Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pipturus spp. - Mamaki Tea, Handalamay, Armwe, Australian Mulberry

Polska wersja


   Pipturus is a robust bush which may turns into a small tree, that grows in tropical Pacific region from Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan - Ryukyu Islands, Indonesia, north of Australia to Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Polynesia and Hawaii, and is also said to be found in east of India, Sri Lanka and South-East China. This plant is used as a folk remedy by many different indigenous cultures, but only in Hawaii it is really popular, and cultivated in gardens. It's tiny fruits can be eaten just like mulberries, which it reminds so much, that it is called Native Mulberry in Australia, and Australian Mulberry in neighberhood countries (but both names are also used for Hedycarya angustifolia). And it's leaves are consumed as a vegetable, medicine and turned into a tea. In recent years a few plantations of this plant have been started in Hawaii, producing dry Pipturus leaves that is commercially aviable as Mamaki Tea (Mamaki is local name for the plant). But both the tea and the plant itself, hardly ever travel outside the region of it's origin. Which makes it one of the most unknown (contemporaly utilized) herbs and vegetables, in the world. And even in most of the places where it grows wild, like in many regions of the Philippines, no one ever heard that this bush does have any use. Some indigenous comunities though, not only continue tradition of use of it as a medicinal herb, but also use fiber from the bark to make materials, ropes and fishing nets, sap as a glue, and it's wood as a timber for constructions.
  Most of the authors are repeating the fraze, that there are up to 40 species in genus Pipturus, and I hardly doubt it. First of all, you can find any serious informations about only a fev. Secondly all the photos and features descriptions of those species shows high resemblance, and there is a lack of comparative informations collection of different species together, with pointing out its differences. It looks like, different region - different scientific name, given by different botanic researcher and followed by others from that country. Despite the lack of evidence, that it is indeed unlike the species already recorded somewhere else. And finaly, I wouldn't have such a strong doubt about current scientific nomenclatue of Pipturus, if not the fact that I have observed myself in my garden, and which some other authors are also mentioning. That Pipturus characteristic features vary very significantly due to environment conditions. The same adult plants might have leaves 7cm long, and when it have more moisture in the soil leaves can reach 20cm lenght, an get from narrow to very wide too. And while some people distinguish Pipturus plants as a seperate species or varieties, by the colour of their leaf veins and petiole. I had noticed that my plants have pinkish-red petiole and leaf veins when exposed to strong sun while having enough watering, purple-red under full sun but when soil is dry, and pale green colour while in shade. But I have to admit that I still learn about this bush, and I will be very gratefull for any new informations, that anyone will provide me about this quite poorely researched genus. And I have to say that it is always debatable, how minor or major anatomic diferances have to be apparent in plants, to distinguish new variety or species. But to make it simple - none of all Pipturus plants that I've ever seen in real life or on photos, differ from the other Pipturus plants in the significant way, that for example Salvia elegans differ from Salvia officinalis or Salvia sclarea.
   I also don't agree with including genus Pipturus in Urticaceae family of plants, as for me it is surely a plants that belongs to Moraceae family. Just look how little Pipturus has in common with Urtica dioica, and how much with Morus alba.
   Here are the main species names of Pipturus mentioned in botanical and herbalist literarures :

  Pipturus albidus - name given by Scottish botanist George Arnott Walker-Arnott is used for Pipturus plants that grows in Hawaii, and are commonly called Mamaki or Mamake Kauai. Many botanists are repeating claim that this species is endemic to Hawaii, which means that it is so unique that you can't find it (growing wild) anywhere else on the planet. This idea is a favorite promotion line of Mamaki Tea producers, as it makes it look more special and local. Mamaki have quite many botanical synonymes, but nowadays only Pipturus kauaiensis can be sometimes found in use.

  Pipturus arborescens - name given by Canadian botanist Charles Budd Robinson, used mainly for Pipturus plants growing in the Philippines (where it is known under many local names like Dalunot or Dalonot in Tagalog, Handalamay, Hindaramai or Hindalumai in Visayan, Taktakop or Tkop-takop in Ilokano, Andamay in Mansaka), China (Chinese name - Luo Wei Mu), Taiwan and Japan.

  Pipturus argentus - name given by Polish-German naturalist and ethnologist Johann Georg Adam Forster, is used nowadays for Pipturus plants in Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Polynesia and Micronesia. Here are some of it's vernacular names from those regions : Native Mulberry, Kongangu, Queensland Grass-cloth Plant (Australia), Australian Mulberry (Singapure), Silver Pipturus, Handaramai, Hinaramai (the Philippines), Armwe (Marshall Islands), Roga, Roqa, Tandeu (Fiji), Pen-kam (Car Nicobar Island), Dame (Vanuatu Island), Fau songa (Samoa).


