My curiosity about this spice was triggered,when I took a mixture of black pepper and black cardamom and it worked as an instant remedy for diarrhoea.
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.
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!
Also called the king of spices,pepper is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. Discovered 4000 years ago,it is indigenous to the Malabar Coast in India. It was the 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.
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 recent study in 2010 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.
Hoever,piperine can modify the effects of numerous other medicines. Therefore,it is important to seek advice from a qualified professional before using it in therapeutic doses.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being,one should integrate physical,mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines