Phyla dulcis / Lippia dulcis / Aztec Herb

De Phyla of Lippia dulcis is bekend als Aztec Herb. Deze naam heeft de plant te danken aan het feit dat de Azteken de plant gebruikten als medicijn tegen hoesten, verkoudheid etc.

De bladeren bevatten een intens zoete stof hernandulcine (1000 tot 1500x zoeter dan suiker), maar omdat er ook kamfer in zit, is het niet geschikt als suikervervanger. Een enkel blaadje kan zo gegeten worden, grote hoeveelheden vermijden omdat kamfer een stof is die weer negatieve invloed heeft op ons zenuwstelsel.

De Lippia Dulcis wordt circa 30 cm hoog. Het is een bodembedekker en groeit meer in de breedte. Is ook goed in een hangende pot te gebruiken. Het beste overwinteren boven het vriespunt. Hoeft niet perse op een lichte plaats. De plant zal vanuit de wortels weer uitschieten in het voorjaar. Vermeerderen kan ook door zaaien. Winterhardheid zone 9b (-3ºC).

Lippia dulcis Trev. (Verbenaceae) is the source of hernandulcin, the first known intensely sweet sesquiterpenoid, a compound which is a volatile oil constituent. The literature on the uses of this species, dating back to early colonial times in Mexico, has been examined. This plant began to be used as an official drug in the late 19th century for the treatment of coughs and bronchitis, and at that time preliminary phytochemical investigations were undertaken. Field work carried out in Mexico in 1981 and 1982 has indicated that there is still an active trade involving L. dulcis, which is sold primarily in market places for its alleged abortifacient activity. We have obtained no evidence, either from the literature or from field inquiries, that L. dulcis has ever been used for sweetening foods or beverages. Fourteen L. dulcis volatile oil constituents, mainly mono- and sesquiterpenoids, were identified by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The toxic compound, camphor, was found to constitute 53% w/w of the volatile oil of this species. The potential use of L. dulcis for the extraction of hernandulcin is discussed.

Francisco Hernández had an interesting position in history. As a doctor, he was given the title "Royal Physician of the Western Indies, Isles, and Firm Land of the Ocean Sea". At the age of 55 in 1570, he was the first trained scientist to set foot in New Spain. For the next six years, Hernández documented the plants and materia medica of Mexico.

One of the many plants Hernández described was a member of the Verbenaceae, the verbena family. Known to the Aztecs as tzopelic-xihuitl*, the Spanish called it, hierba dulce, sweet herb. Twenty years before Hernández described it, Aztec physicians recommended the sweet herb for those "troubled by a cough". In the Classic Codex of 1552, Martín de la Cruz, an Aztec physician, wrote "The root of the herb called tzopelica-cococ*,ground in tepid water is also of value for one with a cough; let him either drink the liquor or gnaw the root." (Badiano Manuscript)

The sweet component of the Aztec's tzopelic (Lippia dulcis Linnaeus, aka Phyla dulcis and Phylascaberrima) was determined in 1985. The herb's volatile oil contains a sesquiterpene named hernandulcin in honor of Hernández. It is one thousand times sweeter than refined table sugar, sucrose, yet has a low caloric value. But sweet herb also has a bitter component, camphor, a monoterpene ketone which is toxic. It was discovered that hierba dulce has two chemotypes or chemical races—one race with high levels of the sweet hernandulcin, and one race high in camphor. ("Studies on Some Edible and Medicinal Plants of Mesoamerica", A.D. Kinghorn, Aiko Ito, E.J. Kennelly, Nam-Cheol Kim, & H.E. Westenburg, Proceedings of the West Pharmacological Society, Vol. 41, 1998)