Cyperus Articulatus - Piri Piri
- Cyperaceae - Tropical Wetlands


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FAMILY: Cyperaceae
GENUS: Cyperus
SPECIES: Articulatus
COMMON NAMES: Adrue, Andek, Chintul, Choufa, Cyperus corymbosus, Cyperus esculentus, Cyperus tuberosus, Earth-almond, Erdmandelgras, Fladaks, Flatsedge,  Gland de terre,  Ground almond, Guinea rush, Hadrue, Haeo chin, Ibenkiki, Jointed flat sedge, Jordmandel, Juncia avellanada, Kamaleji, Karihi, Kashuur, Ma niao, Mandassi, Masho huaste, Nihue huaste, Nuni, Nutgrass, Piri piri, Piripiri, Piriprioca, Rushnut, Savane tremblante, Sedge, Shakó, Shokuyou gayatsuri, Souchet-sultan, Tigernut , Tijgernoten, Water-grass, Yellow nut-grass, Yellow nut sedge, You sha cao, Zacoo, Zigolo dolce, Zulu nut.

Cyperus Articulatus is a tall marsh grass that grows near the edges of lakes, ponds, swamps, rivers, streams, wetlands and other damp soil areas. This flat sedge grass grows in small clusters and routinely reaches over 6 feet (2 meters) in height. The stems are fibrous, cylindrical, hollow and can be as large as 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) in diameter at their base. The stem narrows as it grows upward turning into spiked blades of shiny grass, which range in color from bright yellow-green to dark forest green, and can project a purplish inflorescence under the right lighting conditions. During the summer season, the grass produces many tiny white flowers at the top of the stalk, which has been described as being similar to the tiny white flowers produced by wheat grass.

Guinea rush grass, or Piri Piri, is native to the Amazon basin, where native tribes have used it as a medicine for hundreds of years; but it is also known to grow in tropical climates in a number of other countries. Notably, Piri Piri grows in the southeastern United States, in the Florida panhandle, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. It also grows in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Congo, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, as well as tropical areas in Asia, northern Australia, and most of the countries in Central and South America. It is still found growing wildly along the Nile River, the Amazon River and the Congo River.

Recent studies on the biochemical makeup of Piri Piri have shown that this grass contains an abundant amount of active alkaloids. These compounds include: flavonoids, polyphenols, saponins, tannins, and terpenes. Several specific compounds isolated from this tropical grass include alpha-corymbolol, alpha-cyperone, alpha-pinene, carophyllene oxide, corymbolone, cyperotundone, and mustakone. However, the most interesting and promising compounds isolated from this grass are: cyperotundone and alpha-cyperone. These latter two compounds are believed to be effective pain relievers, working in the same manner as aspirin and ibuprofen, and may also possess antimalarial properties. A scientific research study published in early 2003 found that an extract made from the roots of the Cyperus Articulatus produced compounds that acted as N-methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists; another compound that acts as an NMDA receptor antagonist and has similar, yet much stronger, effects in the brain is  phencyclidine

TRADITIONAL USE: Many aboriginal tribes that live in the Amazonian tropical rainforests believe that Piri Piri grass has magical qualities and have used it to cure disease, heal wounds, relieve pain, and for many other folk remedies. The Sharanahua Indians, from the Amazon river basin, have used Cyperus Articulatus to help pregnant women induce labor, or even force an early term abortion. They also use Cyperus Articulatus to reduce high fevers, soothe upset stomachs, and to induce sweating, which they believe expels evil spirits and disease. Native tribes in Central America have used this grass to relieve the pain caused by sensitive teeth and toothaches. The Shipibo-Conibo Indian tribe, from the Peruvian rainforests, make a nerve tonic from the roots of the grass, they believe it helps calm epileptic seizures and other psychological problems. The Secoya Indians use the roots to make a medicine that they believe cures influenza, relieve anxiety induced stress and to calm frightened children. The Shuar Indian shamans use the roots to make a tea which they consume and lulls them into a deep state of relaxation, trance and allows them to communicate with their ancestors and the recently deceased; they use it an additive in their potent Ayahuasca recipes for magical religious ceremonies. This grass is known throughout Central and South America as a Borrachera, a term used to describe many intoxicating, inebriating plants.

