"The dried, unripe fruit of Piper nigrum Linné (Fam. Piperaceae), without the presence or admixture of more than 2 per cent. of stems or other foreign matter." U. S.
Piper Nigrum, Br. 1898; Common Pepper; Poivre noir, Fr. Cod.; Poivre, Fr.; Schwarzer Pfeffer, G.; Pepenero, It.; Pimienti negra, Sp.; Fifil uswud, Arab.; Lada, Malay; Maricha, Jav.; Sahan, Palembang.
The pepper vine (Piper nigrum) is a perennial plant, with a round, smooth, woody, articulated stem, swelling near the joints, branched, and from eight to twelve feet or more in length. The leaves are entire, broad-ovate, acuminate, seven-nerved, coriaceous, very smooth, of a dark green color, and attached by strong sheath-like footstalks to the joints of the branches. The flowers are small, whitish, sessile, covering thickly a cylindrical spadix, and succeeded by globular berries, which are red when ripe.
The plant grows wild in Cochin-China and various parts of India. It is cultivated on the coast of Malabar, in the peninsula of Malacca, m Siam, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Philippines, Japan, and many other places in the East; also to some extent in the West Indies. The best pepper is affirmed to be produced in Malabar, but Europe and America derive their chief supplies from Sumatra and Java. The plant is propagated by cuttings, and is supported by props, or trees planted for the purpose, upon which it is trained. In three or four years from the period of planting, it begins to bear fruit. The plant sometimes begins to bear as early as the first year after planting, increases in its yield to the fifth or sixth year, when it produces eight or ten pounds, and begins to lose its productiveness about the fifteenth year. The berries are gathered as soon as one is seen to turn red—i.e., before they are all perfectly ripe—and upon being dried, become black and wrinkled. The greatest production is in Sumatra, and the ports of export. are principally Singapore and Penang, the Malabar pepper coming from Tellicherry. In England, at least, it is customary to mix peppers of different origin in grinding, taking Malabar for weight, Penang for strength, and Sumatra for color. (Bulletin U. S. Dept. of Agric., No. 13, 1887.) The importations from the Strait Settlements to the United States of unground black and white pepper is on an average about 20,000,000 pounds annually. Owing to the widespread cultivation of pepper a large number of varieties exist; these receive their names from the place of their production or their ports of shipment, as Singapore, Acheen, Penang, Siam, Tellicherry, Trang, Lampong, etc. For a description of the most important of these varieties with the percentage of active constituents contained in each, see J. W. Gladhill, A. J. P., Feb., 1904; Kraemer and Sindall, A. J. P., 1908, p. 1; also Blyth, Foods: Their Composition and Analysis.
White pepper is the ripe berry, deprived of a part of its pericarp by maceration in water and subsequent friction, and afterwards dried in the sun. It occurs as yellowish more or less broken grains with a smooth shiny surface from which the epicarp or outer layer of the fruit has been removed. It is sold in the market either as' a whole white pepper or as broken white pepper; the whole peppers are very likely to have some of the epicarp or hull remaining. The removed hull is sold separately under the name of "pepper hulls;" it forms a light to dark brown powder, with a very pungent odor and taste and contains large amounts of the oleoresin of pepper, but according to Gladhill, no piperine. The hulls are sometimes sold mixed with broken white pepper. This mixture contains more oleoresin and less piperine than does the pure pepper; the percentage of the two active constituents varying according to the percentage of drugs in the mixture. White pepper is much less pungent but more aromatic than black pepper.
Long Pepper is obtained from Piper officinarum DC., and P. longum L., the former species yielding the principal commercial supplies and being grown in Java, India, and the Philippines. The plants are distinguished in having their flowers in dense, short, terminal, and nearly cylindrical spikes and their fruits, consisting of very small one-seeded berries or drupes, embedded in a pulpy matter. The fruit is green when immature, and becomes red as it ripens. It is gathered in the former state, as it is then hotter than when perfectly ripe. The whole spike is taken from the plant, and dried in the sun. The fruit of the P. officinarum is cylindrical, 2 to 6 cm. long and 4 to 7 mm. in diameter, indented on its surface, of a dark-gray color, a weak aromatic odor, and a pungent fiery taste. The fruits of P. longum are shorter and thicker. Dulong found its chemical composition to be closely analogous to that of black pepper. Like that, it contains pipeline, a concrete oil or soft resin upon which its burning acridity depends, and a volatile oil to which it probably owes its odor. Its medicinal virtues are essentially the same as those of black pepper, but it is inferior to that spice, and is seldom used except as an adulterant. West African or Ashantee Pepper is the fruit of P. Clussii, C. DC., which grows abundantly in tropical Africa. It does not come into Western commerce, although much used in Africa. The berry is described as resembling cubeb, but less rugose, and with a more slender pedicel, and having the odor and taste of black pepper. Stenhouse found piperine in this variety of pepper.
