Common names: Chinese brown pepper, anise pepper, fagara; fasa kwari – Hausa; ukor – Igbo; orin-ata- Yoruba.
The genus xanthoxylum is so named because several of the species have yellow heartwood. Deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees that grow in warm temperate and subtropical regions of the world. They widely thrive in the rainforest regions of Southern Nigeria. Root and stem barks are pungent. Leaves and seeds are aromatic.
Parts used are the leaves, stem bark and roots.
Phytochemical analysis of plant extracts has shown the presence of flavonoids, terpenoids, phenols and alkaloids in appreciable concentration; and glycosides, tannins, steroids, saponins in relatively low concentrations. These chemicals attribute to their antiseptic, analgesic, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and diaphoretic properties.
Traditional applications of the plant are as follows:
Arthritis/Rheumatism: dried or fresh leaves are infused in a teacup of freshly boiled water for 15 minutes and taken 2 X daily.
The decoction of the bark can also be used and is very effective – 1 standard teacup 2 X daily. Note that decoction simply means boiling plant materials (usually the hardest parts: roots, stems, or seeds) to extract the active properties of the materials over low flame for 5 to 45 minutes.
Crude bark extracts have been noted with significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and so makes a very effective component in production of balm for arthritis.
The roots can simply be applied externally to swellings, abscesses, rheumatic and arthritic pains.
The juice from the leaves and the roots can be mixed with shea butter and little potash for external application on the affected parts.
Weakness of the body and sickle-cell anaemia: the root or stem bark macerations, decoctions or infusions are widely taken to treat malaria, fever, sickle cell anaemia, and general body weakness. 1 teacup, 2 X daily.
It’s stem powder proves useful in toning up heart muscles, nerves and purifying blood. Add 1 tsp. to pap or use as infusion.
Infusion of bark in ethanol or red wine for about 48 hours. 60 mls, 2 X daily.
Sore throats, tonsillitis and toothaches- the roots and stem bark give a warm, pungent and benumbing effect on the palate when chewed, and are widely used in the treatment of sore gums, toothache and dental caries. A decoction of the roots is used as a mouthwash and against a sore throat.
Chew root or bark with about 4 -7 seeds of alligator pepper, 3 X daily to ease tonsillitis.
If you have been a victim of dental problems, then try the roots, young shoots or twigs as chew-stick, you will be glad you did! You can also mix the ground bark with your regular tooth paste as a remedy for toothache.
Skin glow and complexion: the first step towards having a beautiful skin is to get rid of the skin diseases, that may end up being a cosmetic problem. Taking fagara internally as well as externally will help you achieve that. Take a teacup daily for blood cleansing while herbal body wash prepared with fresh or dried leaves would make a great complexion enhancer. Also bathing powder can be made into paste with water, applied gently for about 2 minutes and washed off. Do this weekly for improved skin softness and youthfulness.
Allergies, skin diseases/sores: due to their germicidal and antiseptic character, stem bark and leaves are used for treating skin conditions such as leprosy, sores and itching.
The roots are externally applied to skin ulcers, swellings, wounds, syphilitic sores, bacteria/fungal diseases and many other skin complaints.
Indigestion, constipation and obesity : both ground bark and leaves are used to promote digestion and metabolism.
Infuse root in red wine for 48 hours. Take 60 mls 2X daily.
Eye problem- sap from the pulped bark is applied as eye drops to treat eye infections, notably conjunctivitis with pus in certain parts of the world. Please Note- the eye is a very delicate organ, consult an eye doctor, if you have any eye issue.
Throughout West Africa, this herb is an important component in traditional treatment for sickle cell anemia, elevated blood pressures, weak erection, snake bites, urogenital and heart problems. Fagara is also used in the treatment of various other ailments including liver disorder, hernia, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, worm infestation, whooping cough, constant headaches, edema, gonorrhoea, paralysis, tuberculosis, migraine, neuralgia and herpes simplex virus.
The species are not only used as medicine but also as a source of spice and essential oils. Young shoots are added to sauces for seasoning; the leaves are added to tea for flavoring. The essential oil from seed coats comes very handy in aromatherapy treatments.
Xanthoxylum is readily available and can be purchased from local herb sellers.