   Pipturus is a tropical, evergreen big bush, that turns with age into a small tree up to around 5m tall. It can grow in quite different enviroments, from dry sandy or rocky, sunny open areas, to shady, wet thickets and forest grounds (but not swamps), on both low and very high altitudes. It is called pioniering plant, which means that it is one of the first plants that will appear in poor, rocky or disturbed soils (of course only if there is some seeds of it, brought by wind or birds from neighberhood). And becouse of it's fast growth it is a good screening plant, giving shade and wind protection. It grows best in moist compost soil in half shade, but both volume and taste of its fruits is better when it grows under the full sun.
   Pipturus flowers appears (in the Philippines in late december) in form of tiny clusters without ornamental value, and most of the plants are dioecious. It means that distinct male and female flowers grows on seperate plants, so you need a pair of those plants, so that the male plant polinate female plant, to bring you fruits. But there are also some individual plants having both male and female flower structures, which means it can polinate itself. Apart from seed propagation the bush can be multiplied through cuttings. The second method is better if you don't wan't to wait long for your new Pipturus plants to start producing fruits, esspecially when you have not only access to get cuttings from adult plants, but in particulary to those one that can be polinate by its own flowers. Pipturus copes well with strong heat, scourching sun and temporary droughts, but it can not withstand serious frost.
   I have no experience nor any information about growing this plant in pots indoor. But as a plant that can easily adopt to different conditions, grows well in shade and don't fear dry air. I belive that in temperate climate regions, Pipturus can be succesfully grown in a big pot as a small bush (from 1m height if regurally trimmed, up to your ceiling if not), that will give you tasty leaves all year round. Or even it can be turned into a beautiful bonsai.
  Young Pipturus leaves or whole soft tops of stems, can be by picked as needed to be used as a vegetable, throughout all year round. For drying it is better to choose old leaves (but fully green and not yellowish), but it is also a good idea to cut off whole stems. Prunning will give your bush nice compact shape, and it is easy to dry whole stems by hanging it on a string (which should be done in shade).


  Pipturus leaves are covered with micro hairs and it's surface can be soft (when young) or bit coarse or leathery (when older), but they are very nice as a fresh vegetable. It has very delicate, refreshing taste, and when young and freshly picked from well watered plants, it has a nice crispy texture with mucilaginous juice. It is good as an addiction to sandwitches and salads, and also can be used for cooking.
   In Hawaii, dried leaves are used to make a tea, which is called Mamaki Tea and is aviable commercialy, but on rather local scale. It is very healty, invigorating drink with mild taste, and lemongrass or other herbs are often added to it for more aroma. Fresh, chopped leaves of Pipturus can also be used for tea, and I personally prefer that option. I like fresh leaves tea taste better, as I found it to be ritcher than taste of dried leaves tea. Plus, after drinking off fresh leaves tea you can still eat those leaves from your cup, and it taste good. So my advice is, if you have your own Pipturus plant and you like that tea, don't dry it, use it fresh. Less fusss, more benefits and joy.
   Pipturus's tiny fruits are edible, and reminds white mulberies in its look, structure and softness, and that is why in Australia it is called Native Mulberry. Just like mulberries it is so tender when ripe, that it is even hard to pick without squishing, that is why it is best to be eaten straight after picking from the bush, or gathered and turned into jam. There are different opinions about the taste of Pipturus fruits, which I guess comes from the fact, that just like most of other fruits. Pipturus fruits are nice and sweet if ripen under full sun, and not so good when picked from the plants that grow in shade or very wet soil. Pipturus fruits are often said to be mildly laxative, but I don't know yet if it's only when unripe, overripe, eaten in excess, or is it it's general quality at all time.


   Even though Pipturus is used in traditional healing of indigenous people in most of the regions where it can be found growing wild. Only in Hawaii it seems to have strong significance in folk herbalism. That significance gave a reason for commercial farming of that herb, and (scarce but at least any) scientific medicinal and pharmacological research. It resulted with it's local recognition in modern herbalism, and aviability of dried Pipitrus on the market, under the name Mamaki Tea.  
  Despite the fact that I haven't found a good reason to consider the plants labeled in different regions as Pipturus albidus, Pipturus arborescens and Pipturus argentus as different species. I've decided to put seperatly all the medicinal and pharmacological informations that I've found under those individual '' species '' names.

  Pipturus albidus, Mamaki - leaves are eaten fresh and are said to be '' a blessing for those who are weak and frail ''. Leaf decoctions are traditionally drunk to boost energy, to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol level, and blood glucose level. Infusions are given as a tea for a generally "run-down" person, or as a cleansing tonic. The herb is also used to treat anxiety, depression, and to help with many internal disorders, such as those of stomach, colon and liver, bladder infections and PMS.
  Fruits are also eaten to help with malaise, digestive problems, constipation, colitis and dysentery. Mothers are giving the fruits to children as a mild laxative or to treat thrush. Women ate Mamaki fruits and drink Mamaki Tea during the late period of pregnancy in order to have easy birth. Mamaki fruit is also applied externally as a poultice to heal sores and wounds.
  It is said that for some people Mamaki can cause mild agitation or insomnia.
  Pipturus albidus acts as a antioxidant, antibacterial (Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes), antiviral (Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2, Vesicular Stomatitis virus and shows '' a highly selective inhibition of the replication of the human immunodeficiency Virus Type-1 (HIV-1) with low cytotoxicity on normal cells'') and weak antifungal herb. Mamaki leaves contain high amounts of potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, iron and cooper. Phenolic acids, catechin, chlorogenic acid and rutin have been isolanted from the plant leaves.

