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Capers

Scientific Name(s): Capparis spinosa L.
Common Name(s): Alcaparro (Spanish, Portugese), Alcappara (Spanish, Portugese), Caper, Caperberry, Caperbush, Cappero (Italian), Fabagelle (French), Himsra (India), Kabarra (Punjabi), Kapernstrauch (German), Kapersy (Russian), Kapper (German), Kappertjes (Dutch), Kapricserje (Hungarian), Kapris (Finnish, Swedish), Kiari (Hindi), Kobra (Hindi), Lussef (Egyptian), Tapana (French, Spanish), Torkav (Estonian)

Clinical Overview

Use

Pickled flower buds are used as a condiment. Limited clinical trials are lacking to support various traditional uses. Antioxidant, hepatoprotective, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, and immune actions are being investigated.

Dosing

Limited adequate clinical evidence exists to guide dosage. Diabetes mellitus type 2: 1,200 mg (400 mg 3 times daily) of caper fruit extract given over 2 months was used in a small clinical trial. Ethnobotanical medicinal use for diabetes includes doses of 2 to 8 g of caper fruit eaten per day.

Contraindications

Avoid use in patients hypersensitive to the plant species.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Generally recognized as safe when used as food. Capers have been used in traditional Arabian medicine for diabetes as well as an emmenagogue and should be avoided in pregnancy.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Topical use of capers may cause contact dermatitis. Food allergy has also been reported.

Toxicology

Information is limited.

Botany

C. spinosa L. is a member of the Capparidaceae family and is also known as C. rupestris and C. ovata Desf.Alkire 2017 C. spinosa is a dicotyledonous perennial shrub found throughout the Mediterranean countries of Europe, Asia, and North Africa where it prefers the dry heat and intense sunlight. The plant has been used for erosion control because the roots grow up to 3 m into the soil. It is also salt-tolerant and grows readily along shores within sea-spray zones. From mid-April to the end of September, capers may grow 1 to 1.5 m in height, spread 2 to 3 m, and bud white flowers up to 7.6 cm across. If unpicked, the caper bud will flower and produce a round berry fruit (caperberry). Two forms of the caper can be found, a spiny and a nonspiny variety. The genus has been reported to include 350 species.Alkire 2017, Andrade 1997, Inocencio 2002, Kelly 1991, USDA 2008

History

The caper has a long history of use as a culinary spice and remains widely used as a spice today. Archaeological findings in China indicate a medicinal use for the caper. In ancient Greece, the caper was used as a carminative (relieving flatulence) whereas records of ayurvedeic medicine include its use to improve liver function. Capers have also been used for arteriosclerosis, diuresis, kidney disinfectant, and as vermifuges and tonics.Alkire 2017, Jiang 2007, Simon 1984

In commercial operations, the unopened flower buds are collected by hand and pickled to produce the characteristic pungent taste and smell. Immature small leaves are also eaten as a vegetable or picked and used in salads and fish dishes. The fruits (ie, caperberry, capperone, taperone) are used in sauces or pickled and eaten similar to small gherkins. The strong flavor of caper comes from mustard oil; methyl isothiocyanate. Seeds of the caper have been traditionally used to preserve wine and relieve toothache, while infusions and decoctions from the root bark has been used for cough, asthma, arthritis, gout, dropsy (edema), paralysis, anemia, spleen and skin disorders, as well as for rheumatism. Caper roots have been burned and the ash used as a source of salt.Alkire 2017, Jiang 2007, Simon 1984

Chemistry

Extracts of the dried whole plant contain the flavonoids rutin, kaempferol-3-glucoside, kaempferol-3-rutinoside, and kaempferol-3-rhamnorutinoside.Rodrigo 1992 Other components include quercetin 3-O-glucoside, quercetin 3-O-glucoside-7-O-rhamnoside, a new flavonoid quercetin 3-O-(6-alpha-L-rhamnosyl-6-beta-D-glucosyl)-beta-D-glucosideSharaf 2000 and 2 novel (6S)-hydroxy-3-oxo-alpha-ionol glucosides.Calis 2002 One article reports on the anti-inflammatory activity of the polyprenol cappaprenol-13.al-Said 1988 Other identified compounds include ursolic acid, coumaric acid, nicotinamide, sitosterol, cadabicine, and stachydrine.Khanfar 2003 Many of these compounds are also found in the floral buds.Tesoriere 2007

Mature fruits contain an indole acetonitrile and various glucosides.Calis 2002

Seed oil contains the fatty acids linoleic and oleic acids, sterols, and tocopherols.Matthäus 2005

Uses and Pharmacology

Few high-quality clinical trials exist.

