Black Pepper Health Review - 2019
Table of Contents
Break down and History
What is Black Pepper?
Black pepper is derived from a flowering berry vine indigenous to Kerala, a southern state in India, belonging in the family of Piperaceae and given the canonical name "Piper nigrum". Black pepper is usually planted and cultivated as a fruit, which is then cooked and dried to create the seasoning and spice that we know as black pepper.
The long history of black pepper stems from Indian soil. The spice is native to South India and a few other areas in Southern Asia.
Black pepper has been used in Indian cuisine since back in ancient times around 2060 BC. The main source of peppercorn exports was in, what used to be called the Malabar Coast, which is the present day city of Kerala, southern India.
Peppercorns were an important trade good, and for this reason, they were also called ‘Black Gold’ and were used in the form of currency. Before the 16th century, pepper was being grown in Java, Sumatra, Madagascar, and in most countries of Southeast Asia. The nutrients in black pepper give it its powerful culinary status. Which is why it is important that we know about them.
A pinch of black pepper is added to almost every imaginable savory recipe (and some desserts too) due to its remarkable pungent flavour. Black pepper is also commonly referred to as 'The King of Spices' and 'Black Gold' because of its rarity and popularity.
Ground pepper has become a fundamental spice included in meals. Most modern professional cuisine includes black pepper in some form. The most commonly used peppers are the black pepper, red pepper, and white pepper.
The use of these peppers are so essential to cooking that black pepper happens to be the world’s most traded spice, it alone amounts to about 20% of imported spices. Black pepper isn't only used to spice up your food but can be also used as a form of medicine. It also has an alkaloid known as Piperine which is what gives black pepper its distinctive spiciness.
Not only is black pepper a useful flavouring agent when used for cooking, but it also has a rich source of minerals and nutrients, such as fiber and protein. And best of all, it’s easy to incorporate black pepper into your diet since you can sprinkle it over anything, salads, cuts of meat, sauces, bread, and pastas.
Here's the breakdown of how each of the different kinds of coloured peppers are processed by the peppercorn plant.
Black pepper is obtained from the pepper plant while the drupes (fruits) are still unripe or partly green. These drupes are then cooked in boiling water. Cooking the drupes in water helps to clean the pepper and also prepares it for the next stage in making peppercorns, which is drying.
The drupes are typically dried in an oven but some traditional companies dry them under the sun. During the drying period, the peppers' skin starts to form a dark crusty layer. After being dried, the resulting product is what's known as black pepper.
Green peppercorns are made in a somewhat similar process to black peppers. They're made from unripe green drupes as well, but instead of undergoing the same harsh drying process as the black peppers.
The green peppers are treated in a more delicate way that ensures that the green colour is preserved. Treatment methods like canning or freezing are great in helping to retain its firm green colour.
White peppercorns, on the other hand, are made from the seeds of the pepper plant instead of the skin, which is completely removed in the production process.
The unique process of making white peppercorns is the rettting method. The process involves soaking ripe red peppercorns in water for about 7 days, thereby making the flesh of the skin extremely soft to the point where it's falling off.
The seeds are then dried and then grounded. Aside from retting, there are other methods that can be used to separate the seeds from the flesh. Other kinds of peppers can be derived from the same pepper plant, which includes wild peppers, orange, red, and pink peppercorns.
You can buy whole dried peppercorns or as a preground pepper seasoning. To get the most flavour out of your black pepper, it's best to buy whole peppercorns and milling when needed instead of buying preground peppercorns.
Black pepper has been used throughout history for herbal medicine uses and to food preservation. A dusting of black pepper has more significant benefits than just being a flavour enhancer.
The King of Spices is mostly known to have numerous health benefits all while giving a beautiful depth of flavour to a dish. Black pepper works in every diet because it helps promote weight loss, improves digestion, suppress colds and coughing, reduces inflammation, and boosts your metabolism.
