PIPER AURITUM

PIPER AURITUM

FAMILY :: PIPERACEAE
HOJA SANTA, ACUYO, MOMO: Is a shrub with large (to 10″ across) heart shaped, rootbeer-flavored leaves containing safrole. It has long, narrow, phallic white flowers and is probably the easiest to grow of the commonly available Piper family.

Hoja Santa is used in Mexico culinarily and medicinally (gynecologically). The leaves and stems are reported to be used popularly as a treatment for susto (fright). While down in Chiapas, Mexico, I had the opportunity to see these plants in their native habitat and to eat fish prepared with the leaves. The plants grow very large, resembling trees, and the fish (wrapped similar to a tamale and steamed) was good. The leaves are also added to meat stews. Can grow as a potted plant in rich, moist soil in part shade.

For decades botanists have pondered the popular name of this plant, translated as “Holy Leaf.” Most “Holy” plants have some drug value or some special sacramental or medicinal value. Piper auritum has none of these.

As a working ethnobotanist in Mexico, I think I’ve discovered the source of the nomenclature. One night I was sitting in a small hotel bathroom in Oaxaca and I noticed a new roll of toilet paper sitting on the back of the toilet tank. On the wrapping was the description of the contents, “230 Hojas.”

The large, soft, pleasantly scented, velvety leaves of this plant make perfect toilet paper. “Sacred” toilet paper, to some. The mystery is solved.

PIPER BETEL

PIPER BETEL

FAMILY :: PIPERACEAE
BETLE LEAF, KUNYA: Large heart shaped leaves on a rapidly growing tropical vine. Traditionally chewed with betle nut (Areca catechu) shavings and other condiments in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and India. Needs true tropical conditions to thrive: very warm moist, rich soil and a very high humidity. Has a strong taste and numbs the mouth when chewed. Grows very rapidly.

The leaves by themselves are stimulant, antiseptic, tonic and stomachic: aiding digestion, decreasing perspiration, and increasing physical endurance. Efforts are being made worldwide to ban betle.

PIPER METHYSTICUM

PIPER METHYSTICUM

FAMILY :: PIPERACEAE
KAVA, AWA: A tropical vine requiring warmth, rich moist soil, humidity and part shade. Traditionally, the roots of kava are chewed and then spit by virgins into a bowl, diluted and then drunk, producing a type of tranquilizing euphoria.

Medicinally, it is anaphrodisiac and a local anesthetic. The roots may also (if you experience a lack of local virgins) be pounded if fresh, or powdered if dried, and soaked in cold water for a while, then strained and the liquid drunk. Or the active constituents dissolve quite well in alcohol.

“Marxist sociologists criticized the use of kava on the grounds that it creates a false goodwill between classes that, in a state of movement and economic differentiation, ought properly to be at each other’s throats. This remnant of the old apocalyptic millenarian faith is against any half-measures or compensations, against any opiates or palliatives, believing that only by things getting worse will the Revolution come to save us.”
— Dale Pendell, Pharmako/Poeia

LINK(S):
KAVA Forum