Black Pepper

Updated on November 15, 2020

Scientific: Piper nigrum [WikiPedia]

Composition: Piperine, which is identical in composition to morphia, volatile oil, a resin called Chavicin. Its medicinal activities depends mainly on its pungent resin and volatile oil, which is colourless, turning yellow with age, with a strong odour, and not so acrid a taste as the peppercorn; it also contains starch, cellulose and colouring.

Appearance: Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning.

Parts Used: Fruit

Common Uses: Ground dried and cooked peppercorns have been used since antiquity, both for flavour and as a traditional medicine. Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice, and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Its spiciness is due to the chemical compound piperine, which is a different kind of spicy from the capsaicin characteristic of chili peppers. It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning, and is often paired with salt and available on dining tables in shakers or mills. Black pepper contains moderate amount sof vitamin K, iron, and manganses with trace amounts of other essential nutrients, protein and dietary fibre. Like many eastern spices, pepper was historically both a seasoning and a folk medicine. Long pepper, being stronger, was often the preferred medication, but both were used. Black pepper (or perhaps long pepper) was believed to cure several illnesses, such as constipation, insomnia, oral abscesses, sunburn, and toothaches, among others. Various sources from the fifth century onward recommended pepper to treat eye problems, often by applying salves or poultices made with pepper directly to the eye. No current medical evidence indicates any of these treatments has any benefit.

Piperine is under study for its potential to increase absorption of selenium, vitamin B12, beta-carotene and curcumin, as well as other compounds. As a folk medicine, pepper appears in the Buddhist Samaññaphala Sutta, chapter five, as one of the few medicines a monk is allowed to carry. Pepper contains phytochemicals, including amides, piperidines, pyrrolidines and trace amounts of safrole, which may be carcinogenic in laboratory rodents.

Medicinal actions and uses include aromatic, stimulant, carminative; is said to possess febrifuge properties. Its action as a stimulant is specially evident on the mucous membrane of the rectum, and so is good for constipation, also on the urinary organs; externally it is a rubefacient, useful in relaxed conditions of the rectum when prolapsed; sometimes used in place of cubebs for gonorrhoea; given in combination with aperients to facilitate their action, and to prevent griping. As a gargle it is valued for relaxed uvula, paralysis of the tongue. On account of its stimulant action it aids digestion and is specially useful in atonic dyspepsia and torbid condition of the stomach. It will correct flatulence and nausea. It has also been used in vertigo, paralytic and arthritic disorders. It is sometimes added to quinine when the stomach will not respond to quinine alone. It has also been advised in diarrhoea, cholera, scarlatina, and in solution for a wash for tinea capititis. Piperine should not be combined with astringents, as it renders them inert.

Topic Specific Research:

  • Spices for Prevention and Treatment of Cancers [PubMED];
  • Potential of piperine in modulation of voltage-gated K+ current and its influences on cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells [PubMED];
  • Improvement in insulin resistance and favourable changes in plasma inflammatory adipokines after weight loss associated with two months’ consumption of a combination of bioactive food ingredients in overweight subjects [PubMED];
  • Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked [PubMED];
  • Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging [PubMED];
  • Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise [PubMED];

Used In:

PLEASE NOTE that herbal and other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.

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