We so often use salt in our dishes that black peppercorns often lie forgotten. But the benefits of black pepper are far better. Black peppercorns, more commonly called black pepper, dramatically enhance the taste of your dishes – and their health quotient too.
How? No, we won’t tell you. Read on and find out for yourself.
Table Of Contents
What Is Black Pepper
Is Black Pepper Good For You
What Is Its History
What Are The Nutrients In Black Pepper
How Is Black Pepper Beneficial For Health
What Are The Benefits For Skin
What About The Benefits For Hair
How To Select And Store Black Pepper
Any Tips For Using Black Pepper In Cooking
Any Black Pepper Recipes
Any Fun Facts About Black Pepper
Does Black Pepper Have Side Effects What Are They
What Is Black Pepper?
Also called ‘kaali mirch’ in Hindi, ‘nalla miriyalu’ in Telugu, ‘karumilaku’ in Tamil, ‘kari menasu’ in Kannada, and ‘kurumulak’ in Malayalam, ‘lada hitam’ in Malay and ‘Pilipili nyeusi’ in Swahili. black pepper is a flowering vine that is cultivated for its fruit.
Scientifically called Piper nigrum, the fruit of this vine is dried and used as spice and seasoning – and this is the black pepper most of us are familiar with. The dried fruit is known as peppercorn. Peppercorns and the ground pepper prepared from them can simply be referred to as pepper – or more accurately as black pepper, green pepper, and white pepper – which are the three types of peppercorns.
Black peppercorns are the most common variety. They are first cooked and then dried.
Green peppercorns are simply the unripe version of the dried fruit.
White peppercorns are taken from nearly ripe peppercorns after the skin is removed.
Also called the ‘King of Spices’ and ‘Black Gold’, black pepper has a unique taste of its own, and it is not intended to be used like salt.
All this fuss about black pepper – well, is it that good for you?
You bet. Because just an ounce of this spice has a lot to offer. It is a great source of magnesium, vitamin K, iron, and fiber (1). It also contains the essential oil piperine, which, when used in aromatherapy, helps ease aching muscles, digestive issues, and even inflammatory arthritis.
Black pepper also possesses antibacterial, antioxidant, immune-boosting, and fever-reducing properties. The pepper, according to studies, can also help individuals quit smoking and is actively used in smoking cessation treatments.
What Is Its History?
The history of black pepper lies in the Indian soil – the spice is native to South India and other parts of South Asia and has been used in Indian cooking since 2000 BC. The source of pepper exports to neighboring countries was the Malabar Coast, which is present-day Kerala.
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 are what have given it a powerful culinary status. Which is why it is important that we know about them.
What Are The Nutrients In Black Pepper?
Black pepper should be consumed in moderate quantities and not in excess as it is a spice and not a food type. When used with other ingredients like turmeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, and cumin, it formulates a great combination of spices. In one tablespoon (6 grams) of black pepper, there are 15.9 calories, 4.1 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of fat and cholesterol. Sodium content is about 3 mg, carbohydrates are 4 grams, and dietary fiber is 2 grams.
Black pepper has vitamin C content of about 2% of the dietary value, calcium content of 3% of what can be consumed in your diet, and iron that has a 10% dietary value share. Proteins are a decent 0.7 grams.
And now, we get to the important benefits this spice has to offer you.
How Is Black Pepper Beneficial For Health?
The piperine in black pepper has numerous beneficial properties (antioxidant, antibacterial, etc.) that can improve your health in many ways. Some of the good effects of black pepper include cancer and diabetes prevention, improved digestive health, and enhanced brain health.
- Improves Digestive Health
Black pepper stimulates the digestive juices and enzymes, thereby promoting digestion. This holds true when you consume black pepper, especially with a meal, which might enhance your body’s ability break down and digest food. Research has shown that black pepper has a positive effect on pancreatic enzymes too, benefiting the overall digestive process (2).
Black pepper also has carminative properties and helps relieve stomach gas. It can also relieve flatulence and colicky pain. Replacing chili powder in your meals with black pepper can treat flatulence.
Black pepper also has carminative properties and helps relieve stomach gas. It can also relieve flatulence and colicky pain.
- Prevents Cancer
Studies have shown that the piperine in black pepper exerts protective activity against numerous forms of cancer (3). Piperine also increases the absorption of other nutrients like selenium, curcumin, beta-carotene, and B vitamins in your intestines – nutrients that are vital for gut health and cancer prevention.
Another Canadian study also credits the anticancer properties of black pepper to piperine. It reduces the stress on the rectum and helps prevent colon cancer. It showed similar properties in cases of prostate cancer too (4). And not just that, piperine also was found to enhance the effectiveness of docetaxel, a chemotherapy medication used in the treatment of cancer of the prostate (5).
- Lowers Blood Pressure
It’s piperine, again. Reports have shown that piperine can lower blood pressure in animals, and similar effects can be expected in human beings. One Slovakian study states that oral administration of piperine can control the increase in blood pressure (6).
Ingestion of piperine also proved to be effective in controlling blood pressure in yet another study. Interestingly, piperine also enhances the bioavailability of curcumin, another important compound found in turmeric (7).
- Promotes Weight Loss
Studies have found that piperine in black pepper, the very compound that makes you sneeze, also fights the formation of fat cells. This can push you a little further towards your weight loss goals. Research says that black pepper might offer an alternative to treatments for fat-related issues (8).
Black pepper’s characteristic to inhibit fat cell formation sets off a chain reaction that can keep fat formation in check at various other biological levels.
Also, black pepper is a welcome addition to a weight loss diet – since a teaspoon of this pepper has just about 8 calories. And instead of that calorie-heavy Italian dressing on your chicken breast or grilled vegetables, simply add a dash of black pepper and squeeze a lemon to save calories.
- Relieves Cold And Cough
Black pepper has been used for this purpose even in the ancient Chinese medicine. The pepper is known to stimulate circulation and the mucous flow. And when you combine it with honey, the effect is enhanced – as honey works as a natural cough suppressant.
Simply mix a teaspoon of powdered black pepper with 2 tablespoons of honey in a cup. Fill the cup with boiling water, cover it and let it steep for about 15 minutes. You can strain the drink and sip it. Do it thrice a day to clear congestion and sinuses.
The pepper can also ease asthmatic symptoms. One study conducted on asthmatic patients in a specialty care facility in Trinidad found that administering pepper to the patients had improved their condition (9). Black pepper clears the respiratory tract and eases other respiratory ailments like whooping cough as well.
- Fights Infections
The antibacterial properties of black pepper come into play here. As per one South African study, piperine in black pepper exhibits larvicidal effects (targeted towards dangerous insects in their larval stage of life) and help prevent infection and spread of disease (10).
- Has Antioxidant Benefits
Black pepper has superb antioxidant effects, which contribute to your health in numerous ways (11). Antioxidants fight the disease-causing free radicals and boost immunity. In another Indian study, rats with induced oxidative stress, when administered with black pepper, showed considerable improvement in their condition (12).
Another test conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition in India found that black pepper had the highest concentration of antioxidants in all of the foods they had analyzed. The pepper also had the highest phenolic content. This high antioxidant content enables pepper to offer various health benefits, some of which include the prevention of serious ailments like cancer.
On top of all this, the piperine in black pepper increases the bioavailability of nutrients in numerous foods and supplements. And this means – it can transform a marginally effective therapeutic substance into a highly effective one – simply by enhancing its intracellular residency time. Also, it is important to note that the more intense the flavor of black pepper, the higher the piperine content.
- Improves Oral Health
Certain massaging mixtures contain black pepper as one of the main ingredients. These massages relieve toothache and other oral infections, given piperine’s antibacterial properties.
Pepper also has anti-inflammatory properties that help treat gum inflammation. What else, you can even mix pepper with salt for relief from dental issues. Simply mix equal amounts of salt and pepper in water and rub the mixture on your gums. For toothache, you can mix black pepper with clove oil and apply to the affected area.
However, there is limited research on this. Consult your doctor before use.
- Enhances Brain Health
Black pepper has great effects on brain health. The piperine in the pepper inhibits one enzyme that breaks down serotonin, the calming neurotransmitter. This enzyme also degrades the functioning of another hormone called melatonin – which regulates the sleep/wake cycle.
Piperine also has its importance in Parkinson’s disease. It inhibits another type of enzyme that disrupts the production of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. Dopamine is usually deficient in patients with Parkinson’s, and ingesting black pepper can ease the symptoms. Similar effects can be observed in the case of depression too.
Black pepper can also delay brain aging and help prevent Alzheimer’s. And it can also enhance the nerve activity in the brain, thereby perhaps alleviating seizures. It also protects the nerve cells and prevents early cell death. Moreover, it also had shown beneficial effects in stroke patients.
As per another Indian study, piperine in black pepper can decrease the formation of amyloidal plaque and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (13).
- Improves Fertility In Men
Pepper plays an important role in improving male fertility. It is known to increase testosterone levels as it is rich in zinc and magnesium – two minerals critical for male sex hormones. It also increases sperm count and its concentration. The zinc in pepper also helps in the development and movement of sperms.
- Helps Quit Smoking
Studies have shown that inhaling the vapor from black pepper can reduce smoking withdrawal symptoms. Cigarette cravings were also significantly reduced in test subjects who inhaled black pepper vapor (14).
- Helps Treat Diabetes
The beneficial antioxidants in black pepper might help stabilize blood sugar levels. They regulate hyperglycemia, thereby aiding in diabetes treatment. And a 2013 study has proved that black pepper oil can inhibit the two enzymes that break down starch into glucose and make diabetic symptoms worse. But ingesting black pepper can delay glucose absorption.
Piperine can also be used as a bio-enhancing agent alongside metformin (a diabetes medication) – it helps reduce the dose of metformin and even its side effects, all the while helping ease the symptoms of the disease (15).
What Are The Benefits For Skin?
The potent antioxidants in black pepper offer excellent anti-aging benefits. The pepper also cleanses the skin and helps treat acne and other skin diseases like vitiligo.
- Fights Wrinkles
The antioxidants in black pepper fight free radicals that cause signs of aging and harm your skin in more than one way. Black pepper fights the signs of premature aging – including wrinkles, fine lines, and even dark spots.
You can simply add black pepper to your daily diet to see its skin-enhancing effects. Or just combine a teaspoon of black pepper with equal amounts of honey or turmeric. Add water for a smoother consistency. Apply the mask to your face twice a day.
- Exfoliates The Skin
Black pepper can be used as a scrub to exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells. This makes your skin smoother.
Crush some black pepper and make a scrub to remove dead skin cells and exfoliate your skin. Just take 1/2 teaspoon of powdered black pepper and 1 teaspoon of yogurt. Apply to your face and wash after 20 minutes.
This face pack will help remove toxins from your skin, leaving it soft and radiant. Black pepper also helps promote blood circulation and provides more oxygen and nutrients to your skin. Its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties help prevent acne.
- Cures Vitiligo
Vitiligo is a condition that causes the skin to lose its pigmentation in certain areas. When your skin loses its natural pigmentation, it turns white. There are many different treatments for this skin disease, but a majority of them involve the use of harsh chemicals. Many patients are now turning to black pepper as a cure.
According to researchers from London, piperine found in black pepper provides a safe and natural alternative to chemical-based treatments.
What About The Benefits For Hair?
The antioxidant properties of black pepper help solve serious hair issues like dandruff and hair fall. You can also combine it with honey or turmeric for better effects.
- Helps Treat Dandruff
If you are suffering from dandruff problems, black pepper is the best treatment. Add a teaspoon of crushed pepper to a bowl of curd and apply it to your scalp, leaving it on for about 30 minutes. Wash off with water. Do not use shampoo. If you want, you can shampoo the next day as this will give the mixture ample time to work on dandruff.
Remember not to overdo the pepper as an excess of this ingredient will make your scalp burn, causing extreme discomfort.
- Revitalizes Hair
Mix a teaspoon each of lemon and ground black pepper seeds and apply to your scalp and hair. This will revitalize your hair, making it shiny, lustrous, and soft. Leave the mixture on for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse off with cold water.
You can also mix a teaspoon of powdered black pepper with equal amounts of honey and apply to your hair. This will strengthen the hair roots and can even help prevent baldness.
That’s the list of benefits of black pepper. But one must also know how to select the pepper and store it.
How To Select And Store Black Pepper?
Black pepper can be found in crushed and whole varieties. Whole peppercorns are better as they are mostly unadulterated. While purchasing whole peppercorns, always make sure that they are small, heavy, and free of blemishes.
To store black pepper, keep them in a glass jar that is well-sealed and airtight and store the container in a cool and dry place. Ground pepper can be stored for about three months while whole black peppercorns can be stored for an indefinite amount of time. Freezing pepper is also a great storage method, although the taste may change a little and become stronger.