Piperaceae, a Latin name derived from Greek, which in turn originates from the Arabic word babary—black pepper, is considered one of the largest families of basal dicots, found in tropical and subtropical regions of both hemispheres. The species that belong to this family have a primarily pantropical distribution, predominantly herbaceous members, occurring in tropical Africa, tropical Asia, Central America and the Amazon region. The Piperaceae family includes five genera: Piper, Peperomia, Manekia, Zippelia and Verhuellia. Brazil has about 500 species distributed in the Piper, Peperomia and Manekia genera. The Piper genus, the largest of the Piperaceae family, has about 4000 species. Within the Piper genus, about 260–450 species can be found in Brazil. Piper species have diverse biological activities and are used in pharmacopeia throughout the world. They are also used in folk medicine for treatment of many diseases in several countries including Brazil, China, India, Jamaica and Mexico. Pharmacological studies of Piper species point toward the vast potential of these plants to treat various diseases. Many of these species are biologically active and have shown antitumor, antimicrobial, antioxidant, insecticidal, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, enzyme inhibitor, antiparasitic, antiplatelet, piscicide, allelopathic, antiophidic, anxiolytic, antidepressant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, amebicide and diuretic possibilities.
Part of the book: Aromatic and Medicinal Plants