Black pepper also has strong antioxidants, antibacterial and immune-boosting qualities, fever-calming and improved mental health properties. Peppercorns can also help everyday people slow down, and eventually even quit their smoking habits; Black pepper oil, after being diffused creates vapours that are actively used for smoking cessation therapy.
What's even more fascinating about black pepper, is that it's not grown or cultivated in any specific season, it's available all year round. In ancient times, black pepper was too expensive for everyone but the richest people living in the Mediterranean basin.
As mentioned earlier, black pepper amounts to around 20 percent of all global imports, you can clearly state that the spice is a core value for everyday uses.
Peppercorns are a prized member of many different styles of kitchens, restaurants, and cuisines all over the world. The spicy flavour profiles from all of the different peppercorns, make it possible for them to be included in almost any dish, culture, or style of cooking on the planet.
A small pinch of black pepper here and there is all you need to get the most out of its health benefits.
Aside from it being a great addition to the taste and flavour in your food, peppercorns actually do have a large range of health benefits that just make it even more desired by many. Here are the health benefits of black pepper:
1. Black Peppercorns Improves Your Digestive System
Black pepper increases digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach, thereby facilitating digestion which in turn boosts your digestive health. Black pepper is the leading type of peppercorn that has this benefit.
Proper digestion and gut health are essential for avoiding intestinal issues such as: diarrhea, constipation, and colic (pain from bloating). Black pepper also helps prevent the blockage of intestinal gas, and when added to your daily diet, it can also help promote sweating and urination.
Sweating helps your body release some of its toxins and foreign cells from your pores which have been lodged there. This process also helps you shed excess stored water weight. Urinating removes uric acid, urea, excess water weight, and body fat (around 3% of your urine content is fat).
Having a healthy digestive system helps with weight loss, improves your nutritional absorption, and prevents severe gastrointestinal conditions.
As black pepper is a natural carminative (relieving flatulence), it helps your body easily remove trapped gas out of your body in a natural, healthy manner. For comparison, gas moving up the intestines can be harmful since it could strain and even damage the upper chest cavity, your diaphragm, and other internal organs.
In summary, the piperine found in black pepper helps ease the digestive process by stimulating the stomach, which in turn secretes more hydrochloric acid which helps in the digestion of proteins found in your meals. Adding a pinch of pepper over your meals will actually help your body digest it faster and more efficiently.
Some reports also state that black pepper can help heal and relieve peptic ulcers in the stomach.
2. Reduces Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a serious condition that has an unfortunate impact on 1/4rth of the world population. Luckily this common issue is easily treatable through medicine, or with a change of diet and lifestyle.
Chronic high levels of blood pressure is a huge risk factor and trigger for many other complications such as kidney disease, strokes, and even heart failure, all of which can lead to a decreased life expectancy.
There's a compound found in black pepper, that can have a drastic beneficial effect on your blood pressure.
Black pepper contains a compound called piperine which gives the peppercorns their distinct pungency, this alkaloid also helps with the reduction of your blood pressure.
Piperine reduces blood pressure in animals as well as in humans. Research has shown that ingesting piperine can lower and control blood pressure as well as alleviate hypertension.
3. Provides Respiratory Relief and Helps With Colds and Coughs
The origins of when black pepper was being used to fight colds and coughs actually date back to ancient Chinese civilizations.
Although there was a lack of science, medical research and technology (obviously) during those times, people living during that era still found that black pepper can be used as an immune supporting nutrient, a very early adoption of a "supplement". Black pepper has since been known to arouse the circulation and flow of mucus in the oesophagus.
Asthmatic patients can also benefit from the benefits of black pepper as one research paper showed that when taking in black pepper consistently through diet or supplementation, it helped alleviate irritation and pressure around the chest.
As black pepper is antibacterial in nature, it's the main component that helps relieve cold and coughs. Just a teaspoon of honey mixed with ground black pepper can be really effective.
