Black pepper: Health benefits, nutrients & uses

black pepper

Black pepper, also known as the king of spices, is one of the oldest and most widely used spices in the world. It has been used for thousands of years for its flavour and medicinal properties. Black pepper is native to India and has been a part of Indian cuisine and medicine for centuries. It was one of the most valuable spices traded along the ancient spice routes and played a significant role in the world’s economy. Today, black pepper is still widely used in cooking, but it is also known for its many health benefits. It contains a compound called piperine, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. Additionally, it has been found to enhance nutrient absorption and improve digestion. With its rich history and numerous benefits, black pepper remains a staple in both culinary and medicinal practices around the world.

May help in the prevention of cancer 

Black pepper has been found to have anti-cancer properties by inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells through various mechanisms such as inducing cell death, DNA damage, and cell cycle arrest. Piperine, which is a component of black pepper, has been found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells and induce cell death in melanoma cells. Additionally, piperine has been found to inhibit angiogenesis, which is the process of forming new blood vessels that supply tumours with nutrients and oxygen, thus inhibiting the spread of cancer cells.

May help remove cholesterol

Black pepper has been found to affect how the body digests lipids, or fats. When piperine, a component of black pepper, is consumed, it can decrease the levels of cholesterol, unsaturated fats, and other lipids in the body. Black pepper can also increase the levels of HDL-cholesterol, which is considered ‘good’ cholesterol, while decreasing the levels of LDL-cholesterol and VLDL-cholesterol, which are considered ‘bad’ cholesterol. Piperine has been found to inhibit the degradation of ABCA1, a protein that helps remove cholesterol from cells, and this can improve cholesterol efflux. Black pepper also has anti-atherosclerotic effects, meaning it can help prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries, by regulating lipid digestion, reducing the production of harmful molecules called ROS, and slowing the growth of vascular smooth muscle cells by interfering with a signalling pathway called MAPK.

May help boost immunity

Piper nigrum, or black pepper, contains alkaloids that have been found to have antiviral effects. Piperine, a component of black pepper, has been found to inhibit the replication of viruses that cause Dengue and Ebola, and bioactive compounds derived from black pepper, called piperidine and piperazine, have been found to be highly effective against COVID-19.

May prevent neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases are conditions that involve the loss of neurons, and traditional as well as modern drugs have shown limited benefits with potential side effects.The ethanolic extract of Piper longum fruit has been found to inhibit the activities of neurotoxins present in snake venom that can cause harmful effects on the central nervous system. Piperine has also been shown in studies to improve memory function in all tests.

May help prevent epilepsy

Piperine has been found to increase levels of serotonin and GABA in the cortex and hippocampus, which alters the synaptic structures and delays tonic-clonic seizures. It has also been suggested that dysfunctions in GABA receptors may be a possible cause of epilepsy. Studies have identified that piperine works as an anticonvulsant by antagonising sodium/calcium channels through its ability to inhibit them.

Enhances bioavailability

Piperine works by enhancing the production of micelles and changing the structure of epithelial cell membranes, which allows for better absorption of nutrients. Additionally, piperine has been shown to modify membrane structure by interacting with nearby lipids and hydrophobic portions of proteins, which can improve enzyme production and modulate intestinal permeability. This results in an increase in the uptake area of the small intestine, allowing for better absorption of nutrients. Overall, piperine has the potential to improve the body’s ability to absorb and utilise nutrients.

May treat vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin disorder that results in the loss of pigmentation, causing the affected skin to become lighter or even turn completely white. Piper Nigrum, a commonly used spice, has been used for medicinal purposes for many years. Recent studies have shown that piper nigrum has pharmacological properties that can induce the replication of melanocytes, potentially restoring colour to depigmented skin. This suggests that piper nigrum could be a promising treatment option for vitiligo.

Conclusion

Black pepper, one of the most commonly used spices in the world, has numerous benefits and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. From its ability to enhance nutrient absorption to its potential role in treating neurological and skin disorders, black pepper has demonstrated its pharmacological and medicinal properties. With ongoing research, it is possible that more benefits of black pepper will be discovered in the future. Therefore, it is no surprise that black pepper has become an essential component of our daily diet and a valuable commodity in the global spice trade.

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