MARICA (Piper nigrum)
The plant is aptly named as marica, a name for the Sun, owing to its very hot potency. It has several synonyms, describing its properties, namely usna – hot, kola – improves the taste sensation, vittaphala – has round shaped berries, tiksna – sharp an krmihara – a vermicide etc. Marica was held in high esteem by the ancient sages of India. It is one of the herbs mentioned in all Ayurvedic scriptures. Maharishi Charaka has classified it as dipaniya – an appetizer, sulaghna – anti colic, sirovirecanopaga – adjunctive to cleansing nasal therapy and krmighna (vermicidal or athelmintic). Also, he has enumerated it as a rejuvenative to respiratory system (pranavaha srotasa rasayana ). The great sage Sarngadhara has alluded it as chedana – eliminates the accumulations. Marica is one of the ingredients of Trikatu – three pungents viz. sunthi, Marcia and pippali, which alleviates colds, asthma and body fats. It also improves the taste sensation, reduces flatulence and anorexia, and also is diaphoretic. In treating the hoarseness of voice, few herbs are specially recommended like draksa, haritaki, rasona, nagabala, matulunga and marica.
Marica is a native of Southern India, especially the Malabar coast, growing in rich soil in the shade of trees. A trailing or climbing shrub reaches the height of 8-10 meters. The leaves are coriaceous, alternate, without stipules, 10-18 cm long and 5-12 cm broad. The flowers are in minute spikes of 20-30. The fruit is glabrous, 6 mm in diameter, first green, then red, yellow when quite ripe, turning black on drying.
The botanical name of marica is Piper nigrum and it belongs to family piperaceae. The fruit (Pepper) contains volatile oil and the crystalline alkaloids piperine, piperidine and piperettine alongwith a resin. The minor alkaloids present are piperitine, piperolein A and B, piperanine and trichostachine. The kernel contains a bitter resin called chavicine. The pungency is ascribed to piperine and the resins. Isolation and structure determination of sesquisabinene; piperine, hentriacontane, hentriacontan – 16 – one and sitosterol isolated from stems. A new amidepipercide – isolated from fruits and characterized.
Marica is pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata doshas, but aggravates the pitta dosha. It possesses light and sharp attributes. The main qualities are dry, pungent and is the best appetizer.
The fruits of marica have great medicinal value. Marica is used both, internally as well as externally. In the form of an external paste with sesame oil, it is beneficial in the skin diseases like scabies, leucoderma. The paste application helps in reducing the swelling and pain. It is also salutary in acne, stye and boils. In diseases of the eye like pterygium and nightblindeness, it is applied with honey. Sodasa varti is one of the preparations, used topically in various ophthalmic diseases, contains marica, haritaki, yastimadhu and copper sulphate etc. In case of tooth decay and aches, the marica powder is used for brushing the teeth. The gargles of it are rewarding in sore throat. A poultice made from pepper, salt and vinegar is benevolent to soften the corns. The nasal drops instillation is recommended in asthma, cough and in the accumulation of kapha in sinusitis. The marica oil curbs the itching sensation in skin diseases.
Internally, marica is valuable in a vast range of ailments. Trikatu, one of the most popular and widely used compounds contains sunthi (Zingiber officinale), marica and pippali (Piper longum). This being the combination of three pungent, hence the name. It is beneficial to increase the bioavailability of the drug, when used as an adjunct. Thus, innumerable Ayurvedic preparations consist of trikatu. It augments the appetite, when given with honey. It alleviates chiefly kapha diseases, obesity, colds, rheumatic diseases and tumors.
The fine powder of marica fruits works well, when given with water in treating chronic colitis. Marica is an excellent panacea for anorexia, dyspepsia, the enlargement of the liver and spleen and is beneficial, especially, for chronic skin diseases. It promptly acts as mucolytic agent, along with honey, in cough, asthma and colds. It relieves the blocked phlegm. Being diuretic is useful as an adjunct in dysuria. The decoction of marica is commonly used in kapha disorders with honey. It works well with baked hingu (Asafoetida) to alleviate abdominal colicky pains due to flatulence. In fevers, the marica powder is given along with the honey and fresh fuice of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).the combination, Sadusna, consists of six herbs of hot potency, namely pippali, pappalamula, cavya, chitraka, sunthi and marica. It reconciles the digestive and respiratory systems. Marica shows antibacterial activity against the Gram negative organisms and antifungal, taenicidal and also a hepato-protective activity.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
Sodasa vati etc.