Herbs & Plants

Xylopia Aethiopica

Botanical Name: Xylopia Aethiopica
Family: Annonaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Magnoliales
Genus: Xylopia
Species: X. aethiopica

Common Names: Ethiopian Pepper,Guinea pepper” or “Negro pepper,

Habitat: Xylopia aethiopica is native to tropical Africa.(Senegal to Sudan, south to Angola, Zambia and Mozambique.) It grows in rain forests, especially near the coast. It also grows in riverine and fringing forest, and as a pioneer species in arid savanna regions.

Xylopia aethiopica is a slim, tall, evergreen, aromatic tree to 15–30 m high and about 60–70 cm in diameter with straight stem, many-branched crown and sometimes buttressed. Bark grey-brown, smooth or finely vertically fissured and peeling easily. The tree has simple leaves with smooth margins that are alternately arranged in two rows along the stems. The radially symmetrical flowers are usually bisexual. In most species the three sepals are united at the base. There are six brown, yellow, or greenish petals, many stamens in a spiral, and many pistils, each with a one-chambered ovary containing many ovules. The fruit is a berry. Flowers in some species are borne directly on large branches or on the trunk (cauliflorous). The leaves and wood are often fragrant. The fruits are narrow, slightly torulose, dark brown or black, about 5 cm long, borne in bunches on a stout peduncle.


Ethiopian pepper is a plant of the moist, lowland tropics, where it can be found at elevations from 200 – 500 metres. It is found in areas where the mean annual temperature is within the range 20 – 31°c, and the mean annual rainfall 1,500 – 2,500mm.
Found in the wild in well-drained loamy and sandy loam soils.
Young trees grow rapidly for their first three years.
Typical fruit yields are about two to three metric tons per annum per hectare

Propagation: Through Seeds.

Edible Uses:
Fruit – used as a spice to flavour food. The fruit is dried and crushed to a powder. It is used as a ‘pepper’.
The seeds are used as a substitute for pepper. An aromatic, pungent taste.
A macerate of the leaves is added to palm wine to make a locally popular intoxicating drink.
In Senegal, the fruit is used to flavor café Touba, a coffee drink that is the country’s spiritual beverage and the traditional drink of the Mouride brotherhood. In the Middle Ages the fruit was exported to Europe as a ‘pepper.’ In the eastern part of Nigeria, the plant’s fruit is an essential ingredient in preparation of local soups to aid new mothers in breastfeeding. It remains an important item of local trade throughout Africa as a spice, and flavouring for food and for medicine. The fruit is sometimes put into jars of water for purification purposes.

Medicinal Uses:
A fruit extract, or a decoction of the bark, is useful in the treatment of bronchitis and dysenteric conditions. It is also used as a medicine for biliousness and febrile pains.
The bark is steeped in palm-wine which is then given at the rate of one or two glasses per day for treating attacks of asthma; stomach-aches; and rheumatism.
The powdered bark is dusted onto ulcers.

The root is strongly aromatic. A concentrated root decoction is used as a mouthwash for toothache. The powdered root, mixed with salt, is used as a cure for constipation.
The powdered root is used externally as a dressing for sores; to rub on gums in the treatment of pyorrhoea; and in the local treatment of cancer.

A decoction of the leaves and roots is used as a general tonic for treating fevers and debility.

The leaves have a pungent smell. A decoction is used against rheumatism and as an emetic.
The powdered leaves are taken as snuff for treating headaches, and re also used in friction on the chest for treating bronchio-pneumonia.
The leaf sap, mixed with kola nut (Cola spp.) is given at the time of epileptic fits. The fruit is also used to season the patient’s food.

The fruit is anthelmintic, antitussive, carminative, emmenagogue, purgative and a rubefacient to counter pain. The fruits are particularly recommended as a tonic both for women who wish to improve their fertility and for those who have recently given birth.
The fruits are smoked like tobacco, and the smoke from a mixture of dried pulped fruit and tobacco is inhaled to relieve respiratory ailments.
The fruits are often incorporated in preparations for enemas and for external uses where its revulsive properties can be put to good use for treating any painful area including pains in the chest, sides and ribs; lumbago and neuralgia. They are also used in the treatment of boils and skin eruptions.

The seeds, as separate from the fruit, are emetic, galactagogue, rubefacient, stimulant and vermifuge. The ground seed is given to lactating mothers to increase their milk flow. An extract of the seeds is taken to rid the body of roundworms, and as a treatment for biliousness.
Crushed, the seeds are rubbed on the forehead for treating headache and neuralgia.
The plant is said to contain anonaceine, which is an alkaloid resembling morphine in action according to some authorities, and according to others is a glycoside.
The fruit contains a volatile aromatic oil, a fixed oil and rutin.
A study of the fruit extract used in Nigerian folk-medicine for treatment of skin-infections has shown some action on Gram +ve organisms: Sarcina lutea and Mycobacterium phlei, and no action on Staphylococcus aureus, and no antifungal action.

Other Uses:
Agroforestry Uses: Within its native range, the tree is a pioneer species, found forming small woods on the savannah[328
The plant contains 2 – 4.5% essential oils. The oil from the bark consists mainly of pinene, trans-pinocarveol, verbenone and myrtenol; whereas the leaf oil is mainly spathulenol, cryptone, beta-caryophyllene and limonene.
The slash of the bole is white, sappy and very fragrant. The fresh scented bark is kept as an incense in hut rooms.
The fruit, ground up with Capsicum peppers, is mixed with kola nuts and used as a repellent for the Kola weevil.
The pulverized fruits are added to snuff to increase its pungency.
The fruits are sometimes put into jars of water to purify the water.
The seeds, separated from the fruit, are a substitute for pepper, and have cosmetic uses. Mixed with other spices they are rubbed on the body as a cosmetic and scent, and are commonly used as a perfume for clothing.
The thick, fibrous bark peels readily and yields a cordage.
The bark is used to make doors and partitions, and to wrap around torches.
The root wood can be used as a cork.

The wood is white or pale yellowish brown in the heart, and fairly hard. It is said to be light and brittle in Sierra Leone, and to be of no commercial application, but elsewhere to be heavy, strong and elastic, and is used for purposes requiring resilience such as boat-construction, masts, oars, paddles and spars. Traditionally, it is used for making bows and crossbows for hunters and warriors. The wood is resistant to termite attack and is used in hut-construction for posts, scantlings, roof-ridges and joists. The plant’s bark is used to make doors and partitions. The wood is known to be resistant to termite attack and is used in hut construction: posts, scantlings, roof-ridges and joists. The wood is also used for boat construction: masts, oars, paddles and spars. In Togo and Gabon, wood was traditionally used to make bows and crossbows for hunters and warriors.
The wood makes a good fuel. It burns with a hot flame and has found use as a steamboat fuel.

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.


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