Black Pepper, King of Spices, Enemy of Ailments
It is also known as the king of spices, "pepper" is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. Discovered about 4000 years ago, it is indigenous to the Malabar Coast in India. It was search for pepper that drew early Western sailors eastwards. It became so important that it was used as desirable currency-dowries, taxes and rents were paid in pepper corns and the word "pepper corn rent" was coined. The name pepper comes from the Sanskrit word 'pippali' meaning berry.
Now, several scientific studies provide evidence that piperine enhances digestive tract function, has antibiotic properties and anti-inflammatory effects, anti-oxidant properties, anti-cancer effects and may even help in weight loss.
Interestingly, it has been found to have anti-larvicide effect against the dengue causing mosquito. The East Africans' belief that body odour produced after ingesting pepper, repels mosquitoes may be well worth it for health authorities to consider using black pepper as a herbal remedy to arrest the dengue epidemic!
Black pepper has been used as a folk medicine in a variety of cultures. The chemical, piperine is an active component in both black and white pepper and has numerous physiological and drug-like actions.
Like many spices that act as digestive stimulants, black pepper has been used to treat sluggish digestion, flatulence, bloating, lack of appetite and cramps. Several studies show that piperine favourably stimulates digestive enzymes of pancreas, improves digestive capacity. It has also been found to be useful in nausea.
Strong anti-oxidant activity has been found in black pepper extracts. This may render far reaching health benefits including cancer prevention, anti-inflammatory effects and immuno-modulatory activity.
A study in 2010 was conducted to determine effects of piperine on malignant breast cancer cells found that it inhibited breast stem-cell renewal without causing toxicity to normal cells, hence concluding that piperine could be a potential cancer preventive agent. Another study in 2010 concluded that black-pepper extract enhanced activity of natural killer cells, showing powerful anti-cancer and anti-tumour effects.
An animal study in 2010 showed that visceral fat reduced significantly in the group which was fed black pepper and its extracts piperine.