Black pepper is one of the most popular spices in the world. It’s known for its unique, pungent flavor and aroma. But did you know that black pepper has other uses beyond adding flavor to your food?
Pepper was used as a food preservative as early as 5000 BC. It was even used by ancient Egyptians and later by Ancient Rome in religious ceremonies.
The reason black pepper has remained popular for thousands of years is that it contains numerous compounds that are beneficial to your health. The most important of these is piperine (1), which acts as an antioxidant.
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Black Pepper Benefits
Black pepper has many health benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving digestion and preventing heartburn (acid reflux) symptoms. It also contains antioxidants that help protect your body against some types of cancer.
1. Improves brain function
Black pepper benefits your brain by helping improve memory and concentration. The beneficial phytonutrients present in black pepper may also help reduce inflammation, which can slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The active ingredients in black pepper are called piperine and piperlongumine (2). Both of these substances have antioxidant properties that may help prevent oxidative damage to cells. Oxidative damage can lead to cell death or neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease.
Oxidative damage occurs when free radicals attack healthy cells in your body and cause them to break down prematurely. This leads to age-related diseases and an overall foggier mind.
2. Treats skin problems
The potent antibacterial properties of black pepper make it ideal for treating acne, eczema, and other skin conditions.
The piperine found in black pepper has been shown to reduce sebum production and inflammation associated with acne. Research suggests that piperine may be even more effective than benzoyl peroxide (3), which is a medication often used to treat mild to severe acne.
To use black pepper on your face simply take a few peppercorns and crush them using a mortar and pestle. You can also place the peppercorns inside a plastic bag that you can then crush with a flat surfaced utensil.
Apply the crushed peppercorns directly to your face or mix them with water or apple cider vinegar to create an exfoliating scrub. Leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing off. You can also add crushed black pepper to facial masks for added benefits!
3. Treats depression
Black pepper treats depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin (4) is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating mood and emotions. Low serotonin can cause depression symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and lack of motivation.
Serotonin also plays an important role in regulating social behavior, appetite, and pain perception. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and anxiety disorders (5).
In a study published in 2010, researchers found that piperine increases brain serotonin levels by inhibiting the reuptake process in neurons. This can help improve your mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. Another study found that piperine may also have antidepressant-like activity because it enhances dopamine (6) release from neurons.
4. Fights inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or illness. The inflammatory response helps fight infections and promotes healing. However, when the inflammatory response becomes chronic, it can lead to many different health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Black pepper contains between 2-6% of piperine by weight. The highest concentrations are found in the outer layers of the fruit, which are dried and ground into a powder before being used as a spice.
Piperine has been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine in India and China to treat a variety of health conditions such as swelling of the limbs and respiratory diseases. In recent years, studies have shown that piperine also has several positive effects on inflammation and other markers of disease risk.
5. Manages blood sugar levels
Piperine has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in rats. However, this effect has not been researched in humans.
The body releases insulin when there is too much glucose in the bloodstream for it to absorb all at once. This leads to a decrease in blood sugar levels. Piperine might mimic this effect by increasing insulin release from the pancreas. But it’s unclear how much of this substance would be needed to achieve this effect in people.
Black pepper might also help regulate blood sugar levels by inhibiting carbohydrate absorption in the small intestine. This might help prevent diabetes.
There are no known side effects of taking piperine supplements as part of a healthy diet and exercise regimen. However, if you have diabetes or any other condition that affects your blood sugar levels, you should talk with your doctor before using supplements such as piperine. Taking piperine by consuming black pepper will most likely not cause any side effects at all.
Black pepper contains no added sugar, so it can be safely consumed by people with diabetes and those trying to keep their blood sugar levels under control. However, if you use it frequently in your cooking, you might want to look for organic black pepper as it contains fewer chemicals than standard varieties.
6. Relieves cold symptoms
Black pepper has been used for centuries as a remedy for colds and flu. It is known to have a warming effect on the body and helps relieve congestion.
Black pepper also contains other compounds like beta-caryophyllene (7) and limonene that have anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it very useful in treating cold and flu symptoms such as headaches, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and even muscle aches.
The best way to use black pepper is in a tea form. Add 3-4 teaspoons of black pepper powder to hot water and let it steep for about 10 minutes. You can also add honey or lemon for flavor.
7. Boosts the absorption of nutrients
Consuming black pepper may boost the absorption of nutrients in the body by as much as 2,000%! This means that if you take a supplement with black pepper, you’re likely getting more vitamins and minerals than if you didn’t have black pepper before taking it.
Black pepper even helps with the absorption of curcumin and beta-carotene. Curcumin (8) is found in turmeric, which is the yellow spice that gives curry its distinctive color. It’s a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, which has been shown to have various health benefits. Beta-carotene is another antioxidant that’s also an important nutrient for eye health.
Black pepper is best added to meals that include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Combining it with these foods helps enhance your body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that adding black pepper to meals increased the absorption of carotenoids from oranges by 12%. The researchers concluded that consuming black pepper with a meal can also increase the bioavailability of carotenoids and promote greater health benefits.
Another study found that piperine increased vitamin C bioavailability by 1,000% when consumed with broccoli or spinach.
8. Might Prevent cancer
Black pepper contains antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. Piperine has been shown to reduce tumor growth by blocking the activation of human papillomavirus (9). This virus causes cervical cancer and other types of cancer in some people with weak immune systems.
It’s believed that black pepper could even be used as an alternative treatment for cancer patients who are unable to tolerate chemotherapy drugs. The anti-tumor effect of piperine has been studied in several types of cancer including breast, prostate, and lung cancers. Piperine helps kill cancer cells by inhibiting their growth and blocking their ability to divide into new cells.
It also prevents the growth of new blood vessels needed by tumors for survival. In addition, piperine may help protect healthy cells from damage caused by chemotherapy drugs that can cause severe side effects such as nausea and weakness.
9. Boosts digestion
Spices like black pepper can help improve your digestive system by stimulating your digestive juices and enzymes. These juices help break down food particles so they can be absorbed into your bloodstream for energy.
An improved digestive system can also help prevent indigestion and constipation. This can be especially helpful when you are eating a meal high in protein or carbohydrates and need more digestive enzymes to break them down properly.
The increased digestive juices might also help prevent heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid that may be released too early during digestion.
10. Lowers cholesterol levels
Black pepper lowers cholesterol by reducing the number of bile acids produced by the liver. These acids are necessary for breaking down cholesterol into its various components. They also play an important role in digesting fats.
When too many bile acids are produced, they begin to build up in the body, causing an increase in triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol levels. Black pepper reduces these levels by increasing their breakdown in the body and eliminating them through urination.
Studies have shown that piperine can significantly reduce serum triglycerides (10) and total cholesterol levels in patients with atherosclerosis or hyperlipidemia. This effect occurs after only one hour of taking black pepper extract daily for six weeks!
So there you have it. Black pepper may not be the cure-all under your kitchen cabinet, but with all its benefits, it just might be something to consider adding to your daily diet.
In the end, perhaps the most compelling reason to eat black pepper is that it simply tastes good. But if you also want to boost your metabolism and reduce the chance of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, try adding this spice to your meals.