Botanical Name :Piper cubeba
Species: P. cubeba
Synonym: Tailed Pepper.
Common Names :Cubeb (Piper cubeba), or tailed pepper, or shital chini / kabab chini in Hindi sometimes it is called Java pepper
Part Used: The dried, full-grown, unripe fruit.
Habitat: Java, Penang, and other parts of East Indies.
Cubeb is a climbing perennial plant, with dioecious flowers in spikes. The fruit is a globose, pedicelled drupe. It is extensively grown in the coffee plantations, well shaded and supported by the coffee trees. Odour aromatic and characteristic- taste strongly aromatic and pungent and somewhat bitter. Commercial Cubebs are often adulterated with other fruits containing a volatile oil, but with very different properties. There is no evidence that the plant was known to the ancients, though it was probably brought into Europe by the Arabians, who doubtless employed the fruit as pepper.
The fruits are gathered before they are ripe, and carefully dried. Commercial cubebs consist of the dried berries, similar in appearance to black pepper, but with stalks attached – the “tails” in “tailed pepper”. The dried pericarp is wrinkled, and its color ranges from grayish-brown to black. The seed is hard, white and oily. The odor of cubebs is described as agreeable and aromatic and the taste as pungent, acrid, slightly bitter and persistent. It has been described as tasting like allspice, or like a cross between allspice and black pepper.
In Europe, cubeb was one of the valuable spices during the Middle Ages. It was ground as a seasoning for meat or used in sauces. A medieval recipe includes cubeb in making sauce sarcenes, which consists of almond milk and several spices. As an aromatic confectionery, cubeb was often candied and eaten whole. Ocet Kubebowy, a vinegar infused with cubeb, cumin and garlic, was used for meat marinades in Poland during the 14th century. Cubeb can still be used to enhance the flavor of savory soups.
Cubeb reached Africa by way of the Arabs. In Moroccan cuisine, cubeb is used in savory dishes and in pastries like markouts, little diamonds of semolina with honey and dates. It also appears occasionally in the list of ingredients for the famed spice mixture Ras el hanout. In Indonesian cuisine, especially in Indonesian gulés (curries), cubeb is frequently used.
The dried cubeb berries contain essential oil consisting monoterpenes (sabinene 50%, ?-thujene, and carene) and sesquiterpenes (caryophyllene, copaene, ?- and ?-cubebene, ?-cadinene, germacrene), the oxides 1,4- and 1,8-cineole and the alcohol cubebol.
About 15% of a volatile oil is obtained by distilling cubebs with water. Cubebene, the liquid portion, has the formula C15H24. It is a pale green or blue-yellow viscous liquid with a warm woody, slightly camphoraceous odor. After rectification with water, or on keeping, this deposits rhombic crystals of camphor of cubebs.
Cubebin (C10H10O3) is a crystalline substance existing in cubebs, discovered by Eugène Soubeiran and Capitaine in 1839. It may be prepared from cubebene, or from the pulp left after the distillation of the oil. The drug, along with gum, fatty oils, and malates of magnesium and calcium, contains also about 1% of cubebic acid, and about 6% of a resin. The dose of the fruit is 30 to 60 grains, and the British Pharmacopoeia contains a tincture with a dose of 4 to 1 dram.
Stimulant, carminative, much used as a remedy for gonorrhoea, after the first active inflammatory symptoms have subsided; also used in leucorrhoea, cystitis, urethritis, abscesses of the prostate gland, piles and chronic bronchitis.
In India, Sanskrit texts included cubeb in various remedies. Charaka and Sushruta prescribed a cubeb paste as a mouthwash, and the use of dried cubebs internally for oral and dental diseases, loss of voice, halitosis, fevers, and cough. Unani physicians use a paste of the cubeb berries externally on male and female genitals to intensify sexual pleasure during coitus. Due to this attributed property, cubeb was called “Habb-ul-Uruus”.
In traditional Chinese medicine cubeb is used for its alleged warming property. In Tibetan medicine, cubeb (ka ko la in Tibetan) is one of bzang po drug, six fine herbs beneficial to specific organs in the body, with cubeb assigned to the spleen.
