Introduction To Black Pepper
Black pepper or "kaali mirch" as it is popularly called in India is a valuable medicinal plant. The scientific name of black pepper is "piper nigrum" and it belongs to the family "piperaceae".
Black pepper which is also known as the ‘king of spices" is widely cultivated in tropical regions such as India, Brazil and Indonesia. Since the 2nd century BC, black pepper has been popular in China. It is commonly found in every Indian household kitchen and it is used in a variety of food preparations.
Besides being used as a culinary spice, black pepper is used as a preservative, a medicinal agent and in perfumery. Piperine, an active compound of black pepper is responsible for the strong, sharp and spicy characteristic of it.
This active compound possesses various pharmacological actions and provides an array of health benefits.
- Black pepper plant is a perennial (lasts for many years) climbing wine that grows on supporting trees or poles with a maximum height of 4 meters.
- The fruits of black pepper that are dried and unripe are known as "peppercorns".
- Green pepper is made by freeze-drying the freshly harvested unripe green fruits.
- Black pepper is made by sun-drying the freshly harvested unripe green fruits.
- White pepper is made by removing the red skin of the ripe fruits. These stony seeds are sun-dried to get white pepper.
- Black pepper is ground to form pepper powder which is commonly seen on every dining table alongside salt.
In case you presumed that black pepper is just a taste-enhancing spice, then you need to know a little more about it. Black pepper contains various compounds that are beneficial for overall health. Here are the advantages that black pepper have on health.
High in Nutrients
Black pepper is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese. Studies have found that it is also a good source of iron, zinc, copper, chromium, calcium and dietary fiber. Besides this, black pepper contains various health promoting compounds such as flavonoids, terpenes, tannins and alkaloids. Black pepper is a potent antioxidant that fights oxidative stress and keeps free radicals at bay.
Black pepper plays a protective role against stomach ulcers. It works via the following mechanisms:
- Black pepper reduces the aggressive factors that cause damage to the stomach.
- It helps in relieving pain associated with stomach ulcers.
- It lowers the level of inflammation and also protects the inner lining of the stomach against free radicals.
- Black pepper inhibits the secretion of gastric acid that corrodes the inner lining of the stomach and acts similar to the drugs used in the treatment of ulcers.
Bottom-line: Bland diet is recommended during the treatment of stomach ulcers. Adding black pepper to such a diet will help in relieving pain and other complications of stomach ulcers.
Black pepper helps in the digestion of food by enhancing the secretion of saliva and enzymes present in saliva. Black pepper stimulates digestion by activating the digestive enzymes present in pancreas and intestine. These enzymes help in the breakdown of food into simple molecules.
Black pepper stimulates the liver to secrete bile, which plays a vital role in the digestion and absorption of fat. Such a stimulation in the secretion of digestive enzymes is possible due to the presence of piperine in black pepper.
Bottom-line: Adding black pepper to your daily meals will improve digestion.
Since ancient times, black pepper has been used to treat diarrhea. Piperine reduces the volume of loose stools by reducing the accumulation of fluid. It further reduces the number of diarrheal episodes and thus prevents the loss of water and electrolytes from the body.
Bottom-line: While eating khichdi or curd-rice during diarrhea add some black pepper powder to the above mentioned preparations.
"Beta-caryophyllene", a compound present in black pepper essential oil has anesthetic activity.
Black pepper is also beneficial for individuals with arthritis because it reduces inflammation and pain associated with it.
It helps in relieving back pain by interacting with the pain receptors. Piperine blocks the pain receptors and reduces the perception of pain.
Bottom-line: Pepper is a natural pain killer. Adding it to diet or inhaling black pepper essential oil can help in relieving pain.
Blood Pressure Lowering Action of Black Pepper:
- Black pepper is beneficial for hypertension. Piperine present in black pepper prevents calcium from entering the blood vessels. This helps in relaxation and widening of blood vessels, ensures smooth blood flow throughout the body and thus lowers high blood pressure.
Bottom-line: Reduce your salt intake and go for some black pepper.
Anti-Depressant Effect of Black Pepper:
Research has found that black pepper fights against depression and it is as effective as anti-depressant drug. But the best part about black pepper is that it comes without any side-effects unlike drugs.
Such an effect is attributed to the presence of "piperine" in black pepper. High levels of oxidative stress in the brain leads to the development of anxiety.
Piperine reduces the level of oxidative stress and protects the brain cells against damage. Piperine also improves the communication and transmission of messages throughout the brain and body.
It enhances brain activity and inhibits molecules responsible for depression (monoamine oxidase).
