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Background & General Info

Matico is a perennial flowering shrub that inhabits as a native species in the woodlands of Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, and most regions of South America but now is grown in Puerto Rico, some US states such as Hawaii and Florida, and tropical Asia. [1] Scientifically referred to as Piper aduncum, this evergreen plant goes also by the common name of spiked pepper. Regarded as an invasive weed in some countries, the plant is nonetheless utilized not only as a traditional medicine but also for fuel and as a condiment (fruits). [2]


Matico can be considered an erect shrub or small tree that reaches a height of 2–7 meters. This tropical plant is sparsely pubescent and bears oblong or ovate leaves with obliquely rounded to obliquely cuneate base. The leaf blades’ surfaces are softly pubescent. Matico has spikes that are about 8–15 cm in length, hence its other name “spiked pepper,” and has oblong fruits whose two sides are flattened longitudinally. [1]

History & Traditional Use

It is thought that a wounded Spanish soldier that goes by the name of “Matico” discovered the plant, thus its name, which also means “soldier’s herb.” Based on the legend, the soldier Matico locally applied the leaves of Piper aduncum on his wounds to stop their bleeding, perhaps as suggested by native tribes. Matico plant became known in the medical community of the United States and Europe when a Liverpool physician introduced it in 1839 as a styptic and astringent for wounds. [2]

General Herbal Uses

Piper aduncum is an herb established to display biological activities such as insecticidal, antimicrobial, fungicidal, molluscicidal, and larvicidal effects. [3][4] The dillapiole-rich essential oil, which is acquired or extracted from the branches and leaves of Piper aduncum, bears great economic potential due to its phytochemical properties. The local communities of the Amazon region where the plant can be found use the plant as an antiulcer, anti-hemorrhagic, and anti-diarrheal medicine. [4]

Constituents/Active Components

Essential oils extracted from Piper aduncum specimens that thrive in the deforested areas of Brazilian Amazon, North Brazil, have been noted to be rich in dillapiole (35–90%), but those obtained from Piper aduncum specimens of the Atlantic Forest and northeastern and southeastern Brazil are characterized by an absence of dillapiole, but instead contain terpene compounds such as (E)-nerolidol and linalool. de Almeida et al. (2009) hydrodistilled an Amazon Piper aduncum specimen and fractioned the acquired essential oil on silica chromatographic column, leading to fractions rich in dillapiole (95–98.9%). [5] The essential oil hydrodistilled from matico leaves in the study of Pacheco et al. (2016) possesses high content of sesquiterpenes and has an abundance of E-nerolidol, linalool (14.28–16.65%), α-humulene (8.45–10.62%), cis-cadin-4-en-7-ol (7.48–12.24%), and caryophyllene (7.93–12.24%). On the other hand, the essential oil from the plant’s roots contains phenylpropanoids and apiol (16.27–29.51%). [3]

Thao et al. (2016) isolated and identified four new compounds from the leaves of matico, namely, acacetin 8-C-[β-D-apiofuranosyl-(1 → 2)-β-D-glucopyranoside], 7-methoxyacacetin 8-C-[β-D-apiofuranosyl-(1 → 3)-β-D-glucopyranoside], 7-methoxyacacetin 8-C-[β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1 → 2)-β-D-glucopyranoside], and 4‴-O-acetylacacetin 8-C-[α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1 → 2)-β-D-glucopyranoside] (4) in addition to ten known compounds. [6]

Medicinal/Scientific Research


A 2016 study evaluated the effects of compounds isolated from leaves of matico on lipopolysaccharide-induced expression of three proinflammatory cytokines, namely, IL-12p40, IL-6, and TNF-α, in bone marrow-derived dendritic cells. Eight compounds found in matico leaves had been shown to suppress the production of both IL-12p40 and IL-6, with IC50 values from 0.35 ± 0.01 to 1.40 ± 0.04 µM and 1.22 ± 0.02 to 3.79 ± 0.10 µM, respectively. In particular, two compounds have manifested strong inhibitory actions on the production of IL-12 p40, but all compounds exerted weak or no activity toward TNF-α production at the tested concentrations. [6]


