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Botanical Name : Polygonum hydropiper
Species: P. hydropiper
Common Names: Water-pepper or water pepper,Smartweed
Habitat:Polygonum hydropiper is a native of most parts of Europe, in Russian Asia to the Arctic regions. It occurs in Great Britain and Ireland, rarer in Scotland. It is a cosmopolitan plant, found in Australia, New Zealand, temperate Asia, Europe, and North America. It is found abundantly in places that are under water during the winter.
Water pepper is an annual herb with branched stem, 2 to 3 feet in length, creeps at first, then becomes semi-erect. The leaves are alternate and almost stalkless. The leaf blades are narrowly ovate and have entire margins fringed by very short hairs. They are tapering with a blunt apex. Each leaf base has stipules which are fused into a stem-enclosing sheath that is loose and fringed at the upper end. The inflorescence is a nodding spike. The perianth of each tiny flower consists of four or five segments, united near its green base and white or pink at the edges. There are six stamens, three fused carpels and three styles. The fruit is black and dotted,dark brown oval, as long as the perianth, three-sided and nut-like. The leaves have a pungent, acrid, bitter taste (something like peppermint), which resides in the glandulat dots on its surface, no odour. The fruit is a dark brown oval, flattened nut.
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In Japan this plant’s leaves are used as a vegetable – these are from the cultivar, not the wild type which has a far more pungent taste. Wild waterpepper produces oils that cause skin irritation, and the many acids in its tissues, including formic acid, make the plant unpalatable to livestock. Young red sprouts are used as a sashimi garnish, and are known as beni-tade ( red water pepper). Though livestock do not eat the wild type, some insects do, giving rise to the Japanese saying Tade ku mushi mo suki zuki, Some insects eat water pepper and like it), which may be translated as “There is no accounting for taste.” or more narrowly “Some prefer nettles.”
The seeds of the water-pepper may be added to wasabi.
Parts Used: Whole herb and leaves.
Constituents: Water-pepper has several active ingredients. Two bicyclic sesquiterpenoids are present, polygodial (tadeonal, an unsaturated dialdehyde with a drimane backbone) and waburganal, which has been found responsible for the pungent taste (hence its edibility). The plant also contains rutin, a source of the bitter taste impression.
The plant contains an essential oil (0.5%) which consists of monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids: alpha-pinene, bita-pinene, 1,4-cineol, fenchone, alpha-humulene, bita-caryophyllene, trans-bita-bergamotene. Carboxylic acids (cinnamic, valeric and caproic acid) and their esters were present in traces. The composition depends strongly on genetic factors.
Stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, efficacious in amenorrhoea. A cold water infusion is useful in gravel, colds and coughs.
In combination with tonics and gum myrrh, it is said to have cured epilepsy – probably dependent on some uterine derangement. The infusion in cold water, which may be readily prepared from the fluid extract, has been found serviceable in gravel, dysentery, gout, sore mouths, colds and coughs, and mixed with wheat bran, in bowel complaints. Antiseptic and desiccant virtues are also claimed for it. The fresh leaves, bruised with those of the Mayweed (Anthemis Cotula), and moistened with a few drops of oil of turpentine, make a speedy vesicant.
Simmered in water and vinegar, it has proved useful in gangrenous, or mortified conditions. The extract, in the form of infusion or fomentation, has been beneficially applied in chronic ulcers and haemorrhoidal tumours, also as a wash in chronic erysipetalous inflammations, and as a fomentation in flatulent colic.
A hot decoction made from the whole plant has been used in America as a remedy for cholera, a sheet being soaked in it and wrapped round the patient immediately the symptoms start.
In Mexico, the infusion is used not only as a diuretic, but also put into the bath of sufferers from rheumatism.
A fomentation of the leaves is beneficial for chronic ulcers and haemorrhoids – in tympanitis and flatulent colic, and as a wash in chronic inflammatory erysipelas.
It was once held that a few drops of the juice put into the ear would destroy the worms that it was believed caused earache.
There is a tradition, quoted in old Herbals, that if a handful of the plant be placed under the saddle, a horse is enabled to travel for some time without becoming hungry or thirsty, the Scythians having used this herb (under the name of Hippice) for that purpose.
It was an old country remedy for curing proud flesh in the sores of animals. Culpepper tells us also that ‘if the Arsemart be strewed in a chamber, it will soon kill all the fleas.’
The root was chewed for toothache – probably as a counter-irritant – and the bruised leaves used as a poultice to whitlows.
A water distilled from the plant, taken in the quantity of a pint or more in a day, has been found serviceable in gravel and stone.
The expressed juice of the freshly gathered plant has been found very useful in jaundice and the beginning of dropsies, the dose being from 1 to 3 tablespoonfuls.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.