Piperine further increases the release of happy hormones and keeps depression at bay.
Bottom-line: Choose black pepper which is a natural anti-depressant over drugs.
Lowers High Cholesterol Levels:
Studies have revealed that black pepper lowers the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease too.
Piperine present in black pepper binds to bile acids (important for digestion of fat) and prevents their re-absorption. Cholesterol is used to produce bile that has been lost. Thus, more cholesterol is used and less is present in the blood.
Piperine further inhibits the enzymes that promotes the formation of fat. Hence intake of black pepper lowers the accumulation of fat and enhances the removal of fat.
Thus, it lowers the level of LDL cholesterol and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol.
Bottom-line: Add black pepper powder to your low-fat meals to enhance lowering of bad cholesterol.
Black pepper helps in the treatment of tooth decay, tooth ache and oral abscess. It is a potent anti-bacterial agent that kills the bacteria which is responsible for dental caries.
Black pepper further prevents the destruction of mineralized tissue of the teeth and thus protects the teeth against decay.
Bottom-line: Mix equal parts of salt and black pepper with water to form a paste. Apply this paste on the affected teeth and leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Black pepper inhibits the growth and formation of tumor. It kills the cancer-causing cells and protects the healthy cells.
Piperine present in black pepper prevents the multiplication and spread of cancer cells.
It further protects the DNA against damage.
Such an anti-cancer effect of black pepper is attributed to the presence of alkaloids, terpenes and polyphenols in it.
Bottom-line: Adding black pepper to food helps in the management of cancer.
Studies have revealed that black pepper plays an important role in improving fertility in males.
- Black pepper increases the level of testosterone (male sex hormone). Black pepper is rich in magnesium and zinc. Such a composition increases the level of male sex hormones.
- It improves the sperm count and sperm concentration
- Black pepper contains zinc, a potent antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress and improves fertility. Zinc is important for the development and movement of the sperm.
Bottom-line: Black pepper is a natural ingredient for improving fertility in males.
Since ancient times black pepper is used as a preservative because it is very effective in fighting against bacteria. Consumption of black pepper protects the body against the negative effect of bacteria. Such an effect is attributed to the presence of health-promoting compounds such as flavonoids, alkaloids and tannins in it.
Bottom-line: Black pepper prevents food spoilage as well as protects the body against bacterial infections.
Name of the recipe: Cottage Cheese With Pepper Ingredients:
- Cottage cheese (cubes)- 100 grams
- Black peppercorns: 2 tablespoons
- Onion- 1/2 (finely chopped)
- Bell pepper- 1/2 (cut into squares)
- Garlic- 2 cloves (thinly sliced)
- Salt- to taste
- Oil- 1 tablespoon
Method of preparation:
- Put the peppercorns in a mortar and using a pestle crush it coarsely.
- In a bowl, add cottage cheese cubes and coarsely crushed black pepper. Mix it properly and allow it to marinade for 10 minutes.
- In a pan heat the oil. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper to it and stir-fry it for 1-2 minutes.
- To the above mixture add the cottage cheese pieces and salt.
- Mix it properly and stir-fry it for another 1-2 minutes.
- Your peppery cottage cheese is ready.
- Blood pressure lowering and vasomodulator effects of piperine - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19033825)
- The analgesic and anticonvulsant effects of piperine in mice. - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24388894)
- Antibacterial mechanism and activities of black pepper chloroform extract - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4648884/)
- Biological role of Piper nigrum L. (Black pepper): A review - (http://naturalingredient.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/10.1.1.474.3674.pdf)
- Anticancer and Cancer Prevention Effects of Piperine-Free Piper nigrum Extract on N-nitrosomethylurea-Induced Mammary Tumorigenesis in Rats - (http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/9/1/74.long)
Latest Publications and Research on Health Benefits of Black Pepper
- Effective Targeting of Colon Cancer Cells with Piperine Natural Anticancer Prodrug Using Functionalized Clusters of Hydroxyapatite Nanoparticles. - Published by PubMed
- Major, minor and trace element concentrations in spices and aromatic herbs from Sicily (Italy) and Mahdia (Tunisia) by ICP-MS and multivariate analysis. - Published by PubMed
- Bioautography and GC-MS based identification of piperine and trichostachine as the active quorum quenching compounds in black pepper. - Published by PubMed
- Antimicrobial activity of a selection of organic acids, their salts and essential oils against swine enteropathogenic bacteria. - Published by PubMed
- Chemoenzymatic oxygenation method for sesquiterpenoid synthesis based on Fe-chelate and ferric-chelate reductase. - Published by PubMed