Black pepper is undoubtedly one of the most commonly used spices throughout the world. Yet it’s much more than a simple flavor enhancer. In fact, it offers a multitude of incredible health benefits, making it the “king of spices.”
But before we get into 11 key benefits of this simple-yet-powerful spice, let’s talk a little about its origins…
Black peppercorns (Piper nigricans) are actually the fruit of the pepper plant, which comes from the Piperaceae family, and are often used as foods and medicines. It’s native to Kerala, a southern province in India. When grown in tropical climates, it doesn’t have a specific harvest season and can be collected year-round.
Despite its exotic origins, pepper is one of eight main flavors that define American cooking, according to The Untold Story of American Cuisine, a new book by Sarah Lohman. (The other magnificent spices are chili, curry, garlic, soy, sriracha, vanilla, and umami.)
So why is this common kitchen spice so good for you?
1) Black pepper has been long prized for its antibacterial properties. In fact, before the modern era of refrigeration and rapid food transport, farmers and cooks used it to preserve meats and other foods. And it was a large part of the lucrative worldwide spice trade that made the early United States a mercantile power, building up ports in cities like Baltimore, Maryland, and Salem, Massachusetts. (McCormick Spices is still located in Baltimore, which is also home to my publishers’ offices.)
2) This spice is also a rich source of vitamins B, C, and K — as well as the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
3) Despite its hot, spicy taste, pepper acts as a very potent anti-inflammatory agent in the body. The chemical piperine is responsible for the spice’s heat. And in one recent lab study, piperine extract significantly reduced arthritic symptoms in just four to eight days. Specifically, the subjects showed reduced inflammation in their ankle joints.
4) Black pepper also helps alleviate the symptoms of asthma and congestion. The spice works by helping to break up mucus and phlegm in the upper respiratory tract. In fact, in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, practitioners added it to tonics to treat colds and coughs.
5) Pepper supports healthy digestion by preventing colic, constipation, intestinal gas, and diarrhea. It works by naturally helping to move digestive contents down through the GI tract.
6) Though many specialists still promote the myth to avoid a “spicy diet” if you have GI troubles, science shows eating pepper helps improve ulcers. Especially, peptic ulcers.
7) Black pepper also acts as a natural “detoxifier” by facilitating sweating, which removes toxins and clears out skin pores. It also promotes urination, which removes excess fluids, urea, and uric acid from the body. (Excess levels of urea in the body can indicate kidney failure, while excess uric acid excess in the body can lead to kidney stones.)
8) Pepper also contains many antioxidants, which help prevent and repair cellular damage from free radicals. The prevention of free radical damage helps block processes involved in the development of atherosclerosis, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. Additionally, lab studies show that black pepper has powerful anti-cancer effects, as well as benefits for heart and liver health.
Plus, its botanical cousin, Piper methysticum (kava kava), also has potent anti-cancer activities — as I describe in my brand-new, just-released online Authentic Anti-Cancer Protocol.
9) Another benefit of this spice is its protective effect on the brain. Piperine, the same biochemical I mentioned above, has been shown to boost cognitive function and memory by stimulating chemical pathways in the brain. And preliminary research suggests patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia could benefit from eating more fresh pepper.
10) According to research from the U.K., piperine may also help treat vitiligo, a skin condition that causes some areas to lose normal pigmentation and turn white. It seems to work by stimulating the skin to produce pigment cells.
These findings also suggest that pepper can work as a natural sun block. Experts also theorize that the antioxidant properties in pepper protect against signs of aging — such as age spots, macular degeneration, and wrinkles.
11) Pepper also helps with weight loss by supporting the breakdown of fat cells and modulating sugar metabolism. Pepper may also enhance the health of your microbiome, the environment of healthy bacteria in your GI tract. This action promotes healthy carbohydrate and fat metabolism and prevents high blood sugar.
On the grind
One of my top recommendations when it comes to black pepper is to grind your own. Since both the outer and inner layers of the peppercorn are active, freshly ground pepper is much more beneficial than ready-made pepper. And grinding fresh peppercorns releases all the beneficial properties within the two layers.
You can find whole, fresh peppercorns at the grocery store. Look for ones that appear compact, round, weighty, and wholesome.
Grinding them at home couldn’t be easier. You can find inexpensive pepper mills or grinders that rotate at one end, or with handles that turn around, or even handles with a back-and-forth pumping action.
Once ground, fresh black pepper retains its potency for about three months. And it’ll last a bit longer if you refrigerate it. You can also store leftover whole black peppercorns in dry, airtight containers at room temperature in a dark and dry place to ensure they retain their original potency.
Interestingly, black pepper also helps your body absorb other botanical and herbal compounds.
So, the “king of spices” makes for a natural addition to any meal — or dietary supplement formulation (in fact, it is often combined with turmeric).
I suggest sprinkling freshly ground black pepper on just about anything — from salads to soups to steaks. And if you’re fighting off a cold, maybe add a few extra sprinkles. I always add plenty of it to my famous gumbo that I make anytime anyone at my house is battling a flu or cold.
“9 Amazing Benefits of Black Pepper,” Organic Facts (www.organicfacts.net) 1/21/2018
“Anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects of piperine in human interleukin 1β-stimulated fibroblast-like synoviocytes and in rat arthritis models,” Arthritis Res Ther. 2009; 11(2): R49.