Researchers at King's College London have found that a key component in black pepper, known as piperine, can help in developing new treatments for curing Vitiligo skin disease.
Vitiligo is a chronic skin disease that causes loss of normal pigment, resulting in white patches on the skin.
The current treatments used for alleviating the disease include corticosteroids applied to the skin, and phototherapy using UV radiation (UVR) to re-pigment the skin.
The team of researchers conducted the study using a mice model.
They applied the piperine and its synthetic derivatives on the skin of mice either alone or followed by UVR.
The findings revealed that piperine and two of its derivatives, when used alone, stimulated pigmentation to an even, light brown colour within six weeks.
It stimulates the production of the skin's pigment cells, called melanocytes.
"We have shown that topical treatment with piperine stimulates even pigmentation in the skin," BBC quoted researcher Professor Antony Young, as saying.
"Combining this with UVR significantly enhances the pigmentation with results that are cosmetically better than conventional vitiligo therapies," he added.
Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists said that Vitiligo affect patients psychologically and emotionally and any breakthrough in treatments of this disease is most welcome.
"These findings could potentially lead to the development of treatments that not only provide improved results, but could also reduce the need for UV radiation in vitiligo treatment, in turn lowering the risk of skin cancer," she said.
The study appears in the British Journal of Dermatology.