Long Pepper

Dried long pepper catkins
Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name:Piper longum
Family: Piperaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Piperales
Genus: Piper
Species: P. longum
Common Name:Javanese Long Pepper, Indian Long Pepper, Indonesian Long Pepper.pippali(in Sanskrit)
Synonyms:click to see:
Parts used: The tiny berries, which merge to a single, rod-like structure which bears some resemblance to catkins (flowers of trees like hazelnut or willow).(fruits and roots are used in Ayurveda))
Habitat:The species Piper longum is of South Asian origin (Deccan peninsular), whereas the closely related Piper retrofractum comes from South East Asia and is mostly cultivated in Indonesia and Thailand. Both species are often not clearly distinguished in the spice trade.

Description:The creeper that spreads on the ground or may take support of other trees. Leaves are 2 to 3 inch long.The older leaves are dentate, dark in color and heart shaped. The younger ones is ovate in shape and contains 5 veins on them. Flowers are monoceous and male and female flowers are borne on different plants. Male flowers stalk is about 1 to 3 inch long and female flowers stalk is 1/2 inch to 1 inch long. Fruit is long. When it ripes it attains red color and when it dries it attains black color. It is 1 inch in diameter. The plant flowers in rains and fruits in every winter.

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Acording to Ayurveda it has 4 varities:-
1. Pippali
2. Gaja pippali
3. Saheli
4. Vanapippli

Pepper, Indian Long Pepper or Indonesian Long Pepper, is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. Long pepper is a close relative of the black pepper plant, and has a similar, though generally hotter, taste. The word pepper itself is derived from the Sanskrit word for long pepper, pippali.

The fruit of the pepper consists of many minuscule fruits — each about the size of a poppy seed — embedded in the surface of a flower spike; it closely resembles a hazel tree catkin. The fruits contain the alkaloid piperine, which contributes to their pungency. Another species of long pepper, Piper retrofractum, is native to Java, Indonesia.

Prior to the European discovery of the New World, long pepper was an important and well-known spice. The ancient history of black pepper is often interlinked with (and confused with) that of long pepper. The Romans knew of both and often referred to either as just piper; many ancient botanists erroneously believed dried black pepper and long pepper came from the same plant. Only after the discovery of the New World and of chile peppers did the popularity of long pepper decline. Chile peppers, some of which, when dried, are similar in shape and taste to long pepper, were easier to grow in a variety of locations more convenient to Europe.

Main constituents
In P. retrofractum, piperine, piperlonguminine, sylvatine, guineensine, piperlongumine, filfiline, sitosterol, methyl piperate and a series of piperine-analog retrofractamides are reported. (Phytochemistry, 24, 279, 1985)

The content of piperine (about 6%) is slightly higher than in black pepper.
Long pepper plant (P. retrofractum) kanchanapisek.or.th       © Thai Junior Encyclopedia

On the other hand, long pepper contains less essential oil than its relatives (about 1%), which consists of sesquiterpene hydrocarbons and ethers (bisabolene, ?-caryophyllene, ?-caryophyllene oxide, each 10 to 20%; ?-zingiberene, 5%), and, surprisingly, saturated aliphatic hydrocarbons: 18% pentadecane, 7% tridecane, 6% heptadecane.

Uses
Today, long pepper is an extremely rare ingredient in European cuisines, but it can still be found in Indian vegetable pickles, some North African spice mixtures, and in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. It is readily available at Indian grocery stores, where it is usually labeled pipalli.Long pepper, also sometimes called Indian long pepper or piper longum, is a spice used in traditional Indian cooking.1

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Although not used as much in modern cooking, long pepper was once used as a measure of currency and was often listed as a ransom.

Medicinal uses :

Pharmacology:
It is pitta suppressant vata and kapha aggravator. It has a strong erge to suppress any kind of infection occurring in the body due to its pungent taste. It helps in en espelling out the mucus that gets accumulated in the respiratory tract and also strengthens the nervous system. It is good digestive agent and help improving the gastrointestinal condition and also normalizes the peristaltic movements. It has a great effect on respiratory tract.

According to Ayurveda it aontains:
*Gunna(properities)-tikshan(sharp), snigdh (slimy) and laghu light
*Rasa (taste)- katu (pungent)
*Virya (potency)-moderate

Coughs, bronchitis, asthma and pain reliever for muscle pain. The flavor is similar to, but hotter, than black pepper.1 Still used in combination with other herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.

Besides fruits the roots and thicker part of the stem is cut and dried to use in various medicinal purpose in Ayurveda and Unani.

The unripe spike of the plant and the root, which is thick and branched, is also medically important and is called modi or pippali-moolam. Long Pepper inhibits the secretion of digestive juice and lowers total stomach acid;  it lowers LDL and VLDL and TC; prevents hardening of the arteries; has a calming effect on CNS.  Seed used in cough and throat pain. Root used in paralysis, epilepsy, and stiff joints. Both seeds and root are used for cough, rheumatism, leprosy, and consumption. The herb is also believed to improve  vitality.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippali
http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Pipe_lon.html
http://organizedwisdom.com/Long_Pepper
http://www.indianetzone.com/1/long_pepper.htm

http://www.ayushveda.com/herbs/piper-longum.htm

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_LMN.htm

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