Peperomia (botanical name Peperomia pellucida) is an annually growing herb with shallow roots. Generally, this herb grows up to anything between 15 cm and 45 cm. The plant is characterized by its glossy, heart-shaped plump leaves, succulent stems and dot-like seeds that are attached to numerous fruiting spikes.
On the upper surface, the leaves of peperomia have a standard green hue, while they are whitish green in the underside. The leaves are broadly ovate, thinly fleshy, drying papery, glabrous, palmately having three nerves or five nerves and apex acuminate, while the base varies from subcordate to truncate. The petioles measure about 0.5 cm to 2 cm in length and are glabrous. They may have one or several spikes and be axillary or terminally. Some leaves are arranged opposite to each other, filiform and anything between 3 cm to 6 cm in length. The rachis ca. measures between 0.4 cm and 0.6 cm across and is glabrous. The flowers of peperomia are well spaced and penducles measuring between 0.6 cm and 1.0 cm in length. The ovary of the flowers is ovoid shaped, while the stigmas are terminal. The fruits are sub-globose measuring about 0.5 mm in length. They are also ridged longitudinally.
When crushed, the fruits exude a smell that is similar to mustard. There are about one dozen genera and approximately 3,000 species in the Piperaceae family. In fact, the genus Peperomia comprises almost 50 percent of the Piperaceae and the majority of the remaining comprises genus Piper.
Leaves, stems, roots.
For long, people have used the species Peperomia pellucid both as a food and also in the form of a medicinal herb. While this plant is predominantly cultivated for its ornamental foliage, you can eat the entire plant, both in its raw form as well as after cooking.
There are various ethno medicinal uses of peperomia plants. Since long, people have been using the P. pellucida plants for curing acne, abscesses, headaches, abdominal pains, fatigue, colic, boils, rheumatic joint pains and renal disorders. Alteños Indians in Bolivia used the entire peperomia plant to end hemorrhages. The roots of this herb are also used for treating fevers, while the aerial parts are utilized to dress wounds. People in northern Brazil have been using this plant for lowering blood cholesterol levels, while in the Amazon region and Guyana peperomia is a very popular herbal remedy for suppressing cough. It is also used in the form of a diuretic and emollient. In addition, this herb is also employed for treating a condition called proteinuria. People in the Philippines prepared a decoction from the plant to lower uric acid levels as well as to cure renal problems. Moreover, peperomia is also used topically for treating skin disorders like boils and acne.
According to some reports, peperomia plants are also used for treating smallpox, measles, female sterility and mental disorders. People in DR Congo and Nigeria use this plant in the form of a component of an infusion that is used to treat convulsions. On the other hand, in DR Congo and Sierra Leone in Africa as well as in the Philippines, the leaves of this herb are heated and applied to boils and sores. People in Nigeria also make a poultice from the plant and apply it on the breast for treating breast cancer. Then again, in DR Congo, people prepare an infusion from the plant or macerate the plant and blend it with palm oil and salt and take it orally for treating cough.
Across the globe and particularly in China and Brazil, people use the plant for treating conjunctivitis, furuncles, and skin sores. People in Surinam prepare a solution with the freshly obtained juice of peperomia leaves and stem and use it to treat conjunctivitis. The leaves of this herb are also used to prepare a decoction, which is employed for treating common cold, cough and fever. Fresh leaves of the plant are also consumed for treating sore throat, headache, prostate problems and kidney disorders. In addition, consumption of fresh peperomia leaves is also said to be effective in lowering high blood pressure (hypertension). In the Philippines, people prepare an infusion or decoction with the plant and it is taken internally for treating gout, rheumatic pain and kidney problems. Furthermore, they are also applied topically in the form of a rinse to alleviate problems related to the skin.
Peperomias are used in the form of condiments in several regions of the tropics. They are consumed in the form of a spicy leafy vegetable, both raw in salads or after cooking. Sometimes people in Africa cultivate this plant mainly for this purpose. On the other hand, they are occasionally grown in decorated containers as an ornamental plant.
Often this plant is also used for treating eczema. The leaves are crushed and employed for treating fever and headaches. In addition, the juice of the leaf is administered to people suffering from abdominal pains. Sometimes, a warm poultice prepared from the leaves is applied to sores and boils. Applying a paste of the leaf aids in healing cracks the length of sole's edge.
There are reports that peperomias possess anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and analgesic properties. In fact, it is said that peperomias are very effective in dealing with Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
If you are suffering from a headache, just heat a few peperomia leaves in hot water, smash the surface of the boiled leaves and apply them to your forehead. The decoction of the peperomia leaves as well as the stalks is helpful in alleviating kidney problems and abdominal pains.
The peperomia plant is in bloom throughout the year. It is generally found growing in a variety of shaded places, including humid environments throughout Asia as well as both the Americas. This plant is found growing in clumps and it thrives in humid, loose soils. Mostly, peperomia plants are found growing in places having tropical and sub-tropical climatic conditions.
It is best to cultivate peperomias in light compost with excellent drainage. Ideally, the soil should contain lots of humus. These plants grow well in shallow containers. Since peperomias have their origin in the tropical rain forests, they have a preference for warm and humid conditions. Most of these plants grow well in temperatures ranging minimum between 50°F and 55°F. Nevertheless, the fleshy stems of these plants as well as their foliage have a tendency to rot. Therefore, you should be careful while watering peperomias. It is best to water these plants sparingly from below, particularly during the winter months. At the same time, you need to ensure that you use soft water while watering peperomias and be cautious not to wet the plant's crown. If you are growing peperomias in warmer climatic conditions, you can grow them outside in the form of ground cover or in the form of epiphytes on the trunks of large trees. However, you need to be careful so that snails and slugs do not invade them. These pests actually love the juicy foliage of peperomias.
In addition to their propensity to rot when the plants are watered excessively, peperomias are also susceptible to ring spots. When they are invaded by ring spots, the plants will have distorted foliage having necrotic or chlorotic rings on their leaves. Often, the cucumber mosaic virus is responsible for this disease in peperomias. The only way you can treat the plants is by eliminating the parts that are infected by the virus.
There are a number of ways of propagating peperomias. You can propagate them from the tip or leaf cuttings that are planted in most soil. Usually, the variegated and juicy peperomias grow from the tip cuttings. You can occasionally find a selection of compact peperomias among dwarf plants that are meant for growing in terrariums or bottle gardens. Generally, animals find peperomias inoffensive.
The leaves of peperomias enclose very high amounts of the essential amino acids like lysine, isoleucine, and leucine, in addition to modest quantities of phenylalanine, threonine, valine and several other essential as well as non-essential amino acids. Chemical analysis of peperomias has revealed that they also contain 2,4,5-trimethoxy styrene, apiol, and 3-phytosterols, stigmasterol and campesterol. Moreover, scientists have also isolated β-sitosterol from this herb.
As and when required, people harvest peperomia plants both from the wild as well as home gardens.