Peppers on plants with hermaphrodite flowers on same spike are very pungent, and equal to the best Malabar Pepper.

WHITE PEPPER (Piper album)

From the same plant as P. nigrum, White Pepper is ripe fruit, partially deprived of its pericarp by maceration in water, then rubbed and dried in the sun. It contains albuminous seed, having small starch grains, taste and smell like Pepper, more aromatic than black and not so pungent. Same as the black, but containing more starch and less ash. Sold as whole White Pepper or broken White Pepper. The removed hulls are sold separately as Pepper hulls, and form a brownish powder, very pungent in smell and flavour and containing a large quantity of oleoresin of Pepper, but no piperine.

Sometimes the hulls are mixed with the broken White Pepper; this mixture has more oleoresin in it and less piperine.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Teaspoonful doses taken several times a day are recommended to overcome the obstinate constipation of dyspeptics.

LONG PEPPER (Piper longum)
Part Used: The dried, unripe spikes of Pipers officinum and longum.
Habitat: Java, India, Philippines, the best coming from Batavia, and Singapore.

P. officinarum is principally used and is considered the best; both are gathered when green, when they are hotter than when quite ripe. In P. officinarum the fruit is a dark grey colour with a weak aromatic odour and a very fiery pungent taste. In P. longum the fruits are shorter and thicker and the constituents almost identical with P. nigrum. It contains piperine, a soft green resin, a burning acridity, a volatile oil which possibly gives it its odour; it is inferior to P. nigrum and most used as its adulterant.

Piper Betel Habitat: East Indies.

The leaves are used to wrap round areca nut; rubbed with shell lime they are chewed by the Indians to sweeten their breath and strengthen the stomach. The trade in it forms considerable commerce. The Asiatic use of it amongst men destroys the teeth from the lime used with it. The women of the Malabar Coast, on the other hand, stain their teeth black with antimony, which preserves theirs to old age.

Piper Amalago Piper Amalago, or rough-leaved Pepper, a shrub growing up to 10 feet. It is called the small-grained Black Pepper, and grows on the hilly parts of Jamaica. The berries differ only in size from the East Indian Black Pepper, being only the size of mustard seed, good for seasoning, taste and flavour being the same as Black Pepper. It is picked when full-grown before it ripens, otherwise it loses its pungency and grows soft and succulent. It is dried in the sun and often left on its stalks, which have the same flavour and pungency as the Peppers and are as easily ground in the mills.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Leaves and tender shoots are used in discutient baths and fomentations and pounded for application to ulcers; root is warm and very useful as a resolutive and sudorific or diaphoretic, but best for infusions and decoctions; a good deobstruent for dropsy.

Piper Pellucidum Piper Pellucidum, or pellucoid-leaved Pepper.

Habitat: South America and West Indian Islands.

Description: An annual found growing on moist, gravelly banks, etc.

Has very small berries each containing a small seed like dust. In Martinico the leaves are eaten with lettuce, vinegar and oil as a salad and called 'Cresson,' but they are too strong and hot for most Europeans.

Piper Rotundifolium Habitat: Jamaica and Martinique.

A herbaceous plant living in close, moist woods covering the trunks of old trees and stones.

Description: Leaves greasy, bright green, fragrant, reviving odour; good aromatics and cephalics, retaining perfume several years; water distilled from them smells deliciously of the plants.

Piper Umbellatum
Synonyms: Unbelled Pepper. Santa Maria Leaf.
Habitat: Jamaica.

This plant is a very common annual and found growing up to 4 feet high. Has large round leaves; the root is a warm, active remedy against poisons, and in many parts of the sugar colonies is made up into a syrup much used by the inhabitants for colds and catarrhs.