Antimicrobial

A butanolic caper extract exerted antimicrobial effects greater than those of aqueous extracts in in vitro experiments. Clinical importance was not evaluated and no comparison was made with standard antimicrobial agents.Ali-Shtayeh 1999, Mahasneh 2002

Antioxidant

Methanol extracts of the flower buds have been evaluated for antioxidant effect. Inhibition of lipid oxidation has been demonstrated in vitro; the mechanism is attributed to a cooperative interactionTesoriere 2007 between the tocopherol, flavonoid, and isothiocyanate chemical constituents.Germano 2002, Tesoriere 2007

Hepatoprotective

p-Methoxy benzoic acid, from an aqueous C. spinosa extract, protected against induced hepatotoxicity in rats.Gadgoli 1999 Similarly, a clinical trial investigating the efficacy of a mixed preparation containing caper extract combined with other extracts found an improvement in liver function laboratory values.Huseini 2005

Hypoglycemic

Animal data

Experiments in diabetic rats have reported a hypoglycemic effect.Eddouks 2004

Clinical data

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 60 Iranian adults investigated the antihyperglycemic effect of caper fruit extract (1,200 mg/day, equivalent to 5 g/day caper fruit on average). Participants were type 2 diabetic patients who were stabilized for 2 months on a diabetic food regimen and antidiabetic medications prior to study initiation. After 2 months of treatment, consumption of the caper extract led to a significant improvement in fasting blood glucose (FBG; mean change, −20.2 mg/dL; P=0.037) and HgA1c (mean change, −0.4%; P=0.043) compared to controls; no significant changes were observed in any lipid parameters, liver enzymes, or other lab values. Compared to baseline, FBG and triglycerides improved significantly in the caper group (P=0.005 and P=0.29, respectively). No adverse effects were seen in either group.Huseini 2013

Hypolipidemic

In normal and diabetic (induced) rats fed aqueous extracts of the powdered caper fruits for a 2-week period, a reduction in plasma cholesterol and triglycerides was demonstrated.Eddouks 2005

Immune

A 2% methanol caper extract in aqueous gel inhibited histamine-induced erythema in human volunteers.Trombetta 2005 A protective effect on chondrocyte cells was shown in vitro and may be due to activation of an immune response.Panico 2005

Dosing

A 2% aqueous gel has been used for antihistaminic effects.Trombetta 2005 Approximately 600 mg of dried whole plant extract per day has been used in a mixed preparation in experiments investigating hepatoprotective effects.Huseini 2005

Diabetes

Average doses recommended by herbalists in Iranian ethnobotanic medicine are 2 to 8 g/day of dry pickled caper fruits. A dose of hydro-alcoholic caper fruit extract 400 mg taken 3 times daily was used in a clinical trial in type 2 diabetics patients.Eddouks 2005

Pregnancy / Lactation

Generally recognized as safe when used as food. Capers have been used in traditional Arabian medicine as an emmenagogue and should be avoided during pregnancy.Khanfar 2003

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

The topical application of wet compresses soaked in fluid containing capers has been associated with the development of contact dermatitis.Angelini 1991 A food allergy to caper fruit and bud was confirmed with skin prick tests in a 22-year-old man after he presented to the emergency department with angioedema of the face and hands, redness, and aphonia.Alcántara 2013

Toxicology

Information is limited. No reduction of cell viability was demonstrated by a methanol extract of capers.Panico 2005 Related species may be poisonous.Simon 1984

