Suppression

Hoja santa

Category: Food

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

 

Hoja santa (Piper auritum) is an aromatic herb with a heart-shaped, velvety leaf which grows in tropic Mesoamerica.

The name hoja santa means "sacred leaf" in Spanish. It is also known as yerba santa, hierba santa, Mexican pepperleaf, acuyo, tlanepa, anisillo, root beer plant, Vera Cruz pepper and sacred pepper.

It is native to the Americas, from northern South America to Mexico, and is also cultivated in southeast Florida.

Description

Piper auritum is a perennial which can grow to 10 ft .  The leaves can reach up to 30 centimeters (12 in) or more in size.  Small white spikes of flowers appear in the summer.   This attractive plant holds its large leaves horizontally around one or more thick central stalks.

Medicinal uses

 

Piper auritum has found use medicinally for both headaches and stomach aches – the observations provide more details. 

The leaf contains safrole and the FDA in the USA have decided safrole poses a health risk.  We have a section on safrole that you can read so that you can make up your own mind. 

Dr Duke's analysis of Hoja Santos shows it contain good levels of minerals and some important Vitamins such as Vitamin C and Beta carotene.

Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases


Piper auritum HBK. - Piperaceae
Common names: Cordoncillo -- Hierba Santa -- Hoja Santa

 

Chemical

Part

Lo
ppm

Hi
ppm

Reference

1,8-CINEOLE

Leaf

   

TRA

ACADINE-1,4-DIENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-CARYOPHYLLENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-COPAENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-CUBEBENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-PHELLANDRENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-PINENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-TERPINENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ALPHA-THUJENE

Leaf

   

TRA

APORPHINES

Plant

   

TRA

ASCORBIC-ACID

Leaf

490

3370

CRC JFM

ASH

Leaf

24000

135000

CRC

AURANTIAMIDE-I

Leaf

   

TRA

AURANTIAMIDE-II

Leaf

   

TRA

BENZOIC-ACID

Leaf

   

TRA

BETA-BISABOLENE

Leaf

   

TRA

BETA-BOURBONINE

Leaf

   

TRA

BETA-CAROTENE

Leaf

34

193

CRC

BETA-PHELLANDRENE

Leaf

   

TRA

BETA-PINENE

Leaf

   

TRA

BETA-SITOSTEROL

Leaf

   

TRA

BORNEOL

Leaf

   

TRA

BORNEOL-ACETATE

Leaf

   

TRA

CALCIUM

Leaf

2570

14440

CRC

CAMPHENE

Leaf

   

TRA

CAMPHOR

Leaf

   

TRA

CARBOHYDRATES

Leaf

82500

567000

CRC JFM

CARYOPHYLLENE

Leaf

   

TRA

CARYOPHYLLENE-OXIDE

Leaf

   

TRA

CEPHARADIONE-A

Plant

   

JSG

CEPHARADIONE-B

Plant

   

JSG

DELTA-CADINENE

Leaf

   

TRA

DELTA-ELEMENE

Leaf

   

TRA

ELEMICINE

Leaf

   

TRA

EO

Leaf

4700

5800

JFM

EUGENOL

Leaf

   

TRA

FAT

Leaf

14000

79000

CRC

FIBER

Leaf

22000

124000

CRC

GAMMA-MUUROLENE

Leaf

   

TRA

GAMMA-TERPINENE

Leaf

   

TRA

HUMULENE

Leaf

   

TRA

IRON

Leaf

48

315

CRC JFM

KILOCALORIES

Leaf

570

3200

CRC

LIGNANS

Leaf

   

TRA

LIMONENE

Leaf

   

TRA

LINALOOL

Leaf

   

TRA

MUUROLENE

Leaf

   

TRA

MYRCENE

Leaf

   

TRA

MYRISTICIN

Leaf

   

TRA

N-HEXADECANE

Leaf

   

TRA

NIACIN

Leaf

9

100

CRC JFM

NONAN-2-ONE

Leaf

   

TRA

PARACIMENENE

Leaf

   

TRA

PARACIMENOL-8

Leaf

   

TRA

PHOSPHORUS

Leaf

490

2920

CRC JFM

PIPEROCROMANOIC-ACID

Leaf

   

TRA

PIPEROCROMENOIC-ACID

Leaf

   

TRA

PIPEROIC-ACID

Leaf

   

TRA

PROTEIN

Leaf

39000

219000

CRC

RIBOFLAVIN

Leaf

2.4

13.5

CRC

SABINENE

Leaf

   

TRA

SAFROLE

Leaf

3290

4930

JFM TRA

SPATHULENOL

Leaf

   

TRA

TERPINOLENE

Leaf

   

TRA

THIAMIN

Leaf

1.2

6.7

CRC

WATER

Leaf

804000

822000

CRC JFM

Method

 

While typically used fresh, it is also used in dried form, "although drying removes much of the flavour and makes the leaf too brittle to be used as a wrapper".

The complex flavour of hoja santa is not so easily described; “it has been compared to a mixture of eucalyptus, liquorice, sassafras, anise, nutmeg, mint, tarragon, and black pepper”!  The flavour is stronger in the young stems and veins.

Savoury dishes

Hoya santa is often used in Mexican cuisine for tamales, the fish or meat wrapped in fragrant leaves for cooking, and as an essential ingredient in mole verde, the green sauce originated in the Oaxaca region of Mexico.  It is also chopped to flavour soups, such as pozole, and eggs.

The leaves are big enough to hold small wrapped packets enclosing pieces of food.  But in addition to being used as wrappers these are often pureed with other ingredients in sauces. 

Hoja santa goats cheese wrapped appetizers

Because they can be tough, Hoja Santa leaves are not good in salads. They need to be cooked, but they keep their flavour and remain green when heated.  A famous recipe from the Veracruz province (where the spice is particularly popular) is Pescado en Hoja Santa; fish wrapped in pepper leaves, baked and served with a spicy tomato sauce.

American cheesemaker Paula Lambert created "Hoja santa cheese", goat cheese wrapped with the hoja santa leaves and imbued with its flavour.

Hoja Santa-Wrapped Goat Cheese Appetizer

4 small hoja Santa leaves, washed and drained well
1 pound soft, mild goat cheese, crumbled.

 

Soak leaves in very hot water for 2 minutes to soften or blanch until they are soft (the time will depend on -fresh young leaves, 1 minute)
To stuff the leaves, start with the largest leaves. Take a leaf and carefully spread it on a flat plate or pan with the veins facing upward to you (leaf shiny side down). Place approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Goat cheese in each leaf (the amount of cheese will depend on the size of the leaves).
Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the rolls.  
Serve as a warm or cold first course with yogurt or as a hors d’oeuvre with spiced vinaigrette.  

 Drinks

In Central Mexico, it is used to flavour chocolate drinks.  In southeastern Mexico, a green liquor called Verdín is made from hoja santa. It is also used for tea.

Related observations