Essential oils have long been used for a variety of health-related issues. One of the lesser known essential oils made from a South American plant in particular can be used in a lot of medical situations. Here, we look at some of the most common uses for an essential oil made from Schinus Molle, or the Californian Pepper Tree.
What is Schinus Molle Essential Oil?
A botanist describes the Schinus Molle plant while showing off his collection of the trees.
You might not realize it, but you’re probably very familiar with the Schinus Molle tree already. More well known as the Californian Pepper Tree (though not, in fact, native to California) or the Brazilian/Peruvian Pepper Tree, the Schinus Molle is a common tree that can be cultivated easily even by non-professionals. As San Marcos Growers, a prominent tree nursery company, explains in its plant database, the Schinus Molle is:
An evergreen tree that grows 25-40 feet tall with rough twisted dark gray bark and a wide weeping habit, spreading as wide as tall. It has bright green pinnately compound leaves that are five to 12 inches long with many one- to two-inch long narrow leaflets. The 1/8 inch wide fragrant whitish-yellow flowers bloom in branched pendulous panicles in summer and female trees (it is dioecious with male and female flowers on separate trees) producing 1/3 inch wide red berries in the fall into winter. [. . .] This plant is most commonly called “California Pepper” because it is found so commonly throughout the state, both because it has been planted and reseeded, and this has led many to believe it native, but it actually comes from the Southern Andes at elevations up to around 12,000 feet from Peru south to Bolivia, Chile and Argentina; some reports list it native further north up to southern Mexico. Other common names for it include Peruvian Mastic Tree, Peruvian Peppertree, Escobilla, False Pepper, Molle del Peru and Peppercorn tree.
Schinus molle berries, from which essential oils can be extracted. The berries have a sharp peppery flavor and are often used in syrups and South American drinks.
The Schinus Molle tree, as seen from various angle. The pungent aroma of the plant should be immediately recognizable.
Accordingly, this tree is most popularly used as part of a landscape or yard design, but an essential oil created from the root, bark and berries of the tree can be useful as well. Here, we’ll go through an overview of the different ways cultures around the world use parts of the Schinus Molle tree and we’ll explain some specific uses for the Schinus Molle essential oil.
A brief explanation of the Schinus Molle tree. More commonly known as the Brazilian Pepper tree or Californian Pepper Tree, the Schinus Molle can be found across the Americas.
Summary of Uses
The Schinus Molle is a very versatile plant. Cultures from around the world use the bark, leaves and berries from the plant in their teas and poultices. As the Tropical Plant Database explains:
Throughout South and Central America, Brazilian peppertree is reported to be an astringent, antibacterial, diuretic, digestive stimulant, tonic, antiviral and wound healer. In Peru, the sap is used as a mild laxative and a diuretic, and the entire plant is used externally for fractures and as a topical antiseptic. The oleoresin is used externally as a wound healer, to stop bleeding, and for toothaches, and it is taken internally for rheumatism and as a purgative. In South Africa, a leaf tea is used to treat colds, and a leaf decoction is inhaled for colds, hypertension, depression and irregular heart beat. In the Brazilian Amazon, a bark tea is used as a laxative, and a bark-and-leaf tea is used as a stimulant and antidepressant. In Argentina, a decoction is made with the dried leaves and is taken for menstrual disorders, and is also used for respiratory and urinary tract infections and disorders.
The Schinus Molle is also called the Brazilian or Peruvian Pepper Tree after its countries of origin. This picture shows a cluster of the trees as well as the bright berries that characterize the plant.
Brazilian peppertree is employed in herbal medicine today in many countries. It is used for many conditions in the tropics, including menstrual disorders, bronchitis, gingivitis, gonorrhea, gout, eye infections, rheumatism, sores, swellings, tuberculosis, ulcers, urethritis, urogenital disorders, venereal diseases, warts, and wounds. In Brazilian herbal medicine today, the dried bark and/or leaves are employed for heart problems (hypertension and irregular heart beat), infections of all sorts, menstrual disorders with excessive bleeding, tumors and general inflammation. A liquid extract or tincture prepared with the bark is used internally as a stimulant, tonic and astringent, and externally for rheumatism, gout, and syphilis.
All parts of the plant can be used. This short clip depicts part of the Schinus Molle root that traditional Indian doctors use in their practices.
For example, here is a soap made from Schinus Molle that preserves the aroma and antiseptic qualities of the tree.
While the layperson might not have the expertise to use the Schinus Molle in all of these scenarios, you can take advantage of the essential oils made from Schinus Molle that can be found in various essential oils stores and use them for the following purposes.
An example of a bottle of Schinus Molle essential oil. To extract the oil, Schinus Molle berries are typically put through the steam distillation process to purify the oil without losing any of the healing properties of the plant.