In a cup, mix two tablespoons of honey with one teaspoon of powdered black pepper. Add boiling water (or add the mix to a cup of tea) to dilute the mix as much as you'd prefer, and then allowing it all to soak for a few minutes. I'd personally recommend adding the honey/pepper mix to some tea for the added benefit of soothing your throat while decongesting your throat.
This mainly helps with alleviating chest congestion, often caused by pollution, flus, or any other viral infections. You can also add some eucalyptus oil to the mix (if you can handle it). Also, given that black pepper is rich in Vitamin C, it also works great as an immune booster.
There are many medical practices where black pepper's added to mixes and tonics for treating cold and cough. Black pepper also relieves sinusitis and nasal congestion. Black pepper has an expectorant property (to secrete saliva by your air passage) that helps break up and release the clumps of mucus and phlegm stuck in the respiratory tract.
Capsaicin is a natural irritant helps your body expel loosened clumps of bacteria through sneezing or coughing reflexes, which removes the debris. This helps you recover from infection or illness at a much faster rate. Stews or soups that use black pepper and other aromatic spices are often the primary go-to option when treating colds and coughs.
Black pepper has been used for these reasons through the history of medicine, ancient and modern. Peppercorns are known for stimulating circulation and the flow of mucus. And because honey is a natural cough suppressant, when combining the 2 into, usually within a drink, the effect is enhanced.
Peppercorns also help to ease asthmatic symptoms. One study conducted on asthmatic patients in a special care facility found that giving black pepper supplements to the patients improved their asthmatic conditions. Black pepper cleared the respiratory tract and eased other respiratory difficulties too.
4. Promotes Weight Loss
The same piperine chemical that helps with reducing your blood pressure also helps your body reduce the development of fat cells in your body.
Adding black pepper to your diet will also help you in the long run, by shedding excess fat to be able to achieve your weight loss goals. One teaspoon of black pepper has a meagre 8 calories and is a great alternative to other seasoning or dressings that would pack in more calories.
The outer layer crust of the peppercorns is what helps with the breaking down of fat cells. Peppered meals are a good way of helping you shed excess body fat naturally. When your fat cells are broken down, they're much easily accessed and then processed by your body.
Black pepper is really effective when it comes to enhancing the nutrients from your food. Its outermost crust contains phytonutrients which help break down fat cells, and also increases your metabolism.
If you eat freshly ground black pepper and start to notice that you're sweating, that's the effect of the peppercorn helping your body shed excess water and waste. Numerous studies have shown that the piperine found in black pepper, also halts the storage of new fat cells.
This is what most people hovering around 10% body fat would need to give them the extra edge and head closer towards their weight loss goals. Research papers suggest that black pepper can be an alternative option compared to modern fat loss treatments.
Black pepper’s ability to stop fat cells from forming set off a chain of reactions that can fat formation at many other biological levels, like in your cells and organs.
Black pepper is a wonderful touch up to your weight loss diet, it's low in calories, stops new fat cells from forming, and it increases your metabolism.
5. Has Large Amounts of Antioxidants
Black pepper is an antioxidant haven. Antioxidants help the body fight a multitude of disease-causing bacteria and helps with building resistances against them. A study recently revealed that black pepper contains a very high level of antioxidants.
Piperine makes it possible for the nutrients in your meals to be easily absorbed by your body cells. This means that with the help of black pepper, powdered or in supplement form had positive health benefits in every subject who participated.
Various studies conducted over the last 30 years show that increased antioxidant consumption has positive health effects on a variety of different health conditions. One 6 year trial was conducted, during some of the participants regularly took an antioxidant mix of supplements showed a big reduction in age-induced macular degeneration.
Consuming antioxidants on a regular basis can also reduce the risk of certain types of cancers as well as heart-related diseases. The antioxidants found in peppercorns can prevent and repair the damage caused by free radicals, help prevent related diseases, and improves your immune system.
