By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
What is Black Pepper
Black pepper, sometimes referred to as pepper or its scientific name, Piper nigrum, is a part of the Piperaceae family. Black pepper is a spice from black peppercorns, the dried fruit of the almost-mature pepper berry (1). Black pepper can be vining or have bushy, wooden stems with alternating, oval leaves connected to them. This plant can produce clusters/spikes of 50 to 150 flowers with 20-30 small, green, spherical fruits that ripen to red on each stem (2).
Health Benefits of Black Pepper
Rich in Nutrients
Our body needs nutrients to flourish. Without vital vitamins and minerals, our bodies won’t function properly. Black pepper is rich in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A and K (3). Aside from being rich in nutrients, black pepper is often added alongside other herbs, like turmeric, to promote optimal nutrient absorption (4).
Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease (5). Studies have observed the reduction of free radical damage due to the antioxidant properties of black pepper supplementation (6). More specifically, animal studies demonstrated the antioxidant properties of black pepper after significantly reducing markers of free radical damage post-black pepper extract administration in rats fed a high-fat diet (7).
Although inflammation is a natural bodily response, chronic inflammation can lead to detrimental health effects. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (8). Thankfully several studies indicate black pepper might help fight inflammation (9). In animal studies, black pepper reduced physical inflammation and inflammatory blood markers in arthritic mice (11,12).
Promotes Respiratory Health
Chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as asthma and COPD, are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (13). These respiratory diseases often require controlling inflammation for proper respiratory health management (14,15). Thankfully, animal studies demonstrate black pepper’s ability to support respiratory health and suppress airway inflammation associated with asthma and seasonal allergies (16,17).
As of 2016, an estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults (50.0 million) had chronic pain, and 8.0% of U.S. adults (19.6 million) had high-impact chronic pain (18). Aside from black pepper’s anti-inflammatory properties, studies have also found black pepper to have analgesic properties. In animal studies, the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of black pepper have produced potent and natural pain relief (19). One study even indicated that black pepper’s anti-inflammatory properties might contribute to pain and epilepsy (20).
May Support Heart Health
Unfortunately, heart disease is the world’s number 1 cause of death (21). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. For instance, “bad” LDL cholesterol can build up in your arteries and potentially cause damage (22). That’s where black pepper may come into play.
Several animal studies have demonstrated black pepper’s cholesterol-reducing potential (23,24,25). One animal study used black pepper extract and found it not only reduced cholesterol levels but also reduced body weight, which also contributes to heart disease. This is significant considering the test subjects were high-fat diet-induced obese rats (26). Human studies had similar results and found that black pepper successfully lowered cholesterol levels in patients with or without cardiovascular risk factors (27,28).
May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
As of 2020, 34.2 million (1 in 10) Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million (1 in 3) Americans have prediabetes (29). Thankfully, several studies indicate black pepper has anti-diabetic properties that can help improve blood sugar levels (30,31,32). In animal studies, black pepper improved blood sugar levels and positively affected body weight and hepatotoxicity with fewer side effects (33). Human studies had similar findings and found that eight weeks of black pepper supplementation and other food ingredients significantly improved insulin sensitivity in overweight participants (34).
May Support Brain Health
Brain health refers to cognitive health, motor functions, emotional functions, and tactile functions. Brain functions may decrease across several areas as we age due to neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or even amyloid plaques (35). Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis (MS), and other brain diseases are associated with inflammation (36,37,38).
Several studies demonstrate black pepper’s anti-inflammatory properties may help protect against neurological conditions. One animal study found black pepper improved memory, allowing rats with Alzheimer’s to run mazes more efficiently than test subjects who didn’t receive black pepper (39). Another animal study demonstrated black pepper’s ability to increase memory and decrease the formation of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer-induced rats (40). Additionally, a study found inhaling black pepper extract reduced smoking withdrawal symptoms (41).
Statistics say that 158.3 of every 100,000 individuals will die from cancer, but what if they didn’t have to (42)? Thankfully, several studies indicate black pepper’s bioactive compound, piper, may have cancer-fighting properties (43,44). In test-tube studies, black pepper slowed and killed the spread of breast, colon, and prostate cancer cells (45,46,47). Other studies have demonstrated black pepper’s ability to reverse multidrug resistance, which could help enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy (48,49). A final study demonstrated black pepper’s ability to enhance the efficacy of traditional therapies, even against the most aggressive cancer type, triple-negative breast cancer (50).
Mainstream sources caution against the use of black pepper. Although back pepper is commonly consumed in foods, they claim isn’t enough reliable information to know if it’s safe to use as a medicine or what the side effects might be. The mainstream also cautions against usage while pregnant, claiming it might cause an abortion (51). Ironically, there is no scientific data to prove this, nor any cases of it happening.
Herbal Academy doesn’t indicate a risk of abortion during pregnancy. They note that in large doses, black pepper is neither recommended nor necessary. Culinary amounts of black pepper (½ teaspoon) are effective, even for medicine-making, for all stages of life (52).
Regarding black pepper essential oil, trusted aromatherapist Wendy Robbins has indicated no special precautions when using either variation unless oxidized aside from her general warning to never use any essential oils internally or undiluted (53). Additionally, Plant Therapy’s Black Pepper Essential Oil is safe for children, pregnancy, breastfeeding, dogs, and horses.
How to Use Black Pepper
You can find black pepper in dried bulk, pills, powders, extracts, essential oils, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also options, especially when following Ayurvedic medicine recipes. If you’re a DIY person, some great starter recipes are:
Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:
- Earthley’s Candida Cleanse helps to fight yeast and candida overgrowth to restore gut health. Made with 100% natural ingredients, this herbal tincture is safe and effective in bringing the relief you’ve been looking for.
- Earthley’s Immunity Soup helps support your immune system while enjoying a yummy soup, stock, or whatever meal you’d like! Simply simmer, strain, and add to your recipe for added flavor and nutrients.
- Earthley’s Liver Love promotes liver health by supporting detox and proper function. The liver is a critical, hard-working organ, and this herbal tincture provides 100% natural support. Enjoy relief from bloating, gas, and other liver-related pain.
- Earthley’s Postpartum Balance was created especially for mamas to help break down no-longer-needed pregnancy hormones, support hormone balance, and helps to lessen bleeding for an easier fourth trimester.
- Earthley’s Sea Salt Soap combines nourishing oils and gently-exfoliating sea salt to create an at-home spa experience. Our Margarita scent smells fresh and clean and is made with all-natural essential oils. Gently rub away dry, dead skin to reveal the glowing skin beneath it.
- Earthley’s Sinus Saver is an herbal tincture that provides natural support during allergy season and beyond! Enjoy relief from sneezes, sniffles, sinus pressure, watery eyes, and other annoying allergy symptoms. Sinus Saver uses the power of herbs to help clear the body of excess histamines and calm allergic reactions.
- Earthley’s Turmeric + Black Pepper Capsules have health-supporting properties for the body, inside and out. It’s high in anti-inflammatory properties, so it is a wonderful way to naturally relieve joint and muscle pain. It can even help to relieve skin issues like acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
- Earthley’s UT Relief promotes urinary tract health and relieves symptoms of UTIs. Take it daily as a preventative if you have frequent UTIs or at the first signs of one to reduce pain and other symptoms naturally.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.