Based on data from several different studies, essential oils obtained from a variety of pepper species such as Piper aduncum manifest favorable leishmanicidal and trypanocidal activities. Villamizar et al. (2017) evinced the trypanocidal activity of matico essential oil against Trypanosoma cruzi, an activity that has been attributed to the plant’s linalool content. Trypanosoma cruzi is the protozoan parasite that causes Chagas disease, which is a conceivably fatal illness. Study results of Villamizar et al. (2017) indicated that matico essential oil was effective against cell-derived and metacyclic trypomastigotes at concentrations of 2.8 μg/mL and 12.1 μg/mL, respectively. At a concentration of 9 μg/mL, this essential oil was also effective against intracellular amastigotes. At 4°C, which is the temperature of red blood cells stored in blood banks, it was observed that cell-derived trypomastigotes were more sensitive to 3.8 μg/mL matico essential oil than 24.7 mg/mL gentian violet, with matico essential oil showing increased selectivity for cell-derived trypomastigotes according to cytotoxicity assays using Vero cells and red blood cells. Linalool, one of the main components of matico essential oil, had been determined to display trypanocidal effect at a concentration of 306 ng/mL at 4°C. [7]


Monzote et al. (2010) determined the antileishmanial activity of matico essential oil and identified, through gas chromatography, safrole as its most abundant compound, which constitutes 87% of the essential oil. In this study, matico essential oil was demonstrated to be effective in eliminating promastigotes of Leishmania major, Leishmania mexicana, Leishmania braziliensis, and Leishmania donovani. Such antileishmanial action came with a favorable selectivity index against peritoneal macrophages from BALB/c mice. Matico essential oil suppressed the growth of intracellular amastigotes of Leishmania donovani. [8]


In the study of de Almeida et al. (2009), dillapiole, a component of matico essential oil, has been found to exert fungicidal activity against the fungus Crinipellis perniciosa (witches’ broom). At concentrations of 0.6–1.0 ppm, matico’s dillapiole effectively inhibited the basidiospores of the aforementioned fungus. [5] Piper aduncum not only has the richest composition of essential oil compared to Piper arboreum and Piper tuberculatum in the study of Navickiene et al. (2006) but also exhibited the highest antifungal activity, with a minimum inhibitory concentration of 10 µg as determined against Cladosporium cladosporioides and Cladosporium sphaerospermum, respectively. [9]

Wound Healing

A 2016 study published in the journal Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Pública (Peruvian Journal of Experimental Medicine and Public Health) investigated the healing effect of an ethanol–water extract derived from matico on an adult human dermal fibroblast cell line (hDFa). Fibroblasts are the major active cells of connective tissues and play a vital role in wound healing. This study has conclusively determined that matico hydroethanolic extract, especially its constituent proteins, augmented the proliferation and migration of hDFa and intensified the expression of growth factors that chiefly participate in the process of healing. A certain “protein K2” from the said extract has been demonstrated in the proliferation assay to display increased proliferative activity with respect to other treatments (1 µg/mL). In the fibroblast migration assay, protein K2 of matico extract also exhibited increased activity at a concentration of 50 µg/mL. In addition, an 8.6-fold increase in the relative expression of platelet-derived growth factor was observed in the presence of protein K2 relative to the control. [10]

Mosquito Repellent

Under laboratory conditions with human volunteers, a 2009 Malaysian research indicated the potential of Piper aduncum essential oil as an anti-mosquito repellent against Aedes albopictus, or the tiger mosquito. This mosquito is epidemiologically notorious for carrying viral pathogens that cause yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya fever. In this study, the lowest median effective dose (ED50) value was determined to be 1.5 µg/cm2 at 60 sec of exposure. The findings revealed that matico essential oil, at a dose of 0.4 g, conferred high protection (95.2%) against the bites of Aedes albopictus following 2 hours of application. However, such protection declined to 83.3%, 64.5%, and 51.6% after 4 hours, 6 hours, and 8 hours of essential oil application, respectively. [11]

