The Health Benefits of Black Pepper
A native spice of Southern India, pepper has been known since ancient times and has played an important role as both a spice for foods and for itís medicinal properties. While you might not think twice about this spice that sits on your dinner table, the health benefits of pepper are actually quite far reaching and, perhaps, even surprising.
Used in in Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha medicine, pepper has both antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Perhaps itís most common medicinal use is that of relieving digestive problems, and itís no wonder since the spicy components cause your stomach to produce more hydrochloric acid, aiding digestion. This helps pass the food along. Thus helping to treat such ailments as gas, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea and constipation.
But the health benefits of pepper are not limited to digestive malaise. It is an important healing spice and contained in many Ayurvedic formulations. It is a "warming" spice and helps enhance the effects of other herbs throughout the body. It is also said to help enhance circulation and get oxygen to the brain. In addition, it may help keep your joints and respiratory system healthy.
The use of black pepper as a healing spice was written about as far back as the 5th century in the Syriac Book of Medicines1. It had a wide range of uses including those mentioned above and some you might not associate with pepper such as being used as a salve to treat eye problems. This seems a little odd as anyone who has ever gotten pepper in their eye by mistake will attest. So I wouldnít try it myself. Other less harmful uses include using it as a treatment for insect bites, insomnia, liver problems, gangrene, hernia, lung disease, heart disease, liver problems, sunburn, and toothaches.
Pepper actually can cause people to sneeze, but this may be as much due to its shape in a dried and ground condition as much as the fact that a chemical in pepper (piperine2) can be an irritant in the nose. Black peppercorns actually have nothing to do with the pepper spray; popular as a self-defense weapon. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin which is derived from chili peppers not black pepper.
Today, the health benefits of pepper are not widely touted by Western medicine and there are precious few studies to corroborate, or refute, any of the aforementioned uses. It is, however, eliminated from diets of people who have ulcers as well as anyone undergoing abdominal surgery and is often used in restaurant kitchens to stop light bleeding from cuts.
1. Spice Place
2. Chow: Food, Drink, Fun