The health benefits of black pepper (Piper nigrum) are substantial and still being investigated. The peppercorn is native to tropical rain forests in Indonesia, and comes from the peppercorn plant. The peppercorn is actually a berry but is often categorized as a spice due to the way it is used in cooking. This plant, a perennial climbing vine, will require the use of a pole to reach its full growth potential. It will not produce fruit for as long as four years after planting. Often peppercorns are harvested when they are nearly matured and ready to turn red in color. White peppercorns, the result of berries that have fully ripened, which are then soaked to remove the dark, outer shell, revealing a white pepper seed on the inside. Not only has pepper become a popular spice that sits next to salt on the table, but there are many black pepper health benefits that can be utilized.
Health Benefits of Black Pepper
Black peppers digestive benefits are caused by stimulating taste buds which increases the amount of hydrochloric acid that the stomach produces. This additional secretion improves digestion of food once it reaches the stomach. This is one of the most notable attributes of black pepper. This increase in acid is effective in decreasing the amount of intestinal gas, reducing the embarrassing side effect of passing gas along with preventing constipation and heartburn. Because of its ability to eliminate the bacteria in the stomach, black pepper is also thought of as an antibacterial agent.
Black pepper, rich in antioxidants, effectively controls blood pressure and heart rate with its high level of potassium. Pepper is also high in iron which is essential in the production of healthy blood cells. Peppercorns contain vitamin A and vitamin C and are also rich in other antioxidants such as carotenes which work to help the body fight cancers and other diseases.
The health benefits of black pepper are thought to extend to it being a cancer fighting agent. Piperine, found in peppercorns, effectively counteracts the development of cancer. This particular chemical works by interfering with the mechanism in cancer cells that allows tumors to progress in size. When combined, the anti-cancer health benefits of turmeric and black pepper are multiplied greatly.
Piperine, a phytochemical, increases metabolism which effectively increases the calories that the body can burn helping with weight loss. This phytochemical also increases the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients such as vitamin B and beta-carotene.
Black pepper benefits extend to it’s effective prevention of the retention of water. Pepper in the diet promotes the eradication of extra fluids by sweating and urination.
Quitting an unhealthy cigarette habit is possible with the help of black pepper. Studies have shown that the use of cigarette replacement products that emit a vapor containing black pepper effectively reduces cravings and assist the user in being able to quit smoking.
Creating a tea made of black pepper, when used in combination with other foods can create a home remedy for coughs. Popular remedies that are said to work include both the black pepper tea or sprinkling black pepper on a half of a lemon and sucking on it to calm a cough.
Black Pepper Essential Oil
For external use, black pepper oil serves many benefits to your health. When added to carrier oil such as jojoba, it can be rubbed into sore, tired muscles to relax and soothe them. The warming effect from the pepper can work to relieve the pain from arthritis. It also soothes cramps, sprains and pulled muscles. For acne prone skin it works well to reduce and eliminate breakouts. Black pepper essential oil contains both vitamin A and K making it ideal for skin that it is subject to developing fine lines or wrinkles. It also improves circulation and helps to effectively reduce visible cellulite.
Risks of Black Pepper
Although the increased secretion of hydrochloric acid provides digestion benefits for most people, in some in can cause the opposite effect, resulting in the loss of potassium. For some, this increased production may also result in gastric bleeding.
Some studies have indicated that piperine may be a carcinogen although other studies have indicated that it is not. In some instances, this chemical has had an adverse effect on sperm and may interfere with the process of reproduction. Large amounts of black pepper when used during pregnancy have been shown to cause miscarriages in some cases.
Medications including lithium may interact badly with black or white pepper and use should be avoided by patients on these medications. Patients that are taking certain medications that are broken down by the liver can see an increase in the side effects of these drugs when combined with large amounts of pepper.
Buying Black Pepper and Proper Storage
To ensure the purest pepper, it is often recommended to choose peppercorns versus the previously ground pepper. Grinders can form a center piece and talking point of your dining table and come in anything from the normal and very functional to the hugely elaborate. When making a purchase of fresh peppercorns for your grinder, choose peppercorns that are round, heavy and look compact.
Store peppercorns at room temperature. Once it has been milled, or ground into powder, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If powdered pepper has been purchased, for best results store it in the same manner.
One of the most versatile spices, pepper is used in nearly every aspect of cooking. To ensure the best flavor and fragrance, grind at the last minute, just as you are preparing the recipe. It should also be added at the last minute to prevent the loss of the flavorful and fragrant essential oils.
Pepper can be used in a number of recipes and dishes including marinades, pickle recipes, soups and barbecue sauces. Pepper may often be found as an ingredient in sweet foods including pies and fruitcakes to add a spicy element to the recipe.
As with any food product, there are some risks or side effects that everyone should be aware of. Unless a person has an allergy to pepper, there is only a small risk of any problems. Essentially the benefits of pepper greatly outweigh the risks for the majority of the population and most people can enjoy the health benefits of black pepper without any risk or concerns to their health.