Herb: Japanese Pepper Tree

Latin name: Zanthoxylum piperitum

Synonyms: Fagara piperita

Family: Rutaceae (Rue Family, Citrus Family)

Medicinal use of Japanese Pepper Tree:

Antiperiodic, antitussive, carminative, diuretic, parasiticide, stimulant. The fruit contains a essential oil, flavonoids and isoquinoline alkaloids. It is anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal and stomachic. It inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandin and, in larger doses, is toxic to the central nervous system. It is used in Korea in the treatment of tuberculosis, dyspepsis and internal parasites. The resin contained in the bark, and especially in that of the roots, is powerfully stimulant and tonic.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

to June


Habitat of the herb:

Scrub and hedges in hills and mountains in Japan.

Edible parts of Japanese Pepper Tree:

Seed - cooked. It is ground into a powder and used as a condiment, a pepper substitute. The fruit can also be used. It is often heated in order to bring out its full flavour and can be mixed with salt for use as a table condiment. The ground and dry-roasted fruit is an ingredient of the Chinese "five spice powder". The bark and leaves are used as a spice. Young leaves - raw or cooked. They are used in soups or as a flavouring in salads.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed may requires up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also help. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Germination should take place in late spring, though it might take another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings, 3cm long, planted horizontally in pots in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions.

Cultivation of Japanese Pepper Tree:

Scrub and hedges in hills and mountains in Japan.

Known hazards of Zanthoxylum piperitum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.