Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996 23:26:49 MST
From: Michael Moore <hrbmoore.RT66.COM>
Subject: Re: Help - Hoja Santa?
>Is anyone familiar with the above plant (aka Root Beer Plant - the leaves smell just like root beer). I'm sorry but I couldn't find its botanical name. I've been told (on what I *assume* is good authority) that a tea made of 1 Tbs. dry leaf in 1 cup water contains .43 - .5 liver carcinogen - this from a study done on rats.
Perhaps it is a Piper (unknown species) that I ran across growing in the Corpus Cristi, Texas Arboretum...there is a JPEG of that plant on my web site, listed as "Piper sp." Its leaves STUNK of rootbeer, but otherwise it is anomalous to me.
It is apparently a native of Central Mexico, and Maximino Martinez (Las Plantas Medicinales de Mexico, Ediciones Botas, Mexico City, 1969) identifies "Hoja Santa" as Piper sanctum...the little crude illustration sure LOOKS like the "Root Beer Plant" I photographed at the arboretum. Martinez mentions a study that established the leaf content of safrole to be .47 - .58%...safrole, being a well known liver carcinogenic, although the attempt to expand that to the claim that Sassafras, whose ESSENTIAL OIL is high in safrole I have always considered specious. Safrole in the oil is an artifact of distillation, and does not exist AS safrole in the root tea, and no studies were ever brought forth to establish that the TEA had any carcinogenicity. I couldn't say the same for the safrole content of "Hoja Santa", be it Piper sanctum or the Piper_sp.jpg on my site, which may BE, in fact, the same Root Beer Plant you ask about, unless it isn't. My head hurts.
You could try calling the Arboretum and see if they can pin down the taxa better than when I talked with them in late December.
Michael Moore (hrbmoore.rt66.com)
From: Maureen Rogers <HERBWORLD.AOL.COM>
> Maximino Martinez (Las Plantas Medicinales de Mexico, Ediciones Botas, Mexico City, 1969) identifies "Hoja Santa" as Piper sanctum
According to a paper presented by Dr. Art Tucker with Delaware State University at a conference in 1995 Hoja Santa (aka Acuyo) sold in the US has been identified as Piper auritum, not Piper sanctum. Leaves of hoja santa contain about 70% safrole and caphoradione A and B, two aporphine-type alkaloids of unknown physiological activity. The safrole of hoja santa is as toxic as safrole of sassafras and no parts of hoja santa are GRAS.
References he used in his paper were Castro-C. and Pveda-A, 1983, Gupta et al., 1985; Hansel, Leuschke, and Gomez-Pompa, 1975
I dearly love Art, but I feel he is over cautious with the plant and if it's the same level of safrole as sassafras....unless people are eating huge quantities of it on a daily basis there isn't a lot of likelihood of ill effects.
From: Henri Morin <henrim.SOUND.NET>
>According to a paper presented by Dr. Art Tucker with Delaware State University at a conference in 1995 Hoja Santa (aka Acuyo) sold in the US has been identified as Piper auritum, not Piper sanctum. Leaves of hoja santa
Acuyo is widely used in Old Mexico for cooking, principaly for boiled black beans (frijoles).
Yes it is from the piper gender.