Black pepper is the most popular spice in the world. It is native to India and has been used there since ancient times. It was so prized that it was often used as a form of currency and was sometimes referred to as "black gold." It was also used medicinally.
Here are eight health benefits of black pepper that are nothing to sneeze at.
The substance in black pepper that is believed to be the cause of its sneezing effects has been found to increase the bioavailablity of potent cancer-fighter curcumin (the active polyphenol found in turmeric) by 1,000 times, which means that when combined together, black pepper and turmeric pack a powerful anti-cancer punch.
One study even found that black pepper and turmeric combined, eaten in normal dietary amounts, was able to destroy breast cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are difficult to get rid of with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
You may have heard that black pepper is carcinogenic. It does contain a compound called safrole which has been found to be carcinogenic when injected into mice in massive doses. Safrole is also found in basil, nutmeg, and star anise. Most experts agree that black pepper is not carcinogenic in the modest amounts used in cooking.
Better Nutrient Absorption
In addition to curcumin, the piperine in black pepper also increases absorption of several other nutrients, including selenium, vitamin B, curcumin, and beta-carotene.
Eating black pepper increases production of hydrochloric acid, a digestive enzyme that helps to reduce food transit time through the intestines, which in turn prevents gas, heartburn, and constipation.
Prevents Water Retention
Black pepper promotes elimination of excess fluids in the body through urination and sweating.
Helps in Quitting Smoking
A study at NYU's Langone Medical Center found that cigarette replacement devices that emitted black pepper vapor reduced the smokers' craving for the day's first cigarette.
Studies have found that black pepper is a powerful antibacterial agent, with the ability to destroy many different types of bacteria encountered in the stomach.
The piperine in black pepper is thermogenic, meaning it raises the metabolism and increases the number of calories burned by the body. It is also believed to help trigger a sensation of fullness.
In many parts of the world, black pepper in combination with other healing foods is a popular home remedy for cough. One remedy involves cutting a lemon in half, sprinkling it with black pepper, and sucking on it. Another popular remedy for cough is black pepper tea. (See our black pepper tea recipe to find out how to make it.)