The active ingredient of Black Pepper is known as piperine and it is this compound that is responsible for many of its health benefits. Black Pepper aids digestion firstly by stimulating the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. A common fallacy is that acid reflux is caused by too much of this acid, however, it is a lack of hydrochloric acid (low stomach acid) that affects the opening and closing method of the sphincter, allowing acid to move up the oesophagus causing the painful condition known as heartburn. Hydrochloric acid is essential to the digestion of proteins and causes the release of further enzymes that facilitate digestion.
Black Pepper also strengthens the digestive tract, reducing the amount of time it takes for food to travel through it. It also helps to prevent the formation of excess gas and as a carminative, it helps to expel gas from the body in a healthy downward motion.
Black Pepper also enhances the bioavailability of nutrients in the foods it is consumed with. Most famously it boosts the body’s uptake of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric – it has been shown to enhance the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2000%.
Finally, in the right amounts, Black Pepper may have a beneficial effect on the gastric mucosal damage that can lead to stomach ulcers. A number of studies back this up, and it is thought to be due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of this spice.
Research shows that Black Pepper can prevent body fat accumulation and new fat cell formation. A study conducted in the Department of Biochemistry, Annamalai University, India demonstrated a remarkable reduction in total free fatty acids, phospholipids, triglycerides and cholesterol levels in the plasma and lipid profiles of groups treated with Black Pepper.
The piperine in Black Pepper enhances metabolic performance, helps in the breaking down of fat cells and suppresses fat accumulation in the body.
Black Pepper – more specifically, piperine – has been found in numerous studies to reduce memory impairment and to boost cognitive function. The potent antioxidant action of this compound has been found to protect the hippocampus and the cerebrospinal fluid from free radical damage. It also stimulates chemical pathways within the brain, leading to clearer thinking, better mood and less brain fog.
Researchers recently studied piperine’s effects on pain perception as well as its anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. The results indicated that piperine blocked the expression of a gene responsible for arthritis and also reduced pain perception and inflammation.
Black Pepper essential oil has a warming sensation and can be especially beneficial as a massage oil to arthritis sufferers. It can help to get rid of the pain and it also helps remove uric acid and other toxins from the body. Excessive uric acid can be harmful to people with arthritis.
Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black Pepper essential oil has a high concentration of phytochemicals that are known for their immune stimulatory and antioxidant properties. Piperine is responsible for the “zestiness” of black pepper and has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Black Pepper essential oil is highly effective in helping the body recover from muscle soreness and can be diluted with a carrier oil and massaged directly into the affected area or added to a relaxing bath. To boost mental clarity, diffuse in an oil burner or inhale directly.
Folklore and history
As an ancient trading commodity, Black Pepper dates back to over 4,000 years ago. The tiny, hard, nutlike berries became a precious form of commerce and spread from India to the rest of the world. The spice, valued so highly, was as precious as a pearl and the peppercorns were used as a form of money along the trading routes.
Black Pepper has long been important in Indian Ayruvedic medicine where it has been used to cure constipation, earache, gangrene and heart disease. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, also used pepper as part of his healing arsenal.
The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, taxed all peppers, except black. Attila the Hun and the Visigoths included pepper as part of the ransom fee after sacking Rome.
When Christopher Columbus set sail to the New World, he hoped to find riches and pepper. Instead of peppercorns worth more than their weight in gold, he found chillies with a fiery, pungent flavour similar to Black Pepper. He brought them back to Europe and called them peppers, leading to the confusion between peppers and chillies that remains to this day.
One of the world’s oldest and most venerable spices, Black Pepper has played a key role throughout history and has been a prized spice for thousands of years.
Historically used as both a spice and medicine, Black Pepper has many traditional uses as a digestive aid, for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and as a preserving agent. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it was used to calm rebellious “qi” and as a treatment for epilepsy.
Black Pepper Powder
As well as being a delicious seasoning, Black Pepper can be used to boost the bioavailability of other herbs and spices. For example, Black Pepper, more specifically its active constituent “piperine”, has been shown to enhance the bioavailability of curcumin (the active ingredient of Turmeric) by up to 2000%. This can be incorporated in recipes such as Golden Milk.
Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black Pepper essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Black pepper contains a volatile oil (including beta-bisabolene, camphene, beta-caryophyllene, and many other terpenes and sesquiterpenes), up to 9% alkaloids (especially pipperine, largely responsible for the herb's acrid taste), about 11 % proteins, and small amounts of minerals.