You don’t have to be a professional to get use from your Brazilian Peppertree. You can prepare the leaves and bark of a Brazilian peppertree to use in medical situations on your own at home!
As the summary above already explained, one of the most common uses for Schinus Molle is in medicine. As the Tropical Plant Database continues to explain, an extract or essential oil made from Schinus Molle is traditionally used:
- As a broad-spectrum antimicrobial and antiseptic against bacterial, viral and fungal infections
- For Candida and yeast infections
- To tone, balance and strengthen heart function and as a heart regulator for arrhythmia and mild hypertension
- To stop bleeding and heal wounds internally and externally
- For mycoplasmal infections
A bottle of Schinus Molle essential oil. You should be able to find Schinus Molle essential oil in most essential oil stores.
InkNatural, an online essential oil store further explains the healing power of essential oils made from Schinus Molle:
The molle essential oil has proved as an effective antibacterial medicine in vitro and have a anti-microbial activity against many bacteria and pathogens in several studies. Testing in vitro, the molle essential oil from the leaves, showed antiviral effects against several viruses and proved to be cytotoxic against cancer cells 9kb.
Schinus Molle berries, often called pink peppercorns, from which essential oils are often extracted.
When used for medical purposes, Schinus Molle can be either ingested or applied topically. Diluting a few drops of the essential oil in water can create a healing mouthwash.
Unlike some other essential oils, Schinus Molle isn’t toxic when ingested. However, taking in large quantities of any essential oil is a bad idea because the liquids contain such a high concentration of the essential oils that it could cause other problems.
It can be hard to tell based on the sharp, pungent odor of the essential oil, but Schinus Molle, applied topically, can be very useful for cosmetic purposes. For example, the essential oil can be rubbed over the skin to improve the tone and elasticity of the area. When mixed with a shampoo or added to bath water, Schinus Molle can strengthen and condition the hair, much like a more natural version of modern, chemically created conditioners.
Several bottles of Schinus Molle essential oil. Various essential oil companies sell some version of the the essential oil, but names can vary from Schinus Molle to simply Molle to California or Peruvian Pepper Tree. Most companies will provide you with the scientific name (that is, Schinus Molle) if requested, though.
As with the majority of essential oils, there are aromatherapeutic uses for Schinus Molle essential oil. Aromatherapy relies on the particular scent of an essential oil to transfer healing and calming qualities to the patient, and, while it might not be sanctioned by “modern” doctor, is an effective form of traditional medicine.
Mountain Rose Herbs, another essential oil company, describes the scent of the Schinus Molle:
Pink pepper is botanically unrelated to black pepper, but is used in many of the same ways as both a spice and essential oil. The essential oil has a sweeter note to it than the more traditional black pepper oil, and can be used interchangeably in most aromatherapy and perfumery blends. In aromatherapy, pepper essential oils are used for a variety of digestive and circulatory complaints.
A bottle of Schinus Molle essential oil, made from various parts of the tree, including the roots, bark, leaves, and berries.
Schinus Molle essential oil can be used in the same aromatherapy procedures that are recommended for other, more common essential oils.
Because the smell of Schinus Molle is so strong and so distinct, it is often used in perfumes. Once you get your bottle of Schinus Molle essential oil, you can even make your own perfume by combining different herbal oils. AromaWeb, a site dedicated to aromatherapy tips and tricks, offers the following advice (note that “Pink Pepper” is another name for the Schinus Molle):
The aroma of Pink Pepper Essential Oil is reminiscent to the freshly ground pink peppercorns, but it has a somewhat more complex and slightly fruitier/floral aroma. Compared to Black Pepper Oil, I find Pink Pepper Oil to be a bit more pungent in aroma.
Schinus Molle berries are sometimes called pink peppercorns because of their bright, peppercorn-like shape. Thus, some essential oil companies call their Schinus Molle essential oils “Pink Pepper” or “Pink Peppercorn.”
Aromatically, Pink Pepper Oil has a fresh, peppery aroma. As with Black Pepper Oil, it is not one that I ever use in a diffuser or blend on its own, but it really helps to perk up and add heat and spice to your blends. It is a middle note and can help to bring together fleeting top notes and heavy base notes. Pink Pepper Oil blends well with most other essential oils including other spice oils, citrus and floral oils. It can be used as a substitute for Black Pepper Oil.
Emotionally, Pink Pepper Oil acts as a stimulant and is a good choice for inclusion in blends intended to help enhance alertness and stamina. It should be avoided before bedtime.
Another picture of a bottle of Schinus Molle essential oil. As you can tell by now, the essential oil extract is typically clear, though more opaque varieties do exist as well. The exact color of the essential oil depends on the minutiae of different extracting processes, but, for the most part, the resulting product should have the same properties.
Experimenting with different combinations of essential oils and perfumes can be a great way to create unique perfumes and scents while getting the most out of aromatherapeutic techniques.