Kissi Pepper is a fruit yielded by the Piper Famechoni, Heckel, of Upper Guinea. The berries, which grow in cylindrical clusters, are small, blackish-brown, ovoidal, with a cubeb-like pedicel at their base. Their powder is very aromatic, with an especially pleasant taste. They have been found by A. Barille to contain 4.5 per cent. of volatile oil and 3.7 per cent. of piperine. (J. P. C., 1903, 106.)
Properties.—The dried berries are "nearly globular, from 3.5 to 6 mm. in diameter, epicarp very thin, easily separable from the sarcocarp; externally blackish-brown or grayish-black, coarsely reticulate; unilocular, 1-seeded; seed nearly white, hollow, adhering to the pericarp; odor aromatic, slightly empyreumatic; taste aromatic and very pungent. The powder is a mixture of blackish-brown fragments of the pericarp and nearly white fragments of the endosperm and embryo; starch grains spherical or somewhat angular, from 0.001 to 0.003 mm. in diameter, mostly in the polygonal cells of the endosperm; stone cells of the epicarp varying from nearly isodiametric or palisade-like to long tapering or somewhat irregular in shape, with thick porous walls and large lumina frequently containing a reddish-brown pigment; stone cells of the endocarp unevenly thickened, the outer walls being usually rather thin. and the lumina usually filled with a reddish-brown substance; oil cells with suberized walls and containing a yellowish oil, from which monoclinic prisms of piperine occasionally separate. Pepper yields not less than 6 per cent. of non-volatile extract, soluble in ether . It contains not less than 25 per cent. of starch. Pepper yields not more than 7 per cent. of ash. The amount of ash in Pepper, insoluble in diluted hydrochloric acid, does' not exceed 2 per cent. of the weight of Pepper taken." U. S.
For information on the pharmacognosy of pepper, see Winton and Moeller in the "Microscopy of Vegetable Foods;" Winton and Bailey, Ztchr. f. Unters. d. Nahr. u. Genussm., 1905, ix, p. 227; Spaeth, Ibid., 1908, xv, p. 472; Kraemer and Sindall, A. J. P., 1908, lxxx, p. 1; Collin in Ann. des. Falsifications, 1910, iii, p. 272.
They yield their virtues partially to water, entirely to alcohol and ether. Pelletier found them to contain a peculiar principle called piperine (see Part II), an acrid concrete oil or soft resin of a green color, a balsamic volatile oil, isomeric with oil of turpentine, a colored gummy substance, an extractive matter, like that found in leguminous plants capable of being precipitated by infusion of galls, starch, a portion of bassorin, tartaric and malic acids, lignin, and various salts. William Johnston (König's Nahrungs- und Genussmittel, 3d ed., Bd. i, 1046) finds that piperidine, C5H11N, is an invariable constituent of pepper in amounts varying from 0.21 to 0.77 per cent.
Piperidine is of great chemical interest as being a simple derivative of pyridine, which seems to underly the molecular structure of so many alkaloids. Piperidine is a hexalhydropyridine and can easily be obtained from pyridine by the action of tin and hydrochloric acid. Conversely piperidine can be changed into pyridine when sulphuric acid at 300° C. (572° F.) or gentle oxidizing agents act upon it. Coniine, it will be remembered, is a normal propylpyridine. Moore and Row (J. P., 1898) have shown that piperidine resembles coniine in its physiological effects.
