Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a hot, pungent spice that offers a host of health benefits. In fact, this amazing ingredient is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine.
Black pepper has an active component called piperine that gives this spice its characteristic taste. Plus, it is packed with several nutrients including iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, and vitamin A and C.
Black pepper is usually added to savory dishes after they have been cooked; 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 sauces that are cooked slowly.
Precautions and Risk Factors
- Consumption of Black pepper is safe so long as it is done in moderation. While most people can safely use it in food amounts, they may also benefit from the medicinal intake of black pepper which is slightly larger than the amounts found in your regular diet. Excessive intake by mouth, however, can prove to be quite problematic as the pepper might accidentally make its way into thelungs, and even lead to death. This fatal threat especially applies to children.
- Given its volatile nature, your eyes tend to turn red and burning after contact with black pepper.
- Keep your eyes safe when using this spice. Pregnant and nursing women are recommended to limit their pepper intake to food amounts. Taking larger amounts of black or white pepper by mouth increases the risk of a miscarriage. Since there is still a lot of ambiguity regarding the safety of using this spice topically during pregnancy, it’s best to avoid applying it to the skin.
Taking pepper along with some medications that are broken down by the liver such as lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others) can increase the chance of side effects.
Before taking black or white pepper, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Health Enhancing Benefits of Black Pepper
Here are 10 reasons why you would love this spice.
1. Increases Nutrient Absorption
Bioavailability can be described as the number of nutrients or supplements absorbed by the body.(1) The piperine in black pepper enhances the bioavailability of various nutrients such as vitamin A and C, selenium and beta-carotene. This results in the improvement of your overall health.
Researchers have found that piperine can increase the bioavailability of the compound curcumin (found in turmeric) 10 fold.(2) Curcumin helps fight infection and inflammation and even aids in preventing cancer.
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 an active form and remain available for use.(3)
2. Improves Digestion
This amazing spice stimulates the taste buds and increases the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach. This, in turn, aids proper digestion. Interestingly, most digestive issues occur due to a lack of hydrochloric acid rather than excessive amounts of it.
By improving digestion, black pepper helps relieve issues like colic, bloating, indigestion, flatulence, and constipation. It also possesses antibacterial qualities that help treat intestinal diseases caused by bacteria.(4)
3. Stimulates Appetite
Besides adding flavor to your food and promoting digestion, black pepper also works as an appetite stimulant. Preliminary research has shown that black pepper helps to improve the appetite through olfactory stimulation. This makes it an excellent, simple remedy for those with a poor appetite.(5)
An Ayurvedic remedy specifically for this purpose calls for consuming a mixture of a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 tablespoon of jaggery powder (gur). Use this remedy on a regular basis until you see improvement.
4. Facilitates Weight Loss
Although it stimulates the appetite, black pepper can also help you lose weight. The phytonutrients present in the outer layer of peppercorns promote the breakdown of fat cells.
A 2011 study based on the effects of piperine on the metabolism of rats revealed that it suppresses fat accumulation in the body. In addition, this fat-free ingredient can help you burn calories by improving your metabolism.(6)
Being a diuretic and diaphoretic herb, black pepper promotes urination and perspiration, which in turn help flush toxins and excess water from the body.(7)
5. Relieves Gas
Being a carminative, black pepper relieves stomach gas and also helps prevent gas formation.(8)
- 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 1/4 teaspoon each of black pepper and cumin powder.
- You can also massage your belly with black pepper oil mixed with a carrier oil (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 used in several cough and cold remedies.(9)(10)
- Simply drink a glass of lukewarm water mixed with a 1/2 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 will help clear your sinuses.
7. Combats Arthritis
Due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties, the piperine present in black pepper can be highly effective in treating arthritis.
Moreover, this wonderful spice improves circulation, thereby preventing or reducing joint pain caused by poor circulation. In a study conducted on rat models, researchers have found that black pepper helps reduce the perception of pain and arthritic symptoms.(11)
8. Fights Cancer and Prevents Other Diseases
Black pepper has antioxidant qualities that help fight cancer, particularly colon and breast cancers. A study conducted at St. Louis University in Mussoorie, found that black pepper can help inhibit colon cell proliferation due to its significant antiproliferative activity.(12)
Furthermore, its polyphenol content protects against high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
9. Works as a Natural Antidepressant
The piperine in black pepper acts as an antidepressant by increasing serotonin production.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is important for mood regulation. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.
Moreover, piperine increases beta-endorphins in the brain and promotes mental clarity. Endorphins work as natural painkillers and mood elevators. These reduce stress and promote a feeling of wellness that alleviates anxiety and melancholy.
10. Treats Teeth and Gum Problems
- Just mix equal amounts of salt and pepper in a few drops of water and massage your gums with the mixture.
- To alleviate a toothache, mix a pinch of black pepper powder in clove oil and apply it on the affected area
- Atal N, Bedi KL. Bioenhancers: Revolutionary concept to market. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151395/. Published 2010.
- Kesarwani K, Gupta R. Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: An overview. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3634921/. Published April 2013.
- Gorgani L, Mohammadi M, Najafpour GD, Nikzad M. Piperine-The Bioactive Compound of Black Pepper: From Isolation to Medicinal Formulations. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12246. Published November 22, 2016.
- ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/piperine.
- Munakata M, Kobayashi K, Niisato-Nezu J, et al. Olfactory stimulation using black pepper oil facilitates oral feeding in pediatric patients receiving long-term enteral nutrition. The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18441508. Published April 2008.
- Shah SS, Shah GB, Singh SD. Effect of piperine in the regulation of obesity-induced dyslipidemia in high-fat diet rats. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113382/. Published 2011.
- K GT. Nutritional Constituent of Black Pepper as Medicinal Molecules: A Review. Open Access Scientific Reports. https://www.omicsonline.org/scientific-reports/srep129.php. Published June 26, 2012.
- Joshi DR, Shrestha AC, Adhikari N. A REVIEW ON DIVERSIFIED USE OF THE KING OF SPICES: PIPER NIGRUM (BLACK PEPPER). INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENCES AND RESEARCH. http://ijpsr.com/bft-article/a-review-on-diversified-use-of-the-king-of-species-piper-nigrum-black-pepper/?view=fulltext. Published 2017.
- Mookadaipu (Sinusitis/ Rhinosinusitis). National Health Portal Of India. https://www.nhp.gov.in/mookadaipu-sinusitis-rhinosinusitis-_mtl. Published September 25, 2015.
- Improve Your Sinuses Today: What to Eat to Avoid Inflammation. Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/03/24/improve-your-sinuses-today-what-eat-avoid-inflammation. Published December 18, 2017.
- Bang JS, Oh DH, Choi HM. Anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects of piperine in human interleukin 1β-stimulated fibroblast-like synoviocytes and in rat arthritis models. Arthritis Research & Therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2688199/. Published March 30, 2009.
- Duessel S, Heuertz RM, Ezekiel UR. Growth inhibition of human colon cancer cells by plant compounds. Clinical Laboratory Science. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18678136. Published 2008.
- Chonpathompikunlert P, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S. Piperine, the main alkaloid of Thai black pepper, protects against neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment in animal model of cognitive deficit like condition of Alzheimer’s disease. Food and Chemical Toxicology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20034530. Published March 2010.
- Suchetha A, Bharwani AG. Efficacy of a commercially available multi-herbal formulation in periodontal therapy. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3713750/. Published 2013.