(Natural News) Of the many spices that are staples of a perfect pantry, one stands out as the “king of spices.” Black pepper, a condiment made by grinding the dried berries of the flowering plant Piper nigrum, is used in a lot of cuisines to add a mildly spicy flavor to foods. Next to salt, pepper is the most commonly used seasoning for savory dishes, and it complements all other spices perfectly. In fact, black pepper has the ability to enhance the taste, aroma and medicinal properties of whatever spice it is used together with.
Black pepper is also a medicinal spice with a long history of use in traditional medicine, particularly in Ayurveda. According to studies, black pepper is rich in active compounds that give it plenty of beneficial properties, especially antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Piperine, the chemical responsible for the pungency of black pepper, not only helps relieve ailments like nausea and headaches, it also boosts the absorption of plant compounds from other medicinal plants, such as curcumin from turmeric. Here are some of the amazing things black pepper and piperine can do for you.
The health benefits of black pepper
In Ayurvedic medicine, black pepper is considered a healing spice that improves blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. It also enhances digestion, stimulates appetite and helps maintain respiratory health and joint health. But Ayurvedic healers value black pepper highly because it is a bioavailability enhancer, and they believe it can help deliver the benefits of other Ayurvedic herbs to different parts of the body. They also use black pepper in various formulations because of its cleansing and antioxidant properties.
Here are the science-backed health benefits of black pepper and piperine: (h/t to Healthline.com)
Black pepper can protect cells from free radicals. Environmental factors like pollution and UV radiation trigger the production of highly reactive molecules called free radicals. These chemicals are known to cause cellular damage and induce inflammation, both of which can lead to chronic health conditions. Through the antioxidant activities of piperine, black pepper neutralizes free radicals and helps prevent serious diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Black pepper reduces inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked by numerous studies to many life-threatening diseases. But piperine in black pepper can stop inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, such as interleukin-6 and metalloproteinase 13. This makes black pepper an effective natural remedy for inflammation-related conditions, such as arthritis, seasonal allergies and asthma.
Black pepper improves brain function. According to animal studies, piperine can decrease the formation of amyloid plaques, which are protein fragments that can damage neurons if they accumulate in the brain. In rat models of Alzheimer’s disease, this activity of piperine has led to improvements in memory. Researchers believe piperine can also be used for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Black pepper improves blood sugar control. Piperine in black pepper may also help with diabetes. A recent animal study by Japanese researchers found that piperine can prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. Another study also found that piperine can improve the insulin sensitivity of overweight people after eight weeks of supplementation.
Black pepper helps lower blood cholesterol. Besides lowering blood sugar, black pepper can also help decrease blood cholesterol levels. In particular, studies have found that black pepper can decrease bad LDL cholesterol in rats fed a high-fat diet. When combined with turmeric and red yeast rice, piperine boosts the absorption of their cholesterol-lowering components, thus enhancing their positive effects. (Related: Combine turmeric and black pepper to boost health benefits of curcumin.)
Black pepper is a versatile spice and food ingredient that offers plenty of health benefits. You can use it on its own or combine it with other spices, such as turmeric, garlic or cumin. Add this amazing superfood to your diet to enhance the flavor of your meals and improve your heart, brain and metabolic health.