The taste and medicinal activity of pepper depend mainly on the concrete oil or resin, and on the volatile oil. The concrete oil is of a deep green color, very acrid, and soluble in alcohol and ether. The volatile oil is limpid, colorless, becoming yellow by age, of a strong odor, and of a taste less acrid than that of pepper itself. It consists of terpenes including dipentene, phellandrene, etc., and it forms a liquid but not a solid compound with hydrochloric acid. According to Weigle (Ap. Ztg., 1893, 626), pepper contains; besides cellulose, starch, and coloring matter, (1) Volatile oil, smelling strongly of pepper, but without pungency; (2) a thick oil, tasteless and nearly odorless; (3) odorless piperine whose solutions possess the pungency of pepper. Weigle believes that in the fresh fruit the volatile oil acts as a solvent for the piperine and he thus accounts for their pungency.
For a paper on commercial peppers, by J. W. Gladhill, see A. J. P., 1904, 71.
Adulterations.—On account, of its extensive use as a condiment, pepper has been largely adulterated, especially when sold in the form of a powder. Chief of the adulterants are pepper-hulls, ground olive pits, wheat middlings, and roasted cereals. Among the other substances sometimes used have been ground beans or peas, corn starch, flaxseed, mustard hulls, and coffee hulls. The adulterated articles are usually fortified with the addition of Cayenne pepper. At the present time, by virtue of the National and state Food Laws, black pepper is seldom adulterated. Adulterations can be detected by the microscope with more or less ease (see P. J., lxxi, 269; P. J., June, 1890; Bull. U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, No. 13, Part II, pp. 183, 1887; A. J. P., 1887, 146); but when pepper has been adulterated to the amount of 10 per cent. the discovery of the fraud is best made by determining the proportion of ash, of ether extract and of piperine present. The ash should never be above 6.5 per cent. for black and 3 per cent. for white pepper; the ether extract should be between 7.5 and 10 per cent. for black and 6 to 9 per cent. for white pepper, the U. S. standard being not less than 6 per cent. in which not less than 3.25 per cent. nitrogen shall be present. Piperine should be present in from 5.5 to 9 per cent. in good black pepper. The amount of oleoresin in any pepper can readily be determined by subtracting the weight of piperine from that of the mixture. Penang pepper is sometimes made to resemble the higher priced white peppers by coating the grains with an earthy matter (lime or clay). According to A. Mennechet, the fruits of Myrsine africana and of Embelia Ribes may sometimes be detected in the powder of pepper by extracting with ether and adding a little water, followed by a few drops of ammonia, when after shaking, a deep lilac-red color will appear in the aqueous layer. (J. P. C., xiv, 587.)
Uses.—Black pepper is a warm carminative stimulant, capable of producing general arterial excitement, but acting with greater proportional energy on the part to which it is applied. From the time of Hippocrates it has been used as a condiment and in medicine. Its chief medicinal application is to excite the languid stomach and correct flatulence. It was for years occasionally administered for the cure of intermittents, but its employment for this purpose had passed from the profession to the laity, till a few years since revived by an Italian physician, to be again consigned to forgetfulness. Piperine has also been employed in the same disease, and has even been thought superior to quinine sulphate, but experience has not confirmed this favorable opinion. That, in its impure state, when mixed with a portion of the acrid principle, it will occasionally cure intermittents, there can be no doubt, but it is not comparable to the preparations of cinchona, and is certain fly less active than the official oleoresin of pepper. In intermittent fever, pepper may be found a useful adjuvant to the more powerful febrifuge. It may be given whole or in powder, but is more energetic in the latter state.
Dose, of pepper, five to twenty grains (0.32-1.3 Gm.).
Off. Prep.—Confectio Piperis, Br.; Oleoresina Piperis, U. S.; Pulvis Opii Compositus, Br.; Tinctura Antiperiodica, N. F.; Tincture Antiperiodica sine Aloe, N. F.
Piper Novae-Hollandiae Miq. (Fam. Piperaceae.)—The berries of this Australian pepper contain a volatile oil, and are said to be useful in gonorrhea and allied diseases.
Piper Ovatum Vahl..From the leaves of this plant, found growing in Trinidad, Dunstan and Carr (Chem. News, 1895, 278) extracted a crystalline principle, piperovatine, C16H21NO2. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol. It is said to act as a depressant of both motor and sensory nerves, and as a stimulant to the spinal cord.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.