Source Etc

Matico leaves were defined in the British Pharmacopoeia of 1885, as the leaves of Piper angustifolium, Ruiz and Pavon (N.O. Piperaceœ), a climbing plant distributed over the north of South America, extending into Bolivia. The name matico appears, however, to be applied to a number of other Piperaceous plants, and the commercial drug is obtained from several species of Piper (see below). It has been much used in Peru as a styptic, and also for venereal disease, the leaves, together with occasional stalks and fruits, being exported in bales.


Matico leaves reach this country usually in brittle compressed masses of a dull, dark, greyish green or yellowish green colour. The leaves, which are very brittle, can easily be separated after soaking in water, spread out, and examined. Those of P. angusti-folium are lanceolate in outline, about 10 to 15 cm. long and 2.5 to 4 cm. broad, and taper gradually to an acute apex; they have short stalks, and are cordate and very unequal at the base, the lamina of one side extending over the petiole so as to conceal it. The margin is entire and revolute. On the upper surface the midrib and the network of lateral veins are so deeply depressed as to divide the surface into small raised squares about 1 mm. in diameter. On the under surface the midrib, lateral veins, and veinlets are nearly equally prominent, and both the veins and veinlets, as well as the interneural depressions, are covered with short, shaggy hairs. The latter are less prominent on the upper surface, but the leaves are not all equally hairy.

Both stalks and fruits are frequently found mixed with the leaves; the former are characterised by the swollen nodes which distinguish Piperaceous plants; the latter are long, slender, cylindrical spikes.

The leaves have a slight, aromatic odour and an aromatic, camphoraceous, somewhat bitter taste. Although the mesophyll contains oil-cells, they cannot easily be seen even with a strong lens if the leaf is very hairy.

The student should observe

(a) The veinlets depressed on the upper surface, prominent on the under surface,

(b) The shaggy hairs,

(c) The characteristic taste; and should compare the leaves with

Foxglove leaves, in which the veinlets are not depressed and the taste not aromatic.


Matico leaves contain volatile oil (1 to 3 .5 per cent.), tannin, crystalline artanthic acid, and a bitter principle which has not yet been satisfactorily examined. The volatile oil has the sp. gr. 0.93 to 0.99 and deposits on cooling matico camphor.


Leaves of the following species of Piper have been identified in commercial matico. They differ from those of P. angustifolium in appearance, and vary also in the quantity and composition of the volatile oil:

P. lineatum, Ruiz and Pavon; volatile oil contains no matico camphor.

P. camphoriferum, de Candolle; volatile oil contains matico camphor and borneol.

P. angustifolium, var. β-ossanum; volatile oil possibly contains matico camphor and borneol.

P. acutifolium, var. subverbascifolium; volatile oil contains pinene and dill-apiol.


Matico is used as an aromatic astringent in inflammatory conditions of the urinary passages.