Natural Healing — Pirúl

Photo credit: Georges Jansoone

Pirúl (Schinus molle) is also known as pirú, perú, Falso Pimentero, gualeguay, Árbol Del Perú, Peruvian Peppertree, and in Nahuatl, it is Pelonquáhuitl. As you may have guessed, it is native to the Peruvian Andes. The botanical name molle comes from mulli, which is the Quechua word for tree. The indigenous put a high value on the pirúl because of its many uses. Textiles were dyed using Pirúl leaves. Oil extracted from the leaves was used by the Incas to embalm their dead. The high sugar content of its fruit meant that it was a common ingredient in atole, pulque, and chicha, a fermented corn beverage. The fruit was also used as a pepper substitute.

Credit for the first pirúl cultivation in Mexico is given to Virrey Antonio de Mendoza in the mid-1500s. Francisco Hernández de Toledo recorded that indigenous healers used parts of the pirúl to close wounds, stop bleeding, heal hemorrhoids, treat cataracts, and ease arthritis pain. The sap was dissolved in water as a purgative. Full branches from this leafy tree were used in limpias (cleansings).

In traditional remedies used by curanderas today, this plant treats wounds, infections, toothache, rheumatism, and menstrual disorders among other ailments. It is also prescribed as an antidepressant and diuretic as well as an effective insecticide.

To help with constipation, make an infusion from 1 tablespoon of pirúl leaves in one liter of water. Drink one cup three times a day after meals. Crushed leaves can be used in a wash for conjunctivitis. A foot bath with fresh pirúl leaves, which have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, can reduce foot swelling. 

A bark decoction for bronchitis or respiratory issues is prepared by boiling one tablespoon of bark in one liter of water for ten minutes. Sun-dried or comal-toasted leaves can be applied as a poultice to relieve rheumatism pain and sciatica. Fresh fruit in an infusion serves as a diuretic. The resin can be chewed like gum to heal mouth ulcers. A water extract made from the leaves is used to treat amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. For sores and skin inflammations, the resin can be used topically, the ground leaves used as plasters, and a leaf infusion is made to wash the affected area. Pirúl has proven antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial effects.

The leaves have antimicrobial, antibacterial, antinociceptive, antimalarial, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Pirúl shows signs of immunomodulatory properties as it activates the immune system. The fruit is antioxidant and antimicrobial. It also demonstrates preventative potential against oxidative and inflammatory stress.  Additionally, Pirúl has an antidepressant-like effect as effective as commonly prescribed medications. 

Note: The fruit and leaves are potentially poisonous to pigs, poultry, fish, and calves. There have also been reports of children experiencing vomiting and diarrhea after eating the fruit. Individuals with low blood pressure should not use any remedies that contain pirúl. 


Learn more traditional herbal remedies in Mexico!

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