PERUVIAN PEPPER TREE
CALIFORNIAN PEPPER TREE
BRAZILIAN PEPPER TREE
SCHINUS TEREBENTHIFOLIUS = TEREBENTHIFOLIA
Trees or shrubs of the SCHINUS genus are native to the temperate regions of South America (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay) and the Andean regions of South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina). They are absent in the Amazon rainforest.
Botanists distinguish around thirty species and numerous subspecies or varieties.
The three most widespread and used species are:
Schinus Molle: anacahuita, pirul, falso Pimentero, aguaribay or simply Molle in Spanish or vernacular names, Peruvian or Californian pepper tree in English.
Schinus terebenthifolius or terebenthifolia: pimentero brasileño, turbinto, aroeira, pimienta rosada in Spanish or vernacular names, Brazilian pepper tree oe Rose pepper in English.
Schinus areira: Molle, aguaribay, arbol de la pimienta, very close to Schinus Molle.
SCHINUS MOLLE (first picture )is a fairly decorative tree (with a weeping willow appearance) and very resistant once well established (but it does not like the extreme cold), it has been introduced in many countries to the point of sometimes being considered as an emblematic local tree (example in California).
It is very present in countries around the Mediterranean sea, but also in South Africa where it is considered an invasive plant.
Its evergreen foliage measures between 10 and 30cm long; it is composed of numerous lanceolate leaflets, toothed and generally with a shiny appearance. A very strong pepper smell is released when crushed. The creamy white flowers give way to small pink or red fruits (5 to 6mm in diameter)
on the female trees, because it is a tree with separate sexes, plants of both sexes and insects (bees in love it) are necessary to have fruits.
SCHINUS TEREBENTHIFOLIUS is smaller but also decorative in a garden. Its leaves, evergreen, alternate and opposite (except the last) 7.5 to 15 cm long, generally have 5 to 9 elliptical or oblong leaflets. The inflorescence and fruits resemble those of Schinus Molle, but the fruit clusters are denser and the fruits redder.
It is a dioecious plant (male plants and female plants) which adapts equally well to marshy and dry regions, which tolerates proximity to the sea and which easily supplants native vegetation. It is an invasive species that is difficult to control (Florida, tropical Australia) but cannot tolerate prolonged frost. It is present in New Caledonia and Reunion.
Schinus areira is also a beautiful, resistant tree closely resembling Schinus Molle and which adapts to varied terrains but is rarely introduced outside of South America. There are nevertheless some in Central America. It is more resistant to cold than the other two species.
These different species of Schinus have been used for a very long time as spices, medicinal and useful plants in South America, they have quite similar medicinal properties.
The medicinal parts are the leaves, fruits, bark, resin and essential oil very present in the leaves and fruits.Schinus terebenthifolius, pink pepper tree
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
THE LEAVES OF THE SCHINUS PEPPER TREES
Traditionally the leaves are used to treat infections, skin wounds or infected ulcers.
The leaves contain essential oil (see below) and lectins = glycoprotein: protein associated with sugars, which play a major role in immunity.
One of these lectins (called SteLL) isolated from the leaves of Schinus terebenthifolius slows down and even inhibits the development of bacteria present on the skin, notably Staphylococcus aureus, responsible for skin infections that are sometimes difficult to treat.
This lectin is also anticancer, analgesic and anxiolytic (studies on mice).
The alcoholic extracts of Schinus terebenthifolius leaves are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, they are phenolic substances derived from quercetin and kaemferol as well as phenolic acids (ferulic and caffeic), they are fairly common compounds in plants and well known for their protective power on tissues, anti-inflammatory and therefore pain-relieving and anti-spasmodic.
ACTION ON BLOOD PRESSURE
Traditionally, aqueous extracts of leaves and fruits are used to control high blood pressure; some animal experiments have confirmed this property.
THE FRUITS OF SCHINUS PEPPER TREES
The fruits contain some slightly sweet pulp that can be fermented, essential oil, and potentially toxic compounds.
Recent studies reveal that the seed powder is insecticidal and repellent for many insects including weevils and bean weevil which destroy some of the stored seeds, cereals or legumes.
Schinus seeds contain proteins that are toxic to these particularly resistant insects and present in stored foods, which limits the use of synthetic organic insecticides.
ESSENTIAL OILS OF SCHINUS PEPPER TREES
.This essential oil corresponds to a large part of the medicinal properties of Schinus.
As is often the case in plants, the percentage and chemical composition of essential oils varies for the same species depending on the variety, cultivation characteristics (soil, temperature, humidity) and the time of year.
SCHINUS MOLLE ESSENTIAL OIL
The percentage of essential oil varies: leaves approximately between 1% and 3%, fruits approximately between 0.5% and 2.5%
The chemical composition of the main terpenes also varies, let's take two examples:
- Schinus from southern Tunisia: alpha-phellandrene 46.52% and 34.38%, beta-phellandrene 20.81% and 10.61%, alpha-terpineol 8.38% and 5.60%, alpha- pinene 4.34% and 6.49%, beta-pinene 4.96% and 3.09%, para-cymene 2.49% and 7.34%.
- Schinus from the area around Rabat in Morocco: beta-pinene (10.36–5.44%), gamma-terpinene (12.01–8.15%),limonene (22.94–18.49%), 10-epi-elemol (7.64–8.03%),gamma-eudesmol (5.17–4.09%), and longifolene (7.67–8.48%).
