The Bay Rum Tree (Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore) is an evergreen tree species belonging to the Myrtaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
P. racemosa species.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Amomis acris (Sw.) O.Berg;
– Amomis caryophyllata Krug & Urb .;
– Amomis oblongata O.Berg;
– Amomis pimento O.Berg;
– Amomis pimentoides O.Berg;
– Caryophyllus racemosus Mill .;
– Eugenia tabasco (Willd. Ex Schltdl. & Cham.) G.Don;
– Myrcia acris (Sw.) DC .;
– Myrcia pimentoides DC .;
– Myrtus acris Sw .;
– Myrtus caryophyllata Jacq .;
– Myrtus citrifolia Poir .;
– Myrtus pimentoides (DC.) T. Nees;
– Pimenta acris (Sw.) Kostel .;
– Pimenta acuminata Bello;
– Pimenta citrifolia (Poir.) Kostel .;
– Pimenta pimento Griseb .;
– Pimenta tabasco (Willd. Ex Schltdl. & Cham.) Lundell;
– Pimentus cotinifolia Raf ..
The following varieties are recognized:
– Pimenta racemosa var. grisea (Kiaersk.) Fosberg;
– Pimenta racemosa var. hispaniolensis (Urb.) Landrum;
– Pimenta racemosa var. ozua (Urb. & Ekman).
The term Pimenta comes from the ancient Portuguese pimenta, in turn from the Latin pigmenta, a form of pigment, from pingō dipingo.
The specific racemose epithet comes from racémus cluster, stalk: with flowers and fruits arranged in raceme.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Pimenta racemosa is a plant native to the northern area of South America, present in Venezuela, the Caribbean – From Trinidad to Cuba.
This plant is grown in the Caribbean, in the southeastern United States, in Cameroon and in India.
Its natural habitat is that of lowland tropical forest areas, where it is found at altitudes of up to 750 meters and usually on dry slopes such as in Puerto Rico.
The Pimenta racemosa is an erect, evergreen tree, up to 15 (-25) m high.
The trunk develops up to 20 cm in diameter, often slightly rippled and grooved, with smooth, gray to light brown bark, which comes off in thin strips; the inner bark is pinkish.
The foliage is dense, columnar, dark green in color with young twigs flattened at 4 angles.
The leaves are opposite, simple, whole, strongly aromatic; the petiole is 3-12 mm long, green with reddish hues; the lamina is elliptical to obovate or elliptic-oblong, 4-18 cm × 3-8 cm, with an attenuated, obtuse or rounded base, often curved margins, rounded, marginalized, rigid, leathery apex, with very small, shiny glandular dots , dark green above, lighter below; the central rib is sunken and lateral veins prominent on both surfaces.
The inflorescence is a terminal or subterminal corimbiform panicle, 3-12 cm long.
The flowers are 10 mm or more in diameter, white in color; ipanzio obconico, about 1,5 mm long, subglabrous, 5 sepals, up to 1,5 mm long, wider than long, enlarged; petals 5, 3-4 mm long, widened; numerous stamens, 4-5 mm long, white; pistil with bicellular ovary, slender stylus 4-5 mm long.
The fruit is a fleshy berry, from subglobose to ellipsoid, 8-12 mm long, red-brown to black, with 1-3 seeds and persistent sepals at the apex.
The seed is 4-7 mm long and brown in color.
Pimenta racemosa is a plant that grows spontaneously but is also cultivated for its leaves and fruits, which are used as food and medicinal aromas and a source of essential oils. It is sometimes grown for its essential oil, and is also grown as an ornamental tree for its shade.
The plant grows best in areas where the average annual temperature is between 22 and 28 ° C, but can tolerate 18 – 32 ° C. It can tolerate occasional very light frosts, the leaves are damaged at temperatures of -1 ° C and the branches at -3 ° C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall of 1,400 – 2,000 mm, but can tolerate 700 – 2,800 mm; it is better if the annual rainfall is around 2,500 mm, evenly distributed throughout the year, with a few months with rainfall of less than 200 mm, even if the natural populations occur in areas with annual rainfall of only 750 mm.
Although the trees grow well with annual rainfall of 1,250 to 1,500 mm, regrowth after pruning is too slow for commercial plantings to be profitable.
For cultivation it prefers a sunny position, succeeding in most well-drained soils. Generally the best condition is fertile and deep clayey soils with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (pH in the range 5 – 6, tolerating 4.5 – 7), but most plantations are located on marginal soils on slopes as the best soils are destined for food crops.
Propagation occurs by seed which must be sown as soon as it is ripe. Germination generally takes 2 – 6 weeks. The seedlings are ready for transplanting in the field in 18 – 24 months.
Before planting the stem is topped to 15 cm and the taproot is pruned to 7 cm to favor lateral rooting.
Vegetative propagation can also be carried out but this is rarer.
After planting, young plants require protection from direct sunlight until they are well established.
Seedlings often produce several main shoots. Sometimes two main shoots are kept, as experience has shown that the foliage yield is higher than with single-stemmed trees.
After 2 – 3 years, the trees are pruned to 3 – 5 meters and kept at that height.
