Black Pepper


Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flower-producing vine in the Piperaceae family. When dried, the fruit is referred to as a peppercorn and contains a single seed. When fully mature it is a deep shade of red and measures about 0.20 inches. The black powdery form of pepper with which most individuals are familiar is derived from grinding mature peppercorns until they reach a fine texture. It is this substance which we all recognise as the condiment spice known as pepper that is used to season food.

Black Pepper Plant

Black pepper grows on a perennial woody vine which can grow as high as six feet. Its leaves are long and its flowers small and the vines climb rough bark more easily than bark of a smoother texture. A single stem can bear over thirty fruiting spikes and as previously mentioned, the part used to create supplements or spice up food is the peppercorn.

In contrast, Cayenne peppers are long, bright red, and curl slightly at their end giving them a crescent shape. They enjoy the same climate as black pepper for growing purposes, but grow in the form of a fruited plant rather than on a vine.

Black Pepper is Different from Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Peppers (Capsicum annuum) are long, thin peppers that are grown in abundance in the Caribbean, South America, Africa and India. These peppers are members of the deadly nightshade plant family, although they are not at all harmful to humans. They are also used mainly for culinary purposes such as flavoring, but offer a spicier, more intense flavor than black pepper.

Cayenne pepper is also referred to as red pepper, and you can read more in our Cayenne Article and Chilli Peppers Article.

Black Pepper Habitat

Black pepper is extensively harvested in India where it is found in abundance. Pepper grows best in warm climates and tropical regions, and Vietnam is currently the world’s largest exporter of pepper.

History of Black Pepper

Pepper has been used as a flavoring additive on the Asian continent since at least 2000 BC. Peppercorns were regarded as a highly valuable commodity and sometimes referred to as “black gold” when being traded between countries. Pepper was so expensive in old World Europe that it was frequently used as collateral in business ventures.

Black pepper and other Indian spices changed World history as they were partly responsible for the efforts of the Portuguese to find a new nautical route to India during the exploration era, which ultimately helped along the colonization of the Americas. Pepper has been widely used in the United States ever since.

Health Benefits of Pepper

Pepper is primarily used in cooking for the purpose of adding robust flavor to recipes. However, there is also evidence to suggest that black pepper, as well as cayenne pepper, may have significant health benefits. Like most spices of the Eastern world, pepper was traditionally regarded as a medicine as well as a seasoning.

Black Pepper was believed to cure a vast array of conditions such as earache, indigestion, insect bites, joint pain, heart disease, liver problems and tooth decay. Black pepper is still widely used in standard Indian medicine as a natural treatment for chest congestion, colds and sore throats. In addition, black pepper extract has been found to contain anti-carcinogenic effects and antioxidant properties.


Pepper is currently enjoying some attention by herbalists and holistic professionals around the country as scientific research and controlled studies have suggested that piperine, a component of pepper, can significantly increase the body’s absorption of vitamin A precursor known as beta-carotenevitamin B and selenium.

The piperine in black pepper also has thermogenic properties and encourages the breakdown of lipids in the blood which are known to place individuals at risk for heart disease and stroke. Further studies are underway concerning its effect on beta-endorphin and serotonin production in the brain.

Piperine Causes Sneezing

As mentioned above, pepper, particularly black pepper, contains a compound called piperine. When pepper is inhaled or comes into contact with the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, piperine can stimulate nerve endings in these tissues. This stimulation triggers a response in the body’s respiratory system, leading to irritation and an urge to sneeze.

Additionally, pepper particles can irritate the nasal passages, causing them to become inflamed and prompting the body to expel them through sneezing as a protective mechanism. Sneezing helps to remove the irritants from the nasal passages, clearing them and restoring comfort.

Pepper As A Cure for An Upset Stomach

When one has what is commonly referred to as “upset stomach,” a dose of pepper can right this occurrence in certain cases. This is due to the fact that pepper is an acid forming rather than an alkaline forming food, and when ingested, stomach enzymes immediately go to work to balance the acid and alkaline combination that was momentarily disrupted by the introduction of pepper to the stomach’s lining.

These enzymes coat the stomach immediately, and it is for this reason many people find almost instant relief from their nausea upon ingesting pepper.

How to Take Pepper

Although many herbal supplements are frequently used in the form of tea, due to its strong taste black pepper is not popular as a tea. Instead, a small amount of black pepper is usually added to food, with the amount ingested a matter of taste for the individuals.

Black Pepper can be purchased as round peppercorns which are ground onto food at the point of use, or purchased in fine powdered form which is then sprinkled onto food.

Black pepper supplements can be taken in capsule form and are often labelled as “bioperine extract” . The standard dose of the capsule form is ten milligrams once a day.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Pepper Notes / Side Effects

While pepper is generally safe for consumption in moderate amounts, excessive intake or sensitivity to certain compounds in pepper may lead to potential side effects in some individuals.

Some possible side effects of consuming pepper include:

Gastrointestinal Issues: Excessive consumption of pepper, especially spicy varieties like black pepper, may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, leading to symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, or stomach upset.

Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, individuals may be allergic to pepper, experiencing symptoms such as itching, swelling, hives, or even anaphylaxis in severe cases. People with allergies to other members of the Piperaceae family, such as sassafras or bay leaves, may be more prone to pepper allergies.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Spicy peppers like black pepper may exacerbate symptoms of GERD in some individuals by increasing stomach acid production or irritating the esophagus.

Drug Interactions: Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, may interfere with certain medications by affecting their absorption or metabolism. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional if you are taking medications regularly and consuming pepper supplements.

Skin Irritation: Direct contact with pepper or pepper extracts may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, especially when handling raw peppers or pepper-containing products.

Respiratory Irritation: Inhaling pepper particles, particularly in powdered form, may irritate the respiratory tract and trigger symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or throat irritation.

Pregnancy Concerns: Excessive consumption of pepper during pregnancy may potentially exacerbate heartburn or gastrointestinal discomfort in some pregnant individuals. It is advisable to consume pepper in moderation and consult a healthcare provider if there are any concerns.

Overall, while pepper is a commonly used spice with many culinary benefits, individuals should be mindful of their tolerance and consumption levels to avoid potential side effects. If you experience persistent or severe symptoms after consuming pepper, it is recommended to seek medical advice.

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