The peppertree is not related to the pepper or the chilli pepper plants. Its red berries have a strong, spicy flavour reminiscent of black pepper. The berries are dried and ground up as a pepper substitute. They are even used to adulterate black pepper in some countries.
The tree grows 4-8 metres tall and has narrow spiky leaves. It is native to South and Central America but is now grown in semi-tropical and tropical parts of the U.S.A. and Africa.
The leaves contain a large amount of oil. If the leaves are thrown into hot water, the oil escapes in jets with such force that the leaves jump and twist as if alive! Virtually all the parts of the tree are used in herbal medicines. Peppertree sap is a good purgative, diuretic and antiseptic. The oil relieves toothaches.