Black pepper (scientific name: Piper nigrum) is a hot, pungent spice with a host of health benefits. In fact, it is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine.
It has an active component called piperine that gives black pepper its characteristic taste. Plus, it contains iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, vitamins A and C, and other nutrients.
Black pepper usually is added to savory dishes when they are done cooking, otherwise its volatile oils tend to evaporate and diminish its flavor. Freshly ground black pepper has the most flavor. Peppercorns work well in soups, stews, marinades, and other sauces that are cooked slowly.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of black pepper.
1. Increases Nutrient Absorption
The piperine in black pepper enhances the bioavailability of various nutrients such as vitamins A and C, selenium, beta-carotene, and others, thereby improving your overall health. Bioavailability refers to the amount of a nutrient or supplement that is absorbed by the body.
For example, researchers have found that it can increase the bioavailability of the compound curcumin (found in turmeric) twentyfold. Curcumin helps fight cancer, infection, and inflammation.
Moreover, piperine stimulates amino acid transporters in the intestinal lining and inhibits enzymes that help metabolize nutritional compounds. It also prevents the removal of substances from cells and reduces intestinal activity, so more substances enter the body in active form and remain available for use.
2. Improves Digestion
Black pepper stimulates the taste buds and increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which in turn aids proper digestion. Interestingly, most digestive problems are caused by a lack of hydrochloric acid rather than excess amounts of it.
By improving digestion, black pepper relieves issues like colic, bloating, indigestion, flatulence, and constipation. It also has antibacterial qualities that help treat intestinal diseases caused by bacteria.
3. Stimulates Appetite
Besides adding flavor to your food and promoting digestion, black pepper works as an appetite stimulant. Research has shown that black pepper helps improve the appetite through olfactory stimulation. This makes it an excellent, simple remedy for those with a poor appetite.
An Ayurvedic remedy specifically for this purpose calls for consuming a mixture of one-half teaspoon of black pepper and one tablespoon of jaggery powder (gur). Take this remedy on a regular basis till you see improvement.
4. Facilitates Weight Loss
Although it stimulates the appetite, black pepper also can help you lose weight. The outer layer of peppercorns contains phytonutrients that encourage the breakdown of fat cells.
A 2010 study of the effects of piperine on the metabolism of mice revealed that it suppresses fat accumulation in the body. Also, by improving your metabolism this fat-free food can help you burn calories.
In addition, being a diuretic and diaphoretic herb, it promotes urination and perspiration, which in turn help flush toxins and excess water from the body.
5. Relieves Gas
Being a carminative, black pepper relieves stomach gas and also helps prevent gas formation.
- If you are prone to stomach gas, try spicing up your food with black pepper instead of chili powder or peppers.
- To cure indigestion and heaviness in your stomach, you can have a glass of buttermilk mixed with one-quarter teaspoon each of black pepper and cumin powder.
- You can also massage your belly with black pepper oil mixed with carrier oil (a base oil) to relieve gas pain.
6. Helps Clear Congestion
Black pepper can be used to clear up a stuffy nose and congestion as it helps loosen phlegm. It also has antimicrobial properties, which is why black pepper is included in various cough and cold remedies.
- Simply drink a glass of lukewarm water mixed with one-half tablespoon of black pepper powder, two or three times a day to clear the respiratory system.
- Alternatively, you can try steam inhalation from a pot of hot water mixed with some black pepper and eucalyptus oil.
- Another simple remedy is to sniff a mixture of black pepper and a few drops of sesame oil. It will induce sneezing but clear your sinuses.