CUBEBS (Arab, kabdbah), the fruit of several species of pepper (Piper), belonging to the natural order Piperaceae. The cubebs of pharmacy are produced by Piper Cubeba, a climbing woody shrub indigenous to south Borneo, Sumatra, Prince of Wales Island and Java. It has round, ash-coloured, smooth branches; lanceolate, or ovate-oblong, somewhat leathery, shining leaves, 4 to 65 in. long and ij to 2 in. broad. Male and female flowers are borne on distinct plants. The fruits are small, globose, about in. in diameter, and not so large as white pepper; their contracted stalk-like bases are between J and 5 in. in length; and from forty to fifty of them are borne upon a common stem. The cubeb is cultivated in Java and Sumatra, the fruits are gathered before they are ripe, and carefully dried. Commercial cubebs consist of the dried berries, usually with their stalks attached; the pericarp is greyish-brown, or blackish and wrinkled; and the seed, when present, is hard, white and oily. The odour of cubebs is agreeable and aromatic; the taste, pungent, acrid, slightly bitter and persistent. About 15% of a volatile oil is obtained by distilling cubebs with water; after rectification with water, or on keeping, this deposits rhombic crystals of camphor of cubebs, Ci-fl x O; cubebene, the liquid portion, has the formula Cu,H M . Cubebin, CH 2 [O] 2 C6H 3 -CH:CH-CH 2 OH, is a crystalline substance existing in cubebs, discovered by Eugene Soubeiran and Capitaine in 1839; it may be prepared from cubebene, or from the pulp left after the distillation of the oil. The drug, along with gum, fatty oils, and malates of magnesium and calcium, contains also about i% of cubebic acid, and about 6% of a resin.
The dose of the fruit is 30 to 60 grains, and the British Pharmacopoeia contains a tincture with a dose of $ to i drachm. The volatile oil oleum cubebae is also official, and is the form in which this drug is most commonly used, the dose being 5 to 20 minims, which may be suspended in mucilage or given after meals in a cachet. The drug has the typical actions of a volatile oil, but exerts some of them in an exceptional degree. Thus it is liable to cause a cutaneous erythema in the course of its excretion by the skin; it has a marked diuretic action; and it is a fairly efficient disinfectant of the urinary passages. Its administration causes the appearance in the urine of a salt of cubebic acid which is precipitated by heat or nitric acid, and is therefore liable to be mistaken for albumin, when these two most common tests for the occurrence of albuminuria are applied. Cubebs is frequently used in the form of cigarettes for asthma, chronic pharyngitis and hay-feVer. A small percentage of cubebs is also commonly included in lozenges designed for use in bronchitis, in which the antiseptic and expectoral properties of the drug are useful. But the most important therapeutic application of this drug is in gonorrhoea, where its antiseptic action is of much value. As compared with copaiba in this connexion cubebs has the advantages of being less disagreeable to take and somewhat less likely to disturb the digestive apparatus in prolonged administration. The introduction of the drug into medicine is supposed to have been due to the Arabian physicians in the middle ages. Cubebs were formerly candied and eaten whole, or used ground as a seasoning for meat. Their modern employment in England as a drug dates from 1815. " Cubebae " were purchased in 1284 and 1285 by Lord Clare at 2s. 3d. and 2s. 9d. per Ib respectively; and in 1307 i lb for the king's wardrobe cost 95., a sum representing about 3, 125. in present value (Rogers, Hist, of Agriculture and Prices, i. 627-628, ii. 544).
A closely allied species, Piper Clusii, produces the African cubebs or West African black-pepper, the berry of which is smoother than that of common cubebs and usually has a curved pedicel. In the 14th century it was imported into Europe from the Grain Coast, under the name of pepper, by merchants of Rouen and Lippe.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)