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Almost all traditional preparations use the rhizomes (roots or tubers) of this grass to make magical medicines, and healing salves. One preparation requires the roots to be dried, pulverized into a fine powder and then steeped in water to make a tea. Other preparations simply require the fresh roots to be ground and squeezed to extract the juices, or just mixed into water. Modern scientific research has shown that an effective means of extracting active alkaloids requires the roots to be ground into a powder, allowed to sit in a large amount of warm water, then the water mixture is allowed to evaporate until the water is just 90% of its original volume. The wet pulp is then mixed with pure alcohol, and the insoluble material is then separated, dried and mixed with water to make a potent elixir. In addition to the psychoactive compounds found in the rhizomes of this grass, it is believed that many root samples are infected with a species specific fungus called Balansia cyperi, this fungus is closely related to the Claviceps purpurea fungus and also produces ergot-like alkaloids; which may explain why many tribes use this tuber as an additive in their Ayahuasca brews.

MEDICINAL USES: Cyperus Articulatus has many medicinal uses, in both traditional folk remedies and in modern medicines. In the early 1980’s it was discovered that the rhizomes of Cyperus Articulatus produced compounds that were an effective anti-convulsant and were effective at calming the seizures caused by epilepsy. In traditional aboriginal Indian medicine, Piri Piri roots were made into a tea to treat myriad ailments; they used the medicine as a digestive aid, to calm nervous anxiety, as a sedative and tranquilizer, and at higher doses to induce vomiting. Women in certain Amazonian tribes add the root to a love potion that they call Pusanga. In 19th and 20th century America, a drug called Adrue was made from the roots and sold over the counter as a digestive aid to help relieve morning sickness, nausea, gas and other digestive problems; at higher doses it was used to sedate anxious patients and as a side effect produced euphoric states and dreamy surreal perceptions.

The Karipśna-Palikśr Indians of Guiana use Piri Piri to treat the symptoms of malaria, and to help quell nausea. Other uses include a hair tonic to help fight baldness, a treatment for severe flu symptoms, and to relieve headache and migraine pain. However, the most notable and widely reported effects are the sedative and tranquil feelings induce by the rhizome tea. Even today, many lucid dreamers report that they are able to relax, meditate, dream and more easily recall those dreams, as well as being able to achieve lucidity more easily after they consume Cyperus Articulatus tea.

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Piri Piri is renowned in both modern and ancient societies for its calming, sedating, and tranquilizing effects. When the rhizomes are steeped in warm water and made into a tea, many people report that after consumption of the tea, relaxation, euphoria, lethargy and profound tranquility shortly follow. They report overwhelming sensations of contentment, torpidity, and vivid waking dreams. Cyperus Articulatus is classified as a dream herb, sedative and euphorant, and a number of contemporary reports suggest that many people are using the tea to improve dream recall and to induce vivid lucid dreams. 

Bum, E; Rakotonirinac, A; Rakotonirinac, S. and Herrling, P. 2003. Effects of Cyperus articulatus compared to effects of anticonvulsant compounds on the cortical wedge. Elsevier Science.

Cousens, R. 2005. Sorting Cyperus Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database.

Greive, M.2009. A Modern Herbal: Adrue (Cyperus Articulatus).

Mahailet; J. 1983. Pharmaceutical compositions containing a fraction extracted from mandassi (Cyperus articulatus L.). U.S. Patent 4,483,852 (PDF)

Rain Tree Nutrition. 2006. Piri-Piri (Cyperus articulatus).

USDA. 2009. Cyperus articulatus.