Piper longum (Piper officinarum)
Long pepper is related to the more familiar peppercorn, but it is hotter and at the same time a bit sweeter. This magick herb has interesting possibilities for incense, especially for times when you want the sweeter side of Mars - such as for works involving sex magick (interestingly, long pepper is still considered an aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic medicine and is mentioned in a rather dangerous (and painful) recipe in the Kama Sutra: long pepper, black pepper, and datura are mixed with honey, with which the penis is anointed: "It will utterly devastate your lady." No mention what it will do to you). In Indian astrology, long pepper is associated not with Mars but with the Sun and helps in the cultivation of independence, courage, self-esteem, and strength of will. In Persian astrological magick, long pepper was connected with the "great sinister Saturn." And in European magick, long pepper also has baneful associations - for instance, it was part of the recipe for preparing the fabled Hand of Glory. A dead man's hand (the hands of criminals were preferred) was squeezed in a cloth, usually a strip of shroud, to get the blood out. The hand was put into an earthenware jar with salt, salt petre (or nitre), long pepper, and verdigris (copper oxide) for two weeks to dry it out and to preserve it, then it was dried further in the sun during the dog days of summer (that is, under the Dog Star, Sirius, which often watches over baneful work and is in conjunction with the Sun in the period mid-July to early August). When the hand was finally dry enough, it was used as a candleholder rather than being lit itself. The Hand of Glory was said to make the owner invisible and to paralyze anyone who saw it, so it was very desirable amongst professional housebreakers. The picture shows an actual Hand of Glory from a British museum.
Before black pepper arrived in Europe, long pepper was used as a stimulant and carminative there. The medieval French rabbi Rashi recommended holding a long pepper between one's teeth to cure bad breath. This would most likely work on account of the essential oil content. Medieval Europeans considered long pepper an antidote to poison hemlock (don't test this out!). Long pepper is ground and mixed with honey and given for a cold in India. It's one of the three ingredients in the Ayurvedic medicine trikatu (long pepper, ginger, and black pepper). There, long pepper is considered a stimulant and a treatment for arthritis. Long pepper is a good digestive. It gets rid of worms and kills giardia parasites. But do not use this herb if you are taking Propranolol (Betachron, Inderal), as long pepper potentiates it.
The Romans used both
long pepper and black pepper, but they
preferred the long pepper. It isn't a
substitute for regular black pepper because of
its underlying sweetness (it's been compared
to a combination of white pepper & mace or
cardamom). In the medieval Europe, long pepper
was used extensively in cooking in sweet or
savory dishes before the discovery of the New
World and the introduction of chiles. It was
the hottest spice available. It also was an
ingredient in alcoholic drinks. A special mead
for the sick was flavored with the warming
spices of long pepper, ginger, grains of
Paradise, and cloves, for instance. A
14th-century recipe for hippocras, a spiced
wine drunk at the end of dinner as an aid to
digestion, includes cinnamon, ginger,
spikenard, galingal, cloves, long pepper,
nutmeg, cardamom, and grains of paradise.
© 2004, 2014 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission