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Black pepper, (Piper nigrum), also called pepper, is a perennial climbing vine of the Piperaceae family and the pungent spice made from its fruits. Black pepper is native to the Malabar coast of India and is one of the oldest known spices.
Widely used as a spice worldwide, pepper also has a limited use in medicine as a carminative (to relieve flatulence) and as a stimulant for gastric secretions.
The black pepper plant is a woody climber and may reach 10 meters (33 ft) in height via its aerial roots. Its broad, glossy green leaves are arranged alternately. Small flowers in dense thin spikes of about 50 flowers each.
The fruits, sometimes called peppercorns, are drupes about 5 mm (0.2 in) in diameter. They become yellowish red at maturity and bear a single seed. Their smell is pungent and aromatic.
The taste is hot, pungent and very pungent. Ground black pepper contains up to 3 percent of the essential oil which has the aromatic but not the pungent flavor of capsicum.
The distinctive flavor is primarily derived from the chemical piperine, although the seeds also contain chavisin, piperidine, and piperitin.
The plant requires a long rainy season, relatively high temperatures and partial shade for best growth. Propagation is usually carried out by stem cuttings, which are placed near a tree or pole that serves as a support.
Pepper plants are occasionally interspersed in tea or coffee plantations. They begin to be durable within 2 to 5 years and can be produced for up to 40 years.
In early historical times, pepper was widely cultivated in the tropics of Southeast Asia, where it came to be considered a great spice.
Pepper became an important material for the overland trade between India and Europe and often served as a medium of exchange; The tribute was levied on pepper in ancient Greece and Rome.
In the Middle Ages, the Venetians and Genoese became the main distributors in Europe, and their de facto monopoly on trade helped incite the search for an eastern sea route.
The plant is widely cultivated throughout Indonesia and has been introduced to the tropics of Africa and the Western Hemisphere.
Health Benefits of Black Pepper
Black pepper is one of the most widely used spices around the world.
It is made by grinding peppercorns, which are dried berries of the Piper nigrum grape plant.
It has a sharp and somewhat spicy flavor that goes well with many dishes.
But black pepper is more than just a kitchen staple. It has been considered the “king of spices” and used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years due to its high concentration of powerful and beneficial plant compounds.
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Here are 11 scientifically backed health benefits of black pepper.
1. High in antioxidants
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your cells. Some free radicals are created naturally – such as when you exercise and digest food.
However, excessive free radicals can form from exposure to things like pollution, cigarette smoke, and sunlight.
Excessive damage to free radicals can lead to major health problems. For example, it has been linked to inflammation, premature aging, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Black pepper is rich in a plant compound called piperine, which test tube studies have found to have powerful antioxidant properties.
Studies show that a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent or delay the harmful effects of free radicals.
Test-tube and rodent studies note that ground black pepper and piperine supplements may reduce free radical damage.
Black pepper is rich in a potent antioxidant called piperine, which may help prevent free radical damage to your cells.
2. May have cancer-fighting properties
Researchers hypothesize that the active compound in black pepper, piperine, may have anti-cancer properties.
Although no human trials have been conducted, test tube studies have found that piperine slowed the multiplication of breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells and caused cancer cells to die.
Another test-tube study examined 55 compounds of the spice and noted that piperine from black pepper was the most effective at enhancing the effectiveness of conventional treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive type of cancer.
Moreover, piperine has shown promising effects in in vitro studies to reverse multidrug resistance in cancer cells—a problem that interferes with the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Although these results are promising, more studies are needed to understand the potential cancer-fighting properties of black pepper and piperine.
Black pepper contains an active compound that has slowed the replication of cancer cells and induced cancer cell death in test-tube studies. However, these effects have not been studied in people.
3. lowers cholesterol levels
High cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Black pepper extract has been studied in animals for its ability to lower cholesterol levels.
In one 42-day study, rats fed a diet high in fat and black pepper extract showed lower levels of cholesterol, including LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The same effects were not seen in the control group.
Additionally, black pepper and piperine are thought to enhance the absorption of supplements that have potential cholesterol-lowering effects such as turmeric rice and red yeast.
For example, studies have shown that black pepper may increase the absorption of turmeric’s active ingredient – curcumin – by up to 2,000%.
However, more studies are needed to determine whether black pepper itself has significant cholesterol-lowering effects in humans.
Black pepper has demonstrated cholesterol-lowering effects in rodent studies and is believed to boost the absorption of potential cholesterol-lowering supplements.
4. improves blood sugar control
Studies show that piperine may help improve blood sugar metabolism.
In one study, rats that took black pepper extract showed a lower rise in blood sugar levels after ingesting glucose than rats in the control group.
Additionally, 86 overweight people who took a supplement containing piperine and other compounds for 8 weeks experienced significant improvements in insulin sensitivity — a measure of how well the hormone insulin removes glucose from the bloodstream.
However, it is unclear whether the same effects would occur with black pepper alone, as a combination of several active plant compounds were used in this study.
Black pepper extract may improve blood sugar control, but more research is needed.
5. It benefits your brain
Piperine has been shown to improve brain function in animal studies.
In particular, it has shown potential benefits for symptoms related to degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
For example, a study in mice with Alzheimer’s disease found that piperine improved memory, because piperine distribution enabled mice to run a maze more frequently than mice that were not given the compound.
In another rodent study, piperine extract appeared to reduce the formation of amyloid plaques, which are dense clumps of harmful protein fragments in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, studies in humans are needed to confirm whether these effects are also seen outside of animal studies.
Black pepper extract has improved symptoms of degenerative brain diseases in animal studies, but studies in humans are needed to verify these results.
6. Has anti-inflammatory properties
Chronic inflammation may be an underlying factor in many conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Several laboratory studies suggest that piperine – the main active compound in black pepper – may effectively fight inflammation.
For example, in studies in mice with arthritis, treatment with piperine decreased joint swelling and reduced markers of inflammation in the blood.
In rat studies, piperine suppressed inflammation in the airways caused by asthma and seasonal allergies.
However, the anti-inflammatory effects of black pepper and piperine have not been extensively studied in humans.
Black pepper contains an active compound that has been shown to decrease inflammation in animals. Still, it’s unclear whether it has the same effects in humans.
7–10. Other benefits
Black pepper may benefit health in several other ways according to preliminary research:
- Boosts absorption of nutrients. Black pepper may increase the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and selenium, as well some beneficial plant compounds, such as those found in green tea and tumeric.
- May promote gut health. The makeup of your gut bacteria has been linked to immune function, mood, chronic diseases, and more. Preliminary research suggests that black pepper may increase the good bacteria in your gut.
- May offer pain relief. Though it has yet to be studied in humans, studies in rodents suggest that the piperine in black pepper may be a natural pain reliever.
- May reduce appetite. In a small study, 16 adults reported reduced appetite after drinking a black-pepper-based beverage compared to flavored water. However, other studies did not show the same effects.
Black pepper increases the absorption of essential nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. According to preliminary research, it may also promote gut health, offer pain relief, and reduce appetite.
11. A versatile spice
Black pepper has become a staple in cuisine all over the world.
With its gentle heat and bold flavor, it is versatile and can enhance almost any delicious dish
A A dash of ground black pepper can be a delicious seasoning for cooked vegetables, pasta dishes, meat, fish, poultry and many more.
It also pairs well with other healthy spices, including turmeric, cardamom, cumin, garlic, and lemon peel.
For an extra kick and a little crunch, try coating tofu, fish, chicken, and other proteins with coarsely ground peppercorns and additional spices.
Black pepper has a subtle heat and a bold flavor that makes it a tasty addition to almost any dish.
The bottom line
Black pepper and the active compound piperine may have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Laboratory studies suggest that black pepper may improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, and brain and gut health.
Despite these promising results, more studies in humans are needed to better understand the exact health benefits of black pepper and its concentrated extracts.
Regardless, this versatile flavor enhancer is worth adding to your daily cooking routine, as its bold flavor is a great addition to just about any dish.