References

Alcántara M, Morales M, Carnés J. Food allergy to caper (Capparis spinosa). J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2013;23(1):67-69.
Ali-Shtayeh MS, Abu Ghdeib SI. Antifungal activity of plant extracts against dermatophytes. Mycoses. 1999;42(11-12):665-672.
Alkire B. Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products. New crop FactSHEET - capers. https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/caper.html. Accessed May 3, 2017.
al-Said MS, Abdelsattar EA, Khalifa SI, el-Feraly FS. Isolation and identification of an anti-inflammatory principle from Capparis spinosa. Pharmazie. 1988;43(9):640-641.3244735
Andrade G, Esteban E, Velasco L, Lorite MJ, Bedmar EJ. Isolation and identification of N2-fixing microorganisms from the rhizosphere of Capparis spinosa (L.). Plant Soil. 1997;197:19-23.
Angelini G, Vena GA, Filotico R, Foti C, Grandolfo M. Allergic contact dermatitis from Capparis spinosa L. applied as wet compresses. Contact Dermatitis. 1991;24(5):382-383.1893693
Calis I, Kuruuzum-Uz A, Lorenzetto PA, Ruedi P. (6S)-Hydroxy-3-oxo-alpha-ionol glucosides from Capparis spinosa fruits. Phytochemistry. 2002;59(4):451-457.11830166
Capparis spinosa L. USDA, NRCS. 2007. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, September 2008). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Eddouks M, Lemhadri A, Michel JB. Caraway and caper: potential anti-hyperglycaemic plants in diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;94(1):143-148.15261975
Eddouks M. Lemhadri A. Michel JB. Hypolipidemic activity of aqueous extract of Capparis spinosa L. in normal and diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;98(3):345-350.15814271
Gadgoli C, Mishra SH. Antihepatotoxic activity of p-methoxy benzoic acid from Capparis spinosa. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;66(2):187-192.10433476
Germano MP, et al. Evaluation of extracts and isolated fraction from Capparis spinosa L. buds as an antioxidant source. J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50(5):1168-1171.11853498
Huseini HF, Alavian SM, Heshmat R, Heydari MR, Abolmaali K. The efficacy of Liv-52 on liver cirrhotic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled first approach. Phytomedicine. 2005;12(9):619-624.16194047
Huseini HF, Hasani-Rnjar S, Nayebi N, et al. Capparis spinose L. (Caper) fruit extract in treatment of type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Therap Med. 2013;21(5):447-452.
Inocencio C, Alcaraz F, Calderon F, Obon C, Rivera D. The use of floral characters in Capparis sect. Capparis to determine the botanical and geographical origin of capers. Eur Food Res Technol. 2002;214:335-339.
Jiang HE, Li X, Ferguson DK, Wang, YF, Liu CJ, Li CS. The discovery of Capparis spinosa L. (Capparidaceae) in the Yanghai Tombs (2800 years b.p.), NW China, and its medicinal implications. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;113(3):409-420.17693045
Kelly D. Imported capers. Horticulture. 1991;69:16-17.
Khanfar MA, Sabri SS, Zarga MH, Zeller KP. The chemical constituents of Capparis spinosa of Jordanian origin. Nat Prod Res. 2003;17(1):9-14.12674136
Mahasneh AM. Screening of some indigenous Qatari medicinal plants for antimicrobial activity. Phytother Res. 2002;16(8):751-753.12458480
Matthäus B, Ozcan M. Glucosinolates and fatty acid, sterol, and tocopherol composition of seed oils from Capparis spinosa Var. spinosa and Capparis ovata Desf. Var. canescens (Coss.) Heywood. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(18):7136-7141.16131121
Panico AM, Cardile V, Garufi F, Puglia C, Bonina F, Ronsisvalle G. Protective effect of Capparis spinosa on chondrocytes. Life Sci. 2005;77(20):2479-2488.15946691
Rodrigo M, Lazaro MJ, Alvarruiz A, Giner V. Composition of capers (Capparis spinosa): influence of cultivar, size, and harvest date. J Food Sci. 1992;57:1152-1154.
Sharaf M, el-Ansari MA, Saleh NA. Quercetin triglycoside from Capparis spinosa. Fitoterapia. 2000;71(1):46-49.11449469
Simon JE, Chadwick AF, Craker LE. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography, 1971-1980. Hamden, CT: Archon Books; 1984.
Tesoriere L, Butera D, Gentile C, Livrea MA. Bioactive components of caper (Capparis spinosa L.) from Sicily and antioxidant effects in a red meat simulated gastric digestion. J Agric Food Chem. 2007;55(21):8465-8471.17887802
Trombetta D, Occhiuto F, Perri D, et al. Antiallergic and antihistaminic effect of two extracts of Capparis spinosa L. flowering buds. Phytother Res. 2005;19(1):29-33.15799005

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This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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