   Pipturus arborescens - fresh leaves are eaten or infusions drunk to cure fever. Pulp made from scraped bark is applied on wounds to enhance healing and as cataplasm for boils. Crushed leaves are applied on skin diseases and rubbed on mouth to cure herpes simplex zoster.
   It contains : flavonoids, glycosidic flavonoids, tannins, triterpenes (glutinone, friedelin, glutinol, squalene), sterols (campersterol, stigmasterol, sitosterol), saponins and alkaloids, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, phenolic compounds, anthrones, anthraquinones and coumarins. Some of those compounds exhibited varying cytotoxic activities against human cancer cell lines, breast (MCF- 7) and colon (HT-29 and HCT-116), and anti-proliferative activities against HCT-116. This plant is also known to posess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity (against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli). One of the triterpenes isolated from Pipturus arborescens, called technicly Triterpene PA was found active against Pseudomonas aeruginosa at 50 ug/ml. This particular bacteria in known for it's ubiquity and intrinsically advanced antibiotic resistance. While being a couse of serious, often life threatening diseases, like pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections and various sepsis syndromes.

   Pipturus argentus - leaf decoctions are drunk or fresh leaves are eaten to treat coughs, colds and flu, leaf sap is drunk to relieve a fever or headache. Squeezed sap from young leaves of Pipturus argentus and Hibiscus tiliaceus, is drunk in a bit of water, immediately to treat urticaria and itchiness caused by the ingestion of the raw leaves of Taro (Colocasia esculenta). The rainwater collected from P. argentus leaves surface is used to treat asthma. Chopped leaves are cooked together with pig meat and eaten to remove worms. Sap from the bark is taken as a gargle to treat thrush. The bark is crushed in cold water and drunk twice daily to treat dysentery. The root sap is used to soothe toothache. New roots are cut and the sap is allowed to drip into a container, it is both drunk and used to wash the body of a patient with malaria fever or a severe cough.
    Leaf infusion or drink from equal parts of Pipturus sap and water, is drunk to stimulate, hasten and ease childbirth. The plant is also used for wash - '' Pound 30 green and 30 yellow leaves from the armwe [local name for P. argentus in Marshall Islands] tree and mix with grated mature coconut flesh (waini) from the green coconut tree (ni maro). Place this in a cloth or coconut fibre strainer, squeeze into a bathtub of water, and use the water to bathe the expectant mother 3 times a day. A fresh preparation should be made each day for the duration of the treatment, which is six days.''
  To induce sterility, mixed, equal amounts of grated dry coconut flesh with the grated bark of this plant, is eaten.
   Externally the leaves, or the juice from (sometimes heated) leaves , are used for poulticing boils, burns, skin diseases and herpes sores. Leaf paste is applied on muscular swellings as emollient. Crushed leaves are rubbed on the body to relieve fever or headache and to ease centipede bites. The scraped roots are chewed with betel nuts (Areca spp.) and lime, and the mixture is rubbed into centipede bites. Scraped inner bark is applied on burns to speed up healing, and also to spear wounds, to facilitate removal of the spear head (which means that it should be helpfull in removing any sharp objects that stuck in your body, and it probably is due to its emolient properties).The root sap is also used on wounds. Crushed fruits are applied on warts.


                                                              MALE FLOWERS


                                                                     PLANT  A

                                                                     PLANTS  B


'' Traditional Medicine of the Marshall Islands: The Women, the Plants, the Treatments '' - Irene J. Taafaki, Maria Kabua Fowler, Randolph R. Thaman, IPS Publications, University of South Pacific, Suva, Fiji 2006
'' 100 Plants and Remedies '' - Aaron Matas, Lulu.com 2013
'' Medicinal Plants of the Philippines '' - Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Katha Publishing 1978

  '' Ethnomedical documentation of and community health education for selected Philippine ethnolinguistic groups: the Mansaka people of Pantukan and Maragusan Valley, Compostela Valley Province, Mindanao, Philippines  '' - Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, Department of Health, Sta Cruz, Manila University of the Philippines Manila, Ermita, Manila University of the Philippines Mindanao, Bago Oshiro, Davao City 2000
   STUDIES ON THE STRUCTURE AND BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY OF THE CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS OF THE LEAVES OF IPIL, HANDALAMAY AND LIPANG ASO - Mylene M. Uy and Anita P. Rivera Chemistry Department, Mindanao State Univeristy-Iligan Institute of Technology


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