Science

Noxious Brazilian Pepperweed Extract Great for Repelling Superbugs

By Charles Omedo , Feb 10, 2017 11:45 PM EST
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A team of researchers from Emory University and the University of Iowa has published a study in the journal Scientific Reports, praising the natural compounds of the red berries of the Brazilian peppertree to disarm and stall the progression of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) among other superbugs.

Traditional healers in the Amazons used it to treat infections

The Brazilian peppertree is known by many names in the United States. It is called the Florida holly because of its prevalence in Florida, Texas, Alabama, California and Georgia, and it is also known as the broad leaf peppertree. But its botanical name is Schinus terebinthifolia. The peppertree is native to South America and how it came to make the US its new home is relatively unknown.

This plant is considered a weed by many people because it flourishes so well - forcing people to use herbicides to destroy it whenever possible. But then ancient healers of the Amazon forests had deployed the extracts of this noxious plant to effectively treat infections and all sorts of skin problems for centuries now, NBC News reports.

It does not kill bacteria, but renders them helpless

Regardless of the hatred homeowners nurse for the Brazilian peppertree, an ethnobotanist and dermatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Dr. Cassandra Quave, explained that red berries of the Brazilian peppertree contains powerful compounds that disarm antibiotic-resistant superbugs without necessarily killing them.

"It's stopping communication among the bacteria," Dr. Quave said. This is important because bacteria behave differently when they are isolated from when they are within a group - so this newly discovered peppertree extract stops bacteria from communicating with one another by causing them to think they have been isolated and alone.

Although native Amazonians had long used the peppertree to effectively treat skin lesions, burns, wounds, skin infections and ulcers among others, health professionals caution against rushing off to apply the raw extracts of the red berries onto the skin to treat dermatological problems, Press of Atlantic City wrote.

"Natural is not always safe," Dr. Quave warned. "There are lots of things in the natural world that can harm you if you use them improperly."

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