The study findings of a 2009 Brazilian study showed that at a concentration of 100 ppm, dillapiole kills all larvae of Anopheles marajoara and Aedes aegypti (malaria and dengue mosquitoes, respectively) after 48 hours of treatment. Furthermore, adult mosquitoes of both species were all killed following 30 minutes of dillapiole treatment at a concentration of 600 ppm. [5]

In another study by Misni et al. (2011), the bioefficacy of Piper aduncum essential oil formulated in aerosol cans has been proved against both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in a simulated room, highlighting the potential of matico essential oil as an effective aerosol spray for Aedes mosquitoes. In this study, aerosol spray of matico essential oil was compared with a commercial aerosol spray (which contains 0.09% prallethrin and 0.05% d-phenothrin as main constituents). The findings had indicated a significantly higher knockdown effect by both the commercial aerosol spray and Piper aduncum essential oil spray at 8% and 10% concentrations, respectively, against adult Aedes albopictus females than adult Aedes aegypti females. Furthermore, it was also observed that intervention involving matico essential oil elicited a significantly higher mortality rate (80%) against Aedes aegypti than Aedes albopictus (71.6%). [12]

Contraindications, Interactions, And Safety

There is still limited data on the safety of matico application. Matico essential oil should be used at a recommended dose. Special populations, particularly pregnant and lactating women, are advised to exercise caution and to report hypersensitivity concerns.


[1] "EOL: Encyclopedia of Life," Missouri Botanical Garden.

[2] L. Taylor, "Technical Data Report for Matico (Piper aduncum, angustifolium)," Raintree Nutrition, Inc., 2006.

[3] F. V. Pacheco, R. de Paula Avelar, I. C. A. Alvarenga and et al., "Essential oil of monkey-pepper (Piper aduncum L.) cultivated under different light environments," Industrial Crops and Products, vol. 85, p. 251–257, 2016.

[4] T. L. da Silva and J. E. Scherwinski-Pereira, "In vitro conservation of Piper aduncum and Piper hispidinervum under slow-growth conditions," Pesquisa Agropecuária Brasileira, vol. 46, no. 4, p. 384–389, 2011.

[5] R. de Almeida, R. Souto, C. Bastos, M. da Silva and J. Maia, "Chemical variation in Piper aduncum and biological properties of its dillapiole-rich essential oil," Chemistry & Biodiversity, vol. 6, no. 9, p. 1427–1434, 2009.

[6] N. P. Thao, B. T. T. Luyen, W. Widowati and et al., "Anti-inflammatory flavonoid C-glycosides from Piper aduncum leaves," Planta Medica, vol. 82, no. 17, p. 1475–1481, 2016.

[7] L. H. Villamizar, M. d. G. Cardoso, J. de Andrade, M. L. Teixeira and M. J. Soares, "Linalool, a Piper aduncum essential oil component, has selective activity against Trypanosoma cruzi trypomastigote forms at 4°C," Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, vol. 112, no. 2, p. PMC5293122, 2017.

[8] L. Monzote, M. García, A. Montalvo, R. Scull and M. Miranda, "Chemistry, cytotoxicity and antileishmanial activity of the essential oil from Piper auritum," Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, vol. 105, no. 2, p. 168–173, 2010.

[9] H. M. D. Navickiene and et al., "Composition and antifungal activity of essential oils from Piper aduncum, Piper arboreum and Piper tuberculatum," Química Nova, vol. 29, no. 3, p. 467–470, 2006.

[10] K. Paco, L. Ponce-Soto, M. Lopez-Ilasaca and J. Aguilar, "Determination of the healing effect of Piper aduncum (spiked pepper or matico) on human fibroblasts," Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Pública, vol. 33, no. 3, p. 438–447, 2016.

[11] N. Misni, S. Sulaiman, H. Othman and B. Omar, "Repellency of essential oil of Piper aduncum against Aedes albopictus in the laboratory," Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, vol. 25, no. 4, p. 442–447, 2009.

[12] N. Misni, H. Othman and S. Sulaiman, "The effect of Piper aduncum Linn. (Family: Piperaceae) essential oil as aerosol spray against Aedes aegypti (L.) and Aedes albopictus Skuse," Tropical Biomedicine, vol. 28, no. 2, p. 249–258, 2011.

Article researched and created by Dan Albir for © 2018

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