Category: Medicines - plant based
Introduction and description
Eugenia uniflora, with common names Pitanga, Surinam cherry, Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry, or Cerisier Carré is a plant in the family Myrtaceae. It is known as pitanga throughout Brazil and Uruguay, or ñangapirí in surrounding countries.
The edible fruit is a botanical berry. The taste ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the cultivar and level of ripeness (the darker red to black range is quite sweet, while the green to orange range is strikingly tart). Its predominant food use is as a flavouring and base for jams and jellies. The fruit is high in vitamin C and a source of vitamin A. Thus we could have placed Pitanga in the food section.
But it has been researched extensively for its medicinal value and thus we have placed it here in the medicines section.
Pitanga is native to tropical South America’s east coast, ranging from Suriname, French Guiana to southern Brazil, as well as parts of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.
The tree is also grown in the West Indies, specifically in Haiti, where it is known as Cerisier Carré, as is in French Guiana. The Surinam cherry is often used in gardens as a hedge or screen. The tree was introduced to Bermuda for ornamental purposes but is now out of control and listed as an invasive species.
Eugenia uniflora is a large shrub or small tree with a conical form, growing slowly to 8 meters in height.
When bruised, crushed or cut, the leaves and branches have a spicy resinous fragrance, which can cause respiratory discomfort in susceptible individuals. The leaves are spread on house floors in Brazil, so that when crushed underfoot, they exude a smell which repels flies.
New leaves are bronze, copper or coppery-pinkish in colour, maturing to a deep glossy green, up to 4 cm long. During winter the leaves turn red. The leaves are also used for tea in certain parts of Uruguay.
Flowers have four white petals and are borne on slender long stalks, with a conspicuous central cluster of white stamens ending in yellow anthers. Flowers develop into ribbed fruits 2 to 4 cm in diameter, starting out as green, then ranging through orange, scarlet and maroon as they ripen.
The plant is relatively pest resistant, easy to grow and high in antioxidants.
Eugenia uniflora has been the centre of research for a number of years and has several significant pharmacological properties.
According to the research Its essential oil is antihypertensive, antidiabetic, antitumor and analgesic, and it has shown antiviral and antifungal activity. It has performed against microorganisms such as Trichomonas gallinae (in vitro), Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania amazonensis.
It also shows significant anti-inflammatory properties,[ and is used extensively as a folk remedy in South America against stomach diseases.
The observations provide the relevant published papers for these activities. There is also an analysis from Dr Duke.
- Anti-Trypanosoma cruzi and cytotoxic activities of Eugenia uniflora L 019956
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Eugenia uniflora L. (Myrtaceae) -- Pitanga, Surinam Cherry 019954
- Eugenia uniflora L. Essential Oil as a Potential Anti-Leishmania Agent: Effects on Leishmania amazonensis and Possible Mechanisms of Action 019957
- Evaluation of some pharmacological activities of Eugenia uniflora L 019958
- In-vitro evaluation of anti-trichomonal activities of Eugenia uniflora leaf 019955
- Screening of some plants used in the Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases 019953