Piper cubeba, Fam: Piperaceae, Pharm: Fructus Cubebae
Native to Indonesia, particularly Java, cubeb came to Europe via India through Venetian trade with the Arabs, Javanese growers protected their monopoly of the trade by sterilizing the berries by scalding, thus ensuring that the vines were unable to be cultivated elsewhere. Its main use appears to have been in medicine, although its similarity to pepper made it a handy substitute. Fruit. The stalked berries are a little bit larger than pepper corns, having a furrowed surface. Most berries are hollow. They are sold whole and should be crushed or ground before usage. This is the small, red-brown irregular seeds of a cardamom-like plant. The seeds are 3-4 mm ( 1/ 8” ) in diameter and are numerously contained in a brown wrinkled, fig-shaped dried capsule about 30mm ( 1-1/ 4” ) in length; they have a white kernel. They are rarely found in the West.
Bouquet: Pungent, slightly camphorous, with a touch of nutmed
Flavour: Peppery, aromatic and slightly bitter
The dried fruits contain up to 10% essential oil composed of monoterpenes ( sabinene 50% , carene, ± -thujene, 1, 4-cineol and 1, 8-cineol) and sesquiterpenes ( copaene, ± - and ² -cubebene, ´ -cadinene, caryophyllene, germacrene, cubebol) . The monoterpenes dominate by mass, but the sesquiterpenes are important for the characteristic flavour. The pungency is caused by the lignane cubebin ( 2% ) and several related compounds: hinokinin, clusin, dihydroclusin, dihydrocubebin and more. Cubeb is used in local Indonesian cookery, especially in Indonesian gulé s ( curries) . It was once popular in Arab cooking. Because of its aromatic qualities, cubeb would go well with meat, cheese and vegetable dishes. Cubeb and its oil are carminative, diuretic, stimulant and antiseptic and were employed as genito-urinary antiseptics and especially for clearing up gonorrhea. Extract of cubeb is also expectorant, being helpful in pulmonary infections such as bronchitis.
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