SCHINUS TEREBENTHIFOLIUS ESSENTIAL OIL
Percentage Essential oil: leaf approximately 0.3% -0.7%, fruit approximately between 0.5% and 2%
Chemical composition of the main terpenes (Rabat Morocco): gamma-terpinene (9.45–6.70%), limonene (23.22–6.52%), spathulenol (
14.34–6.84%), beta-ocimene (13.32–0%), sabinol(5.07% ), germacrene D (2–8.53%), elemene(0.42–10.11%), eudesmol (3.59%),
These two trees therefore contain a large percentage of essential oil (especially Schinus Molle), the chemical composition of which is visibly variable.
These oils contain substances known for their ANTIBACTERIAL, ANTIMYCOSIC, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY and ANTALGIC powers, IMMUNOLOGICAL ACTIVATOR, REPELLENT against insects or even INSECTICIDE.
These oils should be used with caution and moderation, and in small quantities because certain studies show that they are potentially toxic, as are the majority of spice essential oils.
The spicy, peppery character of Schinus berries (pink pepper) is linked to the presence of these essential oils.
THE FRUITS OF SCHINUS OR PINK PEPPER
Dried fruits can partially replace black pepper, and ground pepper is sometimes adulterated with pink pepper.
This spice is marketed and exported in particular by Reunion (the pink berries of Reunion), Mauritius and Brazil.
It is eaten dried or candied in vinegar. Its aromatic taste is a mixture of pepper and juniper according to connoisseurs.
The fruits of the schinus have been used for a very long time in South America as a spice but also to produce a kind of slightly alcoholic, very aromatic beer or chicha which, a long time ago, was mixed with hallucinogenic and psychotropic powder from the fruit of Adenanthera colubrina (vilca, oilco, oilca) which contains a compound similar to bufotenin.
A fruit decoction is a traditional remedy in South America for urinary tract infections.
THE LEAVES OF SCHINUS
The leaves are used as an infusion: a small handful of fresh leaves or their equivalent in dry leaves in 1/2 liter of very hot water, 10 minutes of infusion. half a cup, two to three times a day.
This infusion is used:
- externally to clean an infected wound, in the form of a compress on an infected wound, compress which is renewed several times a day,
- applied to a bleeding wound, or as a nasal spray in case of persistent or frequent nosebleed,
- by mouth to lower blood pressure, alleviate digestive or genital or urinary spasms,
- by mouth in addition to antibiotic treatment of a skin infection (boil, abscess, infected wound or burn),
- by gargling and mouthwash: tonsillitis, oral infections, infected and painful teeth, gingivitis, mouth ulcers,
- by mouth in the event of a viral or bacterial respiratory infection (bronchitis).
We can also use the bark of small branches as a decoction for the same indications, orally there is a risk of secondary constipation (because of the tannins in the bark)
The resin which appears in the cracks of the bark can be used as masticatory in the event of a dental infection, this soothes the pain and helps limit or slow down the infection.
ESSENTIAL OILS OF SCHINUS PEPPER TREES
These essential oils can be used:
- slightly diluted in alcohol or eau de cologne to clean infected wounds, in direct application to skin infections due to fungi.
- These essential oils with fairly variable compositions must be used with caution orally.
- these essential oils are repellent to many insects including "moths" which destroy the wool of clothing and varroa, formidable parasites of bees.
ALCOHOLIC LEAF TINCTURE
The 1/5 or 1/10 alcoholic (ethanolic) tincture or maceration contains the water-soluble compounds and the terpenes of the essential oil, that is to say all of the active compounds of the plant.
It is an antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal tincture, which calms local pain (wound, dental pain), it can be used for the same indications as those of the leaves:
- compress soaked on wounds infected by bacteria or due to fungi (including the agent of sporotrichosis)
- gargle or mouthwash,
- two teaspoons in water once or twice a day: hypertension, digestive disorders, respiratory and urinary infections.
OTHER USES OF SCHINUS or MOLLE or PEPPER TREE
- These are honey trees from which bees make very good honey, but which are also used by small "melipone bees", native to South America, these small hymenoptera which do not sting make a renowned honey although not abundant.
- schinus especially schinus mole is one of the rare large trees that grows in the Andean region, its wood is renowned.
CULTIVATION OF SCHINUS or MOLLE or PEPPER TREE
As we saw above, the introduction of these trees into countries outside South America is regulated or prohibited.
Especially the introduction of schinus terebenthifolius in subtropical warm temperate zones, this tree manages to supplant other species by modifying the composition of soil microorganisms.
In South America, trees of the schinus genus are very popular (apart from their medicinal properties) because they grow quickly, are resistant, can be used to stabilize and improve the soil, as a windbreak, as fencing wood, for construction or firewood.
They propagate easily by their seeds, and can grow on sloping and stony ground but need the proximity of a water table or a watercourse
PRECAUTIONSSome people are allergic to the sap of these trees
SCHINUS OR PEPPER TREES MEDICINAL AND USEFUL TREES OF SOUTH AMERICA
The different species of schinus have been used for a long time in the Andean region of South America as medicinal plants, honey plants and timber or firewood. The seeds can replace pepper, the aromatic foliage is antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic and anti-inflammatory, particularly through their essential oil content..
Copyright 2023 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel