11 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Black Pepper For The Body And Mind
Be it giving a dish a slight tang or completely spicing it up, black pepper can be used with any type of cuisine. But it isn’t called the king of spices just for its taste!
Black pepper is a very common ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine and has also been used to make everyday meals healthy for a long time. No matter the age or gender, anyone can benefit from this powerful spice! Here’s how:
Providing The Right Nutrition
Before we get into the detailed health benefits, let’s take a look at what black pepper contains. In 100 g of black pepper, these are a few of the nutrients you get:1
|High Levels||Moderate Levels||Zero Or Low Levels|
|Vitamin K (163.7 μg)||Iron (9.71 mg)||Cholesterol (0)|
|Potassium (1329 mg), Calcium (443 mg), Magnesium (171 mg), And Other Minerals||Sodium (20 mg)/td>||Sugar (0.64 g)|
|Fiber (25.3 g)||Folate (17 μg)||Fatty acids (1.39 g)|
|Energy (251 kcal)||Vitamin A (27 μg)|
|Protein (10.39 g)|
More importantly, black pepper contains an alkaloid called piperine, which has a major role to play in keeping you healthy. Benefits of black pepper include:
1. Increases Bioavailability
Bioavailability is the rate at which a drug is absorbed by the body and successfully reaches the target tissue. Nutrients or drugs are not effective if they aren’t absorbed completely. So by enhancing the bioavailability, black pepper ensures the best outcome from these substances.
Piperine is what carries these substances in their most active form to wherever required. There are 3 possible ways in which black pepper does this:2
- It speeds up the absorption of drugs from the gastrointestinal tract and reduces the time it takes to travel through the tract.
- It prevents the drugs from being metabolized or oxidized when they first pass through the liver.
- It does both.
The enhanced bioavailability is extremely beneficial as it hastens the recovery from any health condition.
2. Treats Cognitive Disorders
Just the thought of growing old can be scary. And what’s troubling is probably not just the aging but also losing control over your brain, forgetting family, or even yourself. A few foods like black pepper can keep your brain strong and healthy, longer.
The pepper prevents Alzheimer’s and improves your memory by healing nerve damage or memory impairment in the hippocampus. This might be due to the strengthening of neurotrophins or the prevention of free radicals from damaging cells.3 The actual mechanism is quite unclear and is yet to be researched in depth.
Depression is one of the top-most reasons for suicides in the USA. Chocolates and a big ice cream tub can comfort you but not cure. The food you’re looking for is black pepper. The piperine in black pepper acts as an anti-depressant, improves your cognitive ability, and helps you think clearly.4
The underlying mechanism is not clear in human-based research, studies involving mice have shown that the anti-depressant effect might be due to the regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter believed to affect moods, and dopamine, a neurotransmitter with multiple roles in brain function.5 6
Piperine reduces and stops cell death (anti-apoptotic) and is an anti-inflammatory, which plays a huge role in treating Parkinson’s, a degenerative disease that mostly affects physical movement.7
Medicines used to treat epilepsy might have side effects like CNS depression, which results in an increased heart rate and breathing and even loss of consciousness. Black pepper might be a good choice to treat epilepsy as it has anticonvulsant activity, which reduces the incidence of seizures without causing CNS depression.8
3. Prevents Cancer
Cancer in itself is a painful disease to go through, and the treatments make it no better with painful side effects. You can try to mellow down the pain and hasten the recovery with a little assistance from black pepper.9
- Black pepper has an anti-inflammatory effect that can reduce and prevent the creation of cancerous cells.
- Black pepper and cardamom together can boost the strength of natural killer cells, thus showing anti-cancer ability.
- The two foods also boost your immune system and have an anti-tumor effect.10
- By helping with natural detox, black pepper consequently prevents the growth of cancerous cells.11
- It might also have the ability to prevent specific chemicals that cause cell mutations, resulting in cancerous growth.12
4. Promotes Weight Loss
Your body expends energy even when at rest – this is called basal metabolism. Black pepper, a thermogenic, stimulates this basal metabolism and produces more heat.13 This can also suppress fat accumulation.14
Piperine also improves your body’s metabolism by increasing the production of the chemicals that use more energy.15 It also shows antiadipogenic activity, which induces fat cell differentiation and causes weight loss, thus dealing with obesity.16 And with the enhanced bioavailability of nutrients, black pepper ensures that your diet doesn’t go in vain.
5. Helps Quit Smoking
There are multiple products to help you quit smoking – from patches and gums to electric cigarettes. Some of these non-nicotine equipments make use of black pepper in its vapor form. The pepper used here is mostly the essential oil or one or more extracted irritants.
When you inhale using such equipment, the peppery smoke reaches the respiratory tract and creates a sensation similar to that of regular smoke. This sensation satisfies and reduces your craving and makes it easier to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.17
6. Treats Respiratory Issues
Used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and lately in modern medicine as well, black pepper can cure respiratory issues like sinus, cough, cold, labored breathing, and asthma.18
Its irritant quality softens and breaks down the mucus stuck in the respiratory tract. This mucus is then expelled by sneezing or coughing, which is triggered by the peppery smell. And since the pepper is antibacterial, it prevents infections as well.19
7. Strengthens The Digestive System
What a strong digestive system needs is healthy food, and black pepper is a good choice. The pepper strengthens the digestive tract and lessens the time taken by foods to travel the tract.20 The enhanced bioavailability improves metabolism and stimulates the digestive enzymes.21 And being a carminative, the pepper ensures healthy expulsion of gas from the body and reduces the formation of excess gas.22
Black pepper also improves the appetite via olfactory stimulation.23 This induces a swallowing impulse, which can be beneficial in older people with dysfunctions such as dysphagia.24 It also reduces oxidative stress, which is a common cause of cardiovascular diseases, reduced metabolism, gastrointestinal diseases, and stomach disorders.25 This and the anti-inflammatory factor prevents ulcers and gastric mucosal damage.26 And with its diuretic and diaphoretic properties, it flushes out toxins and excess water.
A word of caution: Since black pepper increases gastric acid secretion, excessive intake might induce acidity, so take it in measured quantities.27
8. Treats Diabetes
Black pepper helps prevent and treat diabetes by inhibiting specific enzymes. A study using black pepper essential oil showed that it helped fight type 2 diabetes with its phenolic and antioxidant content.28 And by improving basal metabolism, which results in weight loss, it can cure type-2 diabetes as well.29
9. Lowers Blood Pressure And Hypertension
The piperine in black pepper lowers blood pressure through calcium channel blockade and treats hypertension as well.30 A study of nitric-oxide-deprived rats showed that piperine could lessen the severity of hypertension caused by oxidative stress.31 The phenolics and antioxidants in black pepper essential oil also treat hypertension.32
10. Prevents Dental Issues
Healthy teeth imply healthy gums, which can be maintained by flossing and massaging the gums. And many Ayurvedic mixtures for massaging use black pepper as an ingredient. Such massages can relieve you from a toothache, fend off infections with the pepper’s disinfectant quality, and treat dental issues such as pyorrhea, which causes pus or blood discharge.33
11. Promotes Healthy Hair
Black pepper for hair care seems like an unlikely choice, but it is effective. It might prevent hair loss and also stimulate hair growth with its anti-androgenic property. However, there’s a lack of research on this.34
How To Choose Black Pepper
- You can buy black peppers whole, finely powdered, or crushed. Packed ground pepper might be less flavorful and pungent. So we recommend you to buy fresh whole peppers and crush them at home when required.
- Look for a uniform color in the peppercorns as it might indicate higher quality.
- Choose organic products as much as possible to ensure no form of adulteration.
- Store the pepper in a tightly sealed container and keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place. While whole peppers last almost indefinitely, the crushed ones will remain fresh for about 3 months if stored correctly.
- Freezing the pepper might enhance the flavor.
Ayurvedic Uses And Recipes
Ayurveda uses black pepper for medicinal purposes extensively. It is most famously used in making “Trikatu,” a commonly used Ayurvedic herbal mixture.
