The Brazilian Pepper tree – also known as the Florida Holly – is an invasive species from South America that has spread throughout Florida and the Southeastern U.S. Many Floridians hate it because it is a common source of contact dermatitis similar in nature to poison ivy.
Despite this mischievous aspect of the plant, immunologists have discovered it has incredible antibiotic properties. Amazonian native healers have used the plant for hundreds of years for its medicinal value. Now modern science is jumping on board.
It turns out the berries and leaves contain a variety of flavonoids and terpenoids — especially thymol, carvacrol and myrcenol – which have proven effective against “super germs,” namely E. coli and the dreaded multi-drug-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA).
The plant enzymes work by several mechanisms, one of which is to destabilize the germ’s plasma membrane, causing it to rupture. Two others work through gene repression in the bacteria. Specifically, the Brazilian Pepper represses the gene that transfers antibiotic resistance, and the one that controls the production of bacterial toxins, thus lessening the virulence of the germ.
Veterinarians have started to use the plant extract to treat certain infections in dogs.