Black Pepper – The King of Spices
Black pepper is native to the Southern Indian state of Kerala and is extensively cultivated in South Asia. Though black pepper has a colourful history, the most attractive aspect of black pepper is its medicinal benefits. Since 4000 years, both black and white peppers are being used to cure various diseases and ailments in India (the home of Pepper) as well as in China. Read on to learn more about the black pepper health benefits!
Black pepper is the most important and most widely used spices in the world! Centuries ago, black pepper was important for traders who considered it as “the king of spices” and often called it “Black Gold”. It also found its place as a form of money at times. Such was the enchantment of the condiment that frequent trades were made to the Middle-East, North Africa and Europe. Battles were fought, expeditions were carried out and trade routes were discovered to dominate Black Pepper trading. Apart from commercial aspects, its medicinal properties were also known since long. Since thousands of years, black pepper has been used in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Traditional Chinese medicine for treating cold, pain, fever, and malaria. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, considered pepper as an important healing aid.
Black pepper is a rich source of minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, and vitamins like riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin B6. It has a high content of dietary fiber and has a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates too.
Did You Know?
– Pepper comes in many colours, green, black, red and white but all come from the same plant, the colour is related to how ripe it is and how it has been processed
– White peppercorns are black pepper without skin
– In 408 A.D., when Visigoths besieged Rome, the stiff price for sparing the city included fine garments, gold, silver and 3000 kilograms of pepper
– Pepper was one of the very few medicines that a Buddhist monk was allowed to carry in ancient times
– In the Middle Ages, pepper was a vessel of bribes, trading slaves, collecting tolls and taxes and above all a mode for ostentatious display of wealth across Europe
Black pepper health benefits
Black pepper significantly increases the absorption of different nutrients through the intestinal tract. It contains the essential oil piperine, which, when used in aromatherapy, helps ease aching muscles, digestive issues, and also inflammatory arthritis. Piperine also possesses anti-bacterial, antioxidant, immune-boosting, anti-asthmatic and anti-cancer properties.
Let us have a look at the some of the major black pepper health benefits.
Angiogenesis is the process which promotes growth and replacement of dead blood vessels; similarly, lymphogenesis is its parallel process for lymph nodes. Usually, this is a highly controlled process which arrests hypergrowth by limiting the availability of Oxygen, nutrients and release of toxins in the micro-environment. However, in the case of malignancies, tumours tend to express angiogenesis-promoting mediators and growth factors leading to hypergrowth of tumours and eventually Cancer.
Research has shown that piperine, present in black pepper, not only arrests the release of cancer aiding growth factors but also increases the bioavailability of critical drugs. This could become a critical factor for survival, especially during Chemotherapy. It also inhibits the proliferation and survival of many types of cancer cells through its influence on apoptotic signalling pathways. Apoptotic signalling initiates cell death, a disregulation of it results in a variety of diseases including cancer.
Black pepper has a stimulating effect on the digestive enzymes of the pancreas. This leads to the secretion of more hydrochloric acid, which is necessary for digesting proteins and other food components. Poor production of hydrochloric acid can lead to heartburn, indigestion or stomach bacteria, which can lead to gas, diarrhoea, or constipation. It also enhances the digestive capacity and significantly reduces the gastrointestinal transit time of food.
Improves Oral Health
Due to the anti-bacterial properties of piperine, the main chemical constituent in pepper, it can provide relief in toothaches and other oral infections. Piperine also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help treat gum inflammation.
Improves Skin Health
The antioxidant properties of black pepper fight free radicals that cause signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, fine lines and even dark spots. Black pepper also helps in curing vitiligo, a skin disease that causes some areas of the skin to lose its normal pigmentation and turn white due to destruction of pigment-forming cells known as melanocytes. It can also stimulate the skin to produce melanocytes.
Soothes Respiratory Disorders
Ayurveda prescribes Pepper for preparing tonics that provide relief from cough and cold. It helps in breaking up the mucus and phlegm depositions in the respiratory tract that provides relief from nasal congestion. It has a natural irritant property which eliminates any foreign material or phlegm from the body through sneezing or coughing. Black pepper is also helpful for asthmatic patients.
Aids in Weight Loss
The outer layer of peppercorn contains phytonutrients that assist in the breakdown of fat cells and also boosts metabolism. When fat cells break down into their components, they can be easily processed by your body rather than accumulating and increasing your body weight. Therefore, peppery foods are a good way to help you shed weight naturally.
Maintains Heart Health
Black pepper added to the diet helps keep your arteries clean by acting in a similar way as fiber and dislodging excess cholesterol from the walls. As a result, it reduces atherosclerosis, a condition that increases your risk for heart attacks and stroke. It also influences lipid metabolism by mobilizing fatty acids.
Enhances Brain Function
Piperine has great effects on brain health as well. It inhibits certain enzyme functions, such as one which disrupts the production of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and one which breaks down serotonin (the calming neurotransmitter). As a result, it helps delay brain ageing and enhance nerve activity in the brain. Therefore, it can prevent us from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well.
How to include black pepper in your daily life?
Black pepper makes way into most of our curries, stews, soups and vegetables. Its earthy aroma and flavourful taste can turn some of the dullest dishes into lip-smacking treats. Pongal, a breakfast food in South India, contains whole black peppercorns, which adds a delicious fieriness to the dish. Rasam with whole peppers is not only tasty but it also cures cold and blocked nasal passages.
To make the most of black pepper, you can consume it directly. If you have a good tolerance of something hot and pungent, then you can chew 1-2 black peppercorns every morning to rev up your metabolism. For those who don’t, you can have it in the form of black pepper essential oil.
Some interesting uses of black pepper:
- To cure cough and cold and also to alleviate chest congestion, take a teaspoon of honey with freshly crushed pepper. You can also add black pepper or its oil along with eucalyptus oil to hot water and take steam.
- For getting relief from a toothache, you can mix black pepper with clove oil and apply it to the affected area.
- To exfoliate your skin and for removing dead cells you can crush some pepper and make a scrub and use it.
- Now, this one is interesting! Black pepper oil can actually help you quit smoking. Smell the black pepper oil for about two minutes, this reduces nicotine cravings.
Grinding peppercorns at home is better than buying readymade pepper powder. However, the powder retains its freshness only for a few months whereas peppercorns can keep their freshness indefinitely. So now, just add a pinch of black pepper to every meal of yours to help improve digestion and overall health.
Know other black pepper health benefits? Let us know in the comments section below!
Disclaimer: It may cause sneezing. Patients who have undergone abdominal surgery should avoid adding pepper to their diet as it can cause intestinal problems. Don’t consume pepper in excess and consult a doctor if you have any signs of an allergic reaction.
100g of black pepper provides 251 Calories, Carbs – 64g (Dietary Fiber – 25g, Sugar – 0.6g), Protein – 10g, Fat – 3.3g, Sodium – 20mg
And a percentage daily value of Vitamin A – 11%, Vitamin C – N/A%, Iron – 54%, Calcium – 44% (based on a 2,000 Calorie diet).