Deformed or diseased trees can be cut down to ground level, allowing a new shoot to grow.
Well managed trees are harvested once a year or 3 times in 4 years. The harvest interval depends more on the age of the leaves than on the regrowth rate. The leaves drop off after 2 – 3 years, so a longer harvest interval of 2 years can result in a reduction in yields. Harvesting can be done all year round, although dry periods are preferred. It is unclear whether the higher yield during this period is due to a higher leaf oil content or a higher proportion of mature leaves.
The leaf yield in mature plantations can vary between 8 – 35 t / ha (with an oil content of 1 – 3.5%).
Plantation life is indeterminate, as trees regenerate from stumps, but the effect of regular harvesting on plant life is not known. Single 50-year-old trees are known.
However, it should be remembered that where the Pimenta racemosa has been introduced it can become a weed.
Customs and Traditions –
Pimenta racemosa is a plant that is used for food and medicinal purposes and other uses.
Among the edible uses it should be remembered that the aromatic fruits, the bark and especially the leaves are processed as spices.
The leaves are used as a spice in cooking.
The dried green berries have a spicy flavor with hints of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and are used as a spice.
The leaves are used to make aromatic tea.
For medicinal use this plant is used in traditional medicine, mainly for the antibiotic properties of the phenols contained in the essential oil.
Bay Rum (the leaves distilled in rum) has been used in folk medicine to treat muscle aches, strains and sprains.
A tea made from the leaves is drunk as a stimulant and as a cure for flatulence, colds and fever.
The essential oil of the leaves is used as a remedy for stomach pain and is applied externally to treat skin diseases.
The leaves contain up to 5% of essential oil; the highest content occurs in the regions with less rainfall (1,100 mm per year), the lowest in the wetter areas (2,200 mm per year). This is used in perfumery, in the production of soaps, toilet waters, etc.
The essential oil contains eugenol, myircin, chavicolo and methyl-eugenol.
For some people, the sensory properties of oil can be quite unpleasant, too sweet and nauseating; others perceive it as quite fresh and pleasant. Its flavor is hot, almost pungent, spicy and a little bitter.
The leaves are traditionally distilled with rum to make laurel rum, which has soothing and antiseptic properties and was once a very popular toilet water and hair tonic.
In terpene-free oil production, terpenes (mainly monoterpenes with a low boiling point) are removed by vacuum distillation. Myrcene is the most important compound removed.
Terpene-free leaf oil is a light straw to brownish-orange liquid with an intensely sweet, deep and smooth spicy-balsamic odor and a lemon-like note that is less pronounced than “crude” oil. . It dissolves easily in diluted alcohol, which is a plus as it is often used in low-alcohol preparations, such as hair lotions.
Two different types of distilled oils are obtained: a ‘lemon’ type and an ‘anise’ type. Both types are reported from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and may have been introduced to Java in 1880. The ‘lemon’ type is rich in citral (geranium and neral); the “anise” type mainly contains methyl eugenol and estragon (methyl chavicol).
Samples of var. hispaniolensis are characterized by gamma thymol and terpinen, 1,8-cineol and methyl eugenol, 1,8-cineole and methyl chavicol or 1,8-cineol and terpinen-4-ol.
Samples from var. ozua were rich in 1,8-cineole and alpha terpineol.
The essential oil of var. grisea is characterized by trans-methyl isoeugenol, methyl eugenol or geraniol.
The grisea variety produces a much lower essential oil which, when combined with other varieties, can have a very negative effect on the quality of the oil.
The var. Grisea is so common and has such a negative effect on the quality of the oil that it is called a “false laurel rum tree”.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that the essential oil is used as an insect repellent.
In addition, this plant has a light brown sapwood and brownish red or blackish and mottled heartwood and the wood is very hard, very heavy, strong, tenacious, durable and fine-grained and resistant to attack by termites.
The wood is used in carpentry, to make walking sticks and for poles. It splits easily and is a great fuel.
Finally, remember that the fruit, the essential oil of the leaves and the laurel rum that derives from it, are all toxic and must not be ingested.
Laurel rum, used in hair dressings and aftershaves, can cause skin irritation.
The essential oil is approved for food use by the US Food and Drug Administration and is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). However, contact dermatitis caused by the components eugenol and phellandrene present in the essential oil have been reported.
Preparation Method –
Pimenta racemosa is a plant used in cooking and from which an essential oil is distilled to produce a fragrant colony called bay rum; Although laurel rum is mainly rum, the concentrated essential oil is toxic and, as mentioned, makes the product undrinkable.
It is used in traditional medicine, mainly for the antibiotic properties of the phenols contained in the essential oil.
Bay Rum has been used in folk medicine to treat muscle aches, strains and sprains.
From the leaves you can prepare a tea that is drunk as a stimulant and as a cure for flatulence, colds and fever.
The essential oil of the leaves is used as a remedy for stomach pain and is applied externally to treat skin diseases to improve circulation, regenerate the skin, promote hair growth and has a cleansing effect on the skin. It is used for skin and hair care and regeneration products.
The plant is used in aromatherapy as a stimulant, balancing, calming and nerve tonic. It can be used against listlessness.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.