According to another review study conducted by Jie Zheng, compared different spices, and found that the piperine found in black pepper shows anti-tumour effects on many common cancers. These include breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.
In another Indian study used rats induced with oxidative stress, after administering black pepper into their diets, the rats showed a considerable reduction in total oxidative stress.
One final study done by the National Institute of Nutrition in India found that black pepper had the highest amount of antioxidants compared to every other ingredient they studied. Peppercorns also had the highest dose of phenolic acid.
Peppercorns also contain Vitamins C, A, Flavonoids, Carotenes, all of which contribute to its health benefits. To get the most out of black peppers' benefits is to have it freshly ground, instead of cooking it along with food.
6. Strengthens Teeth
People who suffer from tooth related pains or aches can get a soothing relief when using black pepper. Black pepper is known to reduce toothaches as well as other mouth and gum related maladies.
The spread of the disease-causing bacteria is neutralized with the use of black pepper. Mix ¼ teaspoon of pepper and ¼ teaspoon of salt with a few drops of water to create a paste. Apply it directly on the affected tooth and gum area and let sit for 3-5 minutes. Applying it to the affected area is one sure way to get relief and reduce swelling.
7. Revitalizes and Strengthens Your Hair
It's not an uncommon sight today to see young adults with natural grey or white hairs. Black pepper can help stop your hair from early graying. This process also helps treat dandruff!
To do this, simply mix ¼ teaspoon of black pepper in a cup of yogurt and gently massage your scalp with the mix. Leave it in your hair for about 25-30 minutes; you can wear a shower cap to make sure the mix stays in your hair. After the times up, rinse your hair thoroughly!
8. Improves Brain Health and Function
Piperine, a key ingredient of black pepper, has shown in numerous studies to reduce cognitive impairments and malfunctions. The neural pathways in the brain are stimulated by the piperine, it's been researched that black pepper has the ability to benefit Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering from age-related or free radical-related cognitive damage or malfunctions.
The 2 main chemicals the brain uses for calmness and resting are called Serotonin (the "Happiness" hormone) and Melatonin (the "Sleep" regulating hormone). Serotonin is a positive, calming neurotransmitter while melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating sleep patterns.
However, there's an enzyme that often disrupts the flow of melatonin and serotonin.
Piperine hinders AANAT, a disruptive enzyme from degrading melatonin and serotonin, all of which means more sleep and restfulness for your brain. Alzheimer’s can also be prevented with the frequent consumption of black pepper. It's also useful in fighting depression, as well as Parkinson's disease.
People who suffer from depression and Parkinson’s disease usually lack Dopamine which is a hormone that makes one feel rewarded and feel good. Consumption of black pepper helps to fight a Dopamine blocking enzyme.
Black pepper also delays brain ageing and prevents Alzheimer’s disease. It can also boost nerve activity in your brain, which can help alleviate seizures. This also helps protect the neurons and the prevention of early cell deaths.
An Indian study concluded that piperine can decrease the formation of amyloidal plaque, which reduces the risk of Alzheimer's Disease. Patients who've suffered from a recent stroke have also shown recuperative effects when black pepper is added to their diets. Their premature cell deaths are also prevented.
9. Increased levels of Testosterone and Fertility
Testosterone levels in men are increased by black pepper. Black pepper contains a good amount of magnesium and zinc which are two minerals that play a big part in the maintenance and production of Testosterone. This leads to an increased sperm count, better cell development, health, and longevity.
10. Improves Skin
Crushed pepper is the best natural exfoliators nature gave us. You shouldn't use it directly on your skin though. Make a mix by adding a bit of honey or yogurt to the mix and you can then apply it to your skin.
This helps with improving blood circulation and gives more oxygen to your skin. Applying the mix to your skin takes care of your skin wrinkles, too. Black pepper is also known to help cure Vitiligo, a disorder where your skin loses its pigmentation and creates white patches.