Trikatu contains equal amounts of black pepper, long pepper, and ginger. This is said to enhance the digestive fire (agni) and help relieve indigestion, improve metabolism, and stimulate proper bile production. The mixture also helps strengthen the lungs and makes way for clear breathing by removing sticky, thick mucus.
Black pepper can be used in multiple Ayurvedic home remedies. Here are a few examples:
1. To Remove Dandruff
- Mix black pepper in yogurt to form a paste.
- Apply this mixture on the scalp and rub gently.
- Leave it for 1/2–1 hour and shampoo.
Ensure that you don’t use excess pepper as it might burn the scalp.
2. For Dental Care
- Mix 5 parts alum powder, 2 parts rock salt, 3 parts black pepper, and 1 part turmeric.
- Massage your teeth with this mixture and wash.
The alum powder tightens the gum, the salt has a soothing effect, the turmeric increases blood flow, and the black pepper works as a disinfectant. Make sure you don’t use excess salt as a high sodium content can decay the teeth.35
3. For Wet Cough
- Grind 3 g of black pepper with the juice of basil (tulsi) leaves.
- Take it a few times a day to relieve excess sputum.36
4. For Chronic Cough
- Mix black pepper, honey, and butter to form a paste.
- Take this a few times a day to stop chronic cough.37
5. For Dry Cough
- Mix a ripe banana, 1 tsp honey, and 2 pinches of powdered black pepper.
- Eat this 2–3 times a day.38
For immediate relief from cough, you can sprinkle black pepper on a slice of lemon and suck on it.
6. To Relieve Congestion And Kapha
- Mix 1/4 tsp powdered black pepper with 1 tsp honey.
- Eat this mixture on a full stomach.
It relieves congestion through its heating ability, removes the kapha, and stops the cough.39
7. For Weight Loss
Black pepper is commonly used in weight-loss recipes. One such mixture is the black pepper and honey tea. The lemon complements the effects of black pepper by giving your digestion a boost.
- Make a tea decoction using any tea powder you’re used to.
- Drain this and add 1/2 tsp of freshly powdered black pepper and 1/2 tsp ginger powder.
- Let the mixture heat on the stove for a few minutes.
- Strain, add honey (as per your taste), and drink it hot.
8. For Anti-Inflammation And Pain Relief
Turmeric is a very strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and helps reduce pain.40 What gives the turmeric these properties is called curcumin. Most of the curcumin we take gets metabolized before it gets absorbed and takes effect. Black pepper helps by enhancing its bioavailability.
The recommended dosage for turmeric is about 1–3 g a day and for black pepper is 1/2–1 g in its powdered form. While these two ingredients can be added to any dish, here’s a sample recipe:
- Mix a pinch of freshly ground pepper with 1/4 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp olive oil.
- Mix until they blend well.
- Add this to any dish of your choice or drink it as is.
- You can take this mixture once a day before a meal.
How To Cook Black Pepper
- It’s best to use black pepper just before you finish cooking or before serving. Do not cook the pepper for a long time as it might lose its smell and flavor.
- Finely ground pepper can irritate your throat easily. So use its coarse form for higher quantities.
- Peppercorns from different countries might have different tastes. Choose the ones perfect for your palate.
- You can use the pepper in main dishes; salads; with watermelons, lemons, or strawberries; to spice up desserts; or even as a chili alternative. Just make sure you don’t eat it in excess.
Uses Of Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black pepper essential oil is believed to increase vata and pitta dosha and decrease kapha dosha. We’ve already discussed its usage in non-nicotine devices. Here are a few other conditions that the essential oil treats:
- Respiratory issues
- Digestive disorders
- Weight loss
- Spiritual healing
A Word Of Caution
Pepper might trigger sneezes. Patients who have undergone abdominal surgery should not add excessive pepper to their diet because it can have an irritating effect on the intestines. And black pepper should not be taken in high concentrations. If you show signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue using and consult a doctor.
References [ + ]
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Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.