The cubebs of pharmacy are produced by Piper Cubeba, a climbing woody shrub indigenous to south Borneo, Sumatra, Prince of Wales Island and Java.
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, C 15 H 26 O; cubebene, the liquid portion, has the formula C15HV4.
Cubebin, CH2[O]2C6H3 CH:CH CH20H, 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.
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.
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.
Cubebs were formerly candied and eaten whole, or used ground as a seasoning for meat.
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.