If you're looking for a natural product to use to keep your skin nice and radiant then you should definitely give black pepper a try. When nutrients found inside black pepper are combined with honey or yogurt, you can then apply it to your dry spots. Doing this helps create really soft and smooth looking skin.
A research held at the Oregon Health and Science University, the piperine in black pepper can help the skin to produce melanocytes pigmentation. A treatment using piperine combined with ultraviolet light therapy is much softer than the alternative, more aggressive chemical treatments for vitiligo. This also helps reduce the chance of developing skin cancer due to excessive ultraviolet radiation.
Side Effects and Detriments
As vast are the advantages of black pepper, it also has a number of side effects that you need to pay attention to.
Although this is highly uncommon and very rare, direct consumption or ingestion of black pepper can cause death by finding its way into your lungs. It's best that kids avoid raw black pepper since they might want to swallow it. And even for adults, your pepper should be mixed in with your food to further avoid inhalation.
Black pepper doesn't work well when mixed with other drugs. Cyclosporine A (preventing organ rejection) and cytochrome P450 should never be taken alongside black pepper. It's also prone to cause irritation in multiple areas.
Redness and itchiness from your skin are just a few of the symptoms that are most commonly experienced. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid taking in too much black pepper.
Pregnant women become much more sensitive to spices, which includes black pepper. For breastfeeding mothers, piperine can easily be transferred to the mothers' breast milk which would be unpleasant and potentially harmful for the baby.
The over usage of black pepper in a simple meal can cause you to have a burning sensation in your stomach, usually related to acid reflux. Although it's only temporary, if overeaten too often can lead to a chronic acid reflux disease.
Rating and Recommendation
The health benefits of black pepper heavily outweigh its side effects. The important thing is to make sure you're taking in the right amount in each meal.
The huge list of health benefits that comes from piperine, makes it extremely versatile for your diet and for its flavour. It can be used as an antioxidant supplement as well as help fight life threatening diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And on top of all that, black pepper complements your outward beauty by boosting the health of your hair and skin.
However, the side effects cannot be overlooked as black pepper can be quite dangerous when misused, either by mixing it with certain medications or when consumed by young children.
It's best to avoid using peppercorns in your meals when you are on certain medications, when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Articles and Sources
1. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. (2013 Sep 10) Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise.
2. Nat Prod Commun. (2010 Aug 08) Inhibitory effects of black pepper (Piper nigrum) extracts and compounds on human tumor cell proliferation, cyclooxygenase enzymes, lipid peroxidation and nuclear transcription factor-kappa-B.
3. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. (2007 Aug 08) Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects.
4. J Exp Pharmacol. (2010 Jul 23) Effect of breastfeeding piperine on the learning of offspring mice: interaction with caffeine and diazepam.
5. J Nat Med. (2013 Apr 02) Black pepper and piperine reduce cholesterol uptake and enhance translocation of cholesterol transporter proteins.
6. Carbohydr Polym. (2018 Feb 01) Physicochemical properties of black pepper (Piper nigrum) starch.
7. J Sci Food Agric (2016 Sep 12) Application of microwaves for microbial load reduction in black pepper (Piper nigrum L.).
8. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. (2011 Jun 06) The effects of black pepper on the intestinal absorption and hepatic metabolism of drugs.
|Amount Per Serving|
|Calories 251||Calories from Fat 30|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 3.3 g||5 %|
|Saturated Fat 1.4 g||7 %|
|Polyunsaturated fat 1 g|
|Monounsaturated fat 0.7 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 20 mg||1 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 64 g||21 %|
|Dietary Fiber 25 g||100 %|
|Sugars 0.6 g|
|Protein 10 g||20%|
|Vitamin A 10 %||Vitamin C 0 %|
|Vitamin E 0 %||Vitamin K 0 %|
|Vitamin B-6 15 %||Calcium 44 %|
|Magnesium 42 %||Iron 53 %|
Calories per gram:
Fat: 9 | Carbohydrate: 4 | Protein: 4