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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Caper Bush
(Capparis spinosa)

The caper bush is a spiny, trailing shrub, 3 to 5 feet with deciduous leaves to 2 inches long; flowers are showy; fruit is long-stalked, slender and oval. Native to Mediterranean Europe to northwestern India, it is cultivated mainly in Spain, France, and Italy.

PROPAGATION: By RIPE WOOD CUTTINGS in summer at 66 to 75ºF.
NEEDS: Plants grown under cultivated conditions are usually C. spinsosa var inermis which tend to be spineless. Grown as an ornamental in well-drained sandy soil in sun; often grown in or on top of walls. In cold climates they are treated as annuals, but require the warmth of a greenhouse to produce buds.
HARVEST: BUDS are collected both in the wild and from cultivated plants. They are picked early in the morning, then kept for a few hours in a dark place to wilt. They are then pickled in salted white vinegar, or else dry salted. ROOT BARK is taken in autumn, then dried.
PART USED: Flower buds, root bark.
C. brevispina, C. decidua, C. zeylanica: Asiatic species which are used locally in the same manner as C. spinosa.


Root bark has been considered astringent, diuretic, expectorant, stimulating tonic. Has been used for gastro-intestinal infections, diarrhea, gout, and rheumatism.
The flower buds have been used for coughs, and externally for eye infections.
According to James A. Duke (The Green Pharmacy) the buds are a rich source of cataract-preventing compounds (aldose-reductose inhibitors).

The pickled capers (buds) with their sharp, burning taste have been used in southern Europe as a condiment for at least 2 millenia.
Both dry salted and pickled buds are used in caper sauces for meat and fish dishes and stuffing for baked fish in Europe and North America; also served as hors d'oeuvres, and combined with olives and anchovies.
In Indonesia capers are used to season rice dishes and cheese souffles.
NOTE: Unripe nasturtium seeds are said to make a satisfactory substitute for culinary purposes.

©2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH