This site works better with JavaScript enabled!

[ Plant part | Family | Aroma | Chemistry | Origin | Etymology | Discussion | Bottom ]

Water Pepper (Persicaria hydropiper [L.] Spach)


botanicalPolygonum hydropiper L.
AlbanianNejca e ujit
Bengaliবিষকাটালি, পকরমুল
Bishkatali?, Pakarmul?
BulgarianПипериче, Воден пипер
Piperiche, Voden piper
辣蓼 [là liǎo], 水蓼 [shuǐ liǎo]
La liao, Shui liao
CroatianVodeni papar
CzechRdesno peprník
EnglishSmartweed, Marshpepper
EstonianMõru kirburohi
FinnishKatkeratatar, Akantatar
FrenchPoivre d’eau, Renouée poivre d’eau
Greek (Old)Ὑδροπέπερι
HungarianBorsos keserűfű, Vízibors
IndonesianSi tuba sawah
ItalianPoligono pepe d’acqua
Japanese, 紅蓼, 青蓼
たで, べにたで, あおたで
タデ, アサブタデ, ベニタデ, ヤナギタデ, アオタデ
Tade, Azebu-tade, Asabu-tade, Yanagi-tade; Ao-tade (green-leaved); Beni-tade (red-leaved)
Korean개여뀌, 여뀌, 여뀌과
Gaeyeoggwi, Kaeyogwi, Yeoggwi, Yogwi, Yeoggwigwa
MalayDaun senahun, Rumput tuboh, Senahun, Tube Seluwang
Manipuri (Meitei-Lon)চখোঙ মচা
ꯆꯈꯣꯡ ꯃꯆꯥ
Chakhong macha
Naga (Ao)Nikchamerim (Changki dialect)
Naga (Chakhesang-Chokri)Ucüpumifishe
PolishRdest ostrogorzki
PortugueseErva-pessegueira, Erva-de-bicho; Persicária (Brazil)
ProvençalPebre d’aigo
RomanianPiper de baltă, Piperul broașteiPiperul broaştei, Dintele dracului
RussianГорец перечный, Перец водяной
Gorets perechnyj, Perets vodyanoj
SerbianПапрац, Лисац, Папрени лисац, Водени бибер
Paprac, Lisac, Papreni lisac, Dvornik tankoklasni, Vodeni biber
SlovakŠtiav pieprový, Stavikrv pieprový, Horčiak pieprový
SlovenianPoprasta drese
SpanishPimienta acuática, Persicaria Picante
SwedishBitterblad, Bitterpilört
Thaiผักไผ่น้ำ, พะจีมี
Phak phai nam, Phachimi
TurkishSu biberi, Yeşil subiberi
UkrainianГірчак перцевий, Водяний перець, Чередник, Собачий перець
Hirchak pertsevyj, Vodyanyj perets, Sobachyj perets, Cherednyk
VietnameseNghể nước, Nghể răm
Nghe nuoc, Nghe ram
Polygonum/Persicasia hydropiper: Water pepper leaf
Water pepper leaf
Polygonum/Persicaria hydropiper: Water pepper seeds
Dried water pepper seeds
Used plant part

In Japanese cooking, the fresh leaves are used. The dried seeds have a strong pungency, but I have not heard of them being used in any ethnic cuisine.

Plant family

Polygon­aceae (buckwheat family)

Sensory quality

The plant has hardly any odour. On chewing, it is slightly bitter in the first moment, but then develops a pungent, biting–prickling heat, which lasts for a while, similar to Sichuan pepper.

See also negro pepper about pungent and zedoary about bitter spices.

Polygonum/Persicaria hydropiper: Water pepper (sterile twig)
Water pepper (sterile twig)
Main consti­tuents

A bicyclic sesqui­terpenoid, polygodial (tadeonal, an un­saturated dialdehyd with a drimane backbone) has been found responsible for the pungent taste; rutin (see rue) is the source of the bitter taste impression. Polygodial also appears in an exotic Australian spice, Tasmanian pepper, and, in small quantity, in the Brazil paracress.

The plant contains an essential oil (0.5%) which is mainly made up of monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids: α-pinene, β-pinene, 1,4-cineol, fenchone and α-humulene, β-caryophyllene, trans-β-bergamotene. Carboxylic acids (cinnamic, valeric, capronic acid) and their esters were present in traces. The composition depends strongly on genetic factors.


The plant grows at wet places in temperate to tropical Eurasia, North Africa and North America. The subspecies from temperate climate (ssp. hydropiper) is larger and has two-sided fruits, whereas the tropical subspecies (ssp. microcarpum) is generally smaller and produces three-sided fruits.

Polygonum/Persicaria hydropiper: Water pepper twig
Water pepper twig bearing flowers
Polygonum/Persicaria hydropiper: Water pepper flower
Water pepper flower

The term water pepper is motivated on one hand by the pungent peppery taste and on the other side by the plant’s natural habitat; analog formations are found in other European languages (German Wasser­pfeffer, French poivre d’eau, Serbian vodeni biber [водени бибер] or Russian perets vodyanoj [перец водыной]). Cf. also the English term marsh pepper and the Romanian name piper broașteipiper broaştei frog’s pepper.

The botanical species name, hydropiper, derives directly from the classical Greek plant name hydropeperi [ὑδροπέπερι], which appears in Dioskurides’ medical plant book (hydor [ὕδορ] water and peperi [πέπερι] pepper).

The word water has relatives in nearly every Indo–European language: Hittitee wātar [𒉿𒀀𒋫𒅈], Greek hydor [ὕδορ], Russian voda [вода] (vodka [водка] is a diminutive little water), Irish uisce (whisky is shortened from Gaelic uisge beatha water of life), Lithuanian vanduo, Sanskrit uda [उद] water, furthermore Latin unda wave. Another related English words are otter and possibly aurochs. At these words’ basis lies a variable Proto-Indo–European root WED- with basic meaning wet, whence WODR̥ water is derived.

Polygonum hydropiper: Waterpepper sprout
Water pepper

The Latin word for water, aqua, lives today in the Romance languages, e. g., in Italian acqua and French eau. In Germanic tongues, we have Gothic ahva, Old High German aha, Old English ea and Old Norse a water, Modern German Au area around a river. Possibly related words are found in other Western Indo–European tongues: Hittitee ekuzi he drinks and Tocharic yok- drink, which might all derive from Proto-Indo–European­pean AKʷĀ water.

About the genus name Poly­gonum, see the closely related Vietnamese coriander.

Selected Links

Sorting Persicaria names (

Polygonum hydropiper: Water pepper
Water pepper
Water pepper, despite being native in a large area of Eurasia, is little used for cooking outside of Japan. Its clear pungency makes it stand apart from all other pungent spices (and difficult to substitute), only the leaves of Tasmanian pepper have a comparable taste.

Since water pepper has not any specific taste beside its pungency, it is well suited for Japanese cookery (see also. Japanese cooks love water pepper for soups and salads, to which it lends certain pungency without masking the subtle flavour of see weed or fish. Water pepper can also be used to garnish sushi (see wasabi).

Water pepper seeds, although not used traditionally in any cuisine I know, have a strong, almost anaesthetic, pungency, which makes them an interesting spice and well worth trying. They somewhat remind to the Tasmanian peppercorns; although they lack the latter’s sweet flavour, they make an almost perfect substitute. Water pepper seeds have been used as a substitute for black pepper in Germany in the years after World War II, but are not commercially available nowadays.

Unicode Encoded Validate using the WDG validator Validate using the VALIDOME validator

Top   Plant part   Family   Aroma   Chemistry   Origin   Etymology   Discussion   Bottom