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Pepper Elder

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Names of the Pepper Elder, past and present

Chinese: cao hu jiao
Japanese: suna kosho
Vietnamese: cang cua
Thai: pak krasang
Malay / Bahasa: tumpang angin / ktumpangan
Spanish: coracaozinho / lingua de sapo / herba-de-vidro / alumbre
Filipino: podpod-lahe / ulasimang-bato / sinaw-sinaw / olasiman-ihalas / pansit-pansitan
English: clear weed / pepper elder / rat-ear / shiny bush / silver bush
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Peperomia pellucida / Peperomia translucens / Piper pellucida

Background and History

The pepper elder is a relatively small semi-aquatic plant that grows no more than some forty centimeters in length. The pepper elder is an annual herb that is commonly found in rocky outcrops very near or on small bodies of water. It also thrives in loose, moist earth, especially in humus-rich soil, and can often be found in profuse number in shady areas of untended lots alongside crab grass and an assortment of other plants. Although it is thought of to be a native to the New World, the pepper elder is also known to thrive in very large numbers in nearly all of Asia, especially in China, Indo-China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Characterized by its vine-like body, shallowly imbedded roots, semi-transparent stalks, and the unmistakably glossy sheen of its broad, heart-shaped leaves, it has been employed as both a commonplace vegetable and a medicinal herb since time immemorial especially in the Philippine areas where it is commonly propagated in small vegetable plots where it thrives in tangled clumps. Elsewhere, the pepper elder is typically grown as a foliage vegetable or as an ornamental plant due to its quaint year-round blossoms which come in muted reds and vibrant pinks. [1]

Common / Popular Uses

The most common use for the pepper elder is as a type of vegetable, typically consumed raw as a salad or otherwise employed as a complimentary ingredient in fish-based dishes. Pepper elders are considered a staple of Filipino cuisine, especially rural cuisine, as it is easily grown, easily cooked, nutritious, and tasty. When eaten raw, it borders from the slightly bitter to the slightly sweet. The whole plant is edible, although more often than not, the roots are discarded. The stems of the plant are packed with moisture and are crunchy and sweet, while the leaves offer a slightly bitter taste. When cooked (typically via stir-frying), it easily absorbs the flavours of whatever else is cooked with it. Because of this capacity, it is often paired with fish and seasoned with soy sauce - the resulting dish becoming quite savoury and redolent of the taste of fish. Elsewhere, it may be consumed as a salad and is commonly fed to pregnant and lactating women for their nutritive properties. [2]

When employed medicinally, a strong decoction of its leaves and stems is drunk to help relieve the pains brought about by gout and arthritis. [3] Convalescent individuals and children suffering from wasting diseases may be given a very strong decoction of the plant, or the raw or prepared plant as a drink or as food to bolster their health. Alternately, the whole plant may be processed in a blender or food processor, and the resulting slurry sweetened and drunk as a daily food-supplement to help stave off commonplace diseases and to improve energy output. When employed topically, it is said to help improve one's complexion, and is used to such effect by locals to help reduce acne flare-ups and soothe inflamed skin. [4]

The whole leaves may be slightly bruised and applied to the forehead to help relieve the symptoms of headaches, or made into a poultice to help treat open sores, boils, pimples, pustules and carbuncles. Better results ensue when the poultice is slightly warmed prior to application. Consuming the whole plant or imbibing of its decocted liquor has also been employed as a treatment for conjunctivitis, the common cold, fevers, anemia, and even abscesses. [5] In other parts of the world such as Brazil and Africa, the plant is employed for the treatment of tumors, fits, convulsions, and even impotence. Slurries made of its leaves, or teas rendered from fresh decoctions of the whole plant are also believed to help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as help in soothing anxiety, hyperactivity, and in some cases, mild psychosis. [6]

A decoction of the roots is typically mixed with those of the stems and leaves to improve its antipyretic and antihistaminic properties, although by and large, the leaves and stems are potent in and of themselves. The use of the roots, while safe and applicable, is rare.

Esoteric / Magickal Uses

The pepper elder seems to possess no specific magickal properties within the context of either Eastern or Western magick. In Filipino shamanism and folk magick, the plant too surprisingly lacks even the slightest esoteric mention, although it does not lack for the commonality of usage especially in the treatment of minor ailments amongst the elderly and juvenile.

The use of the pepper elder as both a foodstuff and a medicine is wholly safe, with no known detrimental side-effects. It is among the few rare medicinal plants that is advised for the consumption of pregnant and lactating women, and which possesses no known harmful side-effects to either mother or child. There seems to be no known 'overdose' associated with excessive consumption of the plant, although mild indigestion or diarrhea can be experienced.

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peperomia_pellucida

[2] http://voices.yahoo.com/pansit-pansitan-medicinal-native-philippine-herb-2420284.html

[3] http://www.foodrecap.net/health/pansitad-salad/

[4] - [5] http://www.stuartxchange.com/Pansit.html

[6] http://www.medicalhealthguide.com/articles/pansit-pansitan.htm

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. © herbs-info.com 2013

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