Arab physicians of the Middle Ages were usually versed in alchemy, and cubeb was used, under the name kababa, when preparing the water of al butm. The Book of One Thousand and One Nights mentions cubeb as a main ingredient in making an aphrodisiac remedy for infertility:
“ He took two ounces of Chinese cubebs, one ounce of fat extract of Ionian hemp, one ounce of fresh cloves, one ounce of red cinnamon from Sarandib, ten drachms of white Malabar cardamoms, five of Indian ginger, five of white pepper, five of pimento from the isles, one ounce of the berries of Indian star-anise, and half an ounce of mountain thyme. Then he mixed cunningly, after having pounded and sieved them; he added pure honey until the whole became a thick paste; then he mingled five grains of musk and an ounce of pounded fish roe with the rest. Finally he added a little concentrated rose-water and put all in the bowl. ”
The mixture, called “seed-thickener”, is given to Shams-al-Din, a wealthy merchant who had no child, with the instruction that he must eat the paste two hours before having intercourse with his wife. According to the story, the merchant did get the child he desired after following these instructions. Other Arab authors wrote that cubeb rendered the breath fragrant, cured affections of the bladder, and that eating it “enhances the delight of coitus”.
In 1654, Nicholas Culpeper wrote in the London Dispensatorie that cubebs were “hot and dry in the third degree… (snip) they cleanse the head of flegm and strengthen the brain, they heat the stomach and provoke lust”. A later edition in 1826 informed the reader that “the Arabs call them Quabebe, and Quabebe Chine: they grow plentifully in Java, they stir up venery. (snip) …and are very profitable for cold griefs of the womb”.
The modern use of cubeb in England as a drug dates from 1815. There were various preparations, including oleum cubebae (oil of cubeb), tinctures, fluid extracts, oleo-resin compounds, and vapors, which were used for throat complaints. A small percentage of cubeb was commonly included in lozenges designed to alleviate bronchitis, in which the antiseptic and expectoral properties of the drug are useful. The most important therapeutic application of this drug, however, was in treating gonorrhea, where its antiseptic action was of much value. William Wyatt Squire wrote in 1908 that cubebs “act specifically on the genito-urinary mucous membrane. (They are) given in all stages of gonorrhea”. As compared with copaiba in this connection cubeb has the advantages of being less disagreeable to take and somewhat less likely to disturb the digestive apparatus in prolonged administration.
The volatile oil, oleum cubebae, was the form in which cubeb is most commonly used as a drug, the dose being 5 to 20 minims, which may be suspended in mucilage or given after meals in a wafer. The drug exhibited the typical actions of a volatile oil, but exerted some of these to an exceptional degree. As such, it was liable to cause a cutaneous erythema in the course of its excretion by the skin, had a marked diuretic action, and was a fairly efficient disinfectant of the urinary passages. Its administration caused the appearance in the urine of a salt of cubebic acid which was precipitated by heat or nitric acid, and was therefore liable to be mistaken for albumin, when these two most common tests for the occurrence of albuminuria were applied.
The National Botanic Pharmacopoeia printed in 1921 tells that cubeb was an excellent remedy for flour albus or whites.
Cubeb was frequently used in the form of cigarettes for asthma, chronic pharyngitis and hay fever. Edgar Rice Burroughs, being fond of smoking cubeb cigarettes, humorously stated that if he had not smoked so many cubebs, there might never have been Tarzan. “Marshall’s Prepared Cubeb Cigarettes” was a popular brand, with enough sales to still be made during World War II. Occasionally, marijuana users claimed that smoking marijuana is no more harmful than smoking cubeb. In the musical The Music Man, set in rural Iowa in 1912, the character Harold Hill alarms parents by telling this that their sons are trying out cubeb cigarettes at the notorious pool hall in the song “Trouble”.
Cubeb oil was included in the list of ingredients found in cigarettes, published by the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Bombay Sapphire gin is flavored with botanicals including cubeb and grains of paradise. The brand was launched in 1987, but its maker claims that it is based on a secret recipe dating to 1761. Pertsovka, a dark brown Russian pepper vodka with a burning taste, is prepared from infusion of cubeb and capsicum peppers
Cubeb is sometimes used to adulterate the essential oil of Patchouli, which requires caution for Patchouli users. In turn, cubeb is adulterated by Piper baccatum (also known as the “climbing pepper of Java”) and Piper caninum.
Cubeb berries are used in love-drawing magic spells by practitioners of hoodoo, an African-American form of folk magic.
In 2000, Shiseido, a well-known Japanese cosmetics company, patented a line of anti-aging products containing formulas made from several herbs, including cubeb.
In 2001, the Swiss company Firmenich patented cubebol, a compound found in cubeb oil, as a cooling and refreshing agent. The patent describes application of cubebol as a refreshing agent in various products, ranging from chewing gum to sorbets, drinks, toothpaste, and gelatin-based confectioneries.
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