Note to readers: Ancient Wisdom is a series of guides that shines a light on age-old wisdom that has helped people for generations with time-honoured wellness solutions to everyday fitness problems, persistent health issues and stress management, among others. Through this series, we try to provide contemporary solutions to your health worries with traditional insights.
Black pepper, a powerful, flavoursome and pungent spice is a kitchen essential for nearly every household in India. Especially in winters, its consumption goes up as being warming in nature, it is also an effective home remedy for soothing symptoms associated with cold and cough. However, the wonderful spice’s utility doesn’t end here; black pepper or Kali Mirch can also support you in your weight loss journey by helping you control your food cravings. All the wonderful benefits of black pepper apparently come from a compound called piperine that is known to improve nutrient absorption, decrease inflammation in the body, boost brain function, control blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and even provides protection against cancer. (Also read: Ancient Wisdom Part 24: Weight loss to easing constipation; amazing benefits of Triphala)
It is not without a reason black pepper has always been referred to as the king of spices. In fact, in ancient times, black pepper was even more valued. So much so that in some parts of the world it was used as a currency. Pepper has grown in India for thousands of years and was first introduced to the West after the global conquests of Alexander the Great (4th century BC).
Black pepper is regarded as a healing spice in Ayurveda having cleansing and antioxidant properties. It stimulates appetite, improves flow of oxygen to brain and other parts of the body, and helps maintain respiratory health. It is widely used in culinary as well as medicinal space. Black pepper or Kali Mirch is part of a herbal remedy called Trikatu in Ayurveda in combination with long pepper and ginger. Trikatu aids in healing cough and cold, weight loss, and helps remove toxins from the body.
Benefits of black pepper
“Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which gives it its characteristic spicy kick. This compound is not only responsible for its bold flavour but also contributes to its health benefits. Piperine has been linked to improved digestion, enhanced nutrient absorption, and potential weight management benefits. Additionally, black pepper has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a valuable addition to your diet,” says Dietitian Rashi Tantia, HOD Dietitian, Metro Hospital, Faridabad.
Dr Avik Roy, Golf view healthcare & Research Institute, MBBS, MD, DNB 1, CCEBDM, ccdm, ccgm, ccigc, ccdr, ccgdm, Consultant
Diabetology and Geriatric medicine lists benefits of black pepper:
Weight loss: Black pepper in losing weight due to its wonderful component piperine that inhibits the formation of new fat cells, and thus aids in prevention of obesity.
Detox: Black pepper can help detox the body. According to studies, it helps enhance the detoxification enzymes and reduced DNA damage.
Prevents cancer: Black pepper can help prevent cancer. Piperine, a major alkaloid constituent of black pepper, has antitumour activities in a variety of cancers.
Cleanses your intestines and stomach: Piperine in black pepper is known to be a great internal cleanser.
Heart health: Black pepper consists of potassium that helps in regulating heart rate and high blood pressure.
Additionally, it also helps in producing red blood cells. Black pepper is also great for digestive health and is known to prevent constipation.
How black pepper was used in ancient times
Black pepper was used as form of currency and a dowry payment in ancient Egypt. Greeks and Romans used to flaunt their stock of black pepper as it was considered a symbol of wealth and status in those times. In Middle Ages, black pepper was considered a luxury item that could only be afforded by rich and mighty and due to its high value, it was accepted in the form of payment for rent, taxes, and dowries. The high cost of black pepper was the reason European explorers began to look for new trade routes to India and the Far East.
“Black pepper has a rich history dating back to ancient times. It was highly prized in the Roman Empire and was even referred to as ‘black gold’ due to its significant value. It was used not only as a spice but also as a form of currency. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, black pepper was used to treat various ailments, from digestive issues to respiratory problems,” says Tantia.
“The ancient Greeks and Romans were particularly fond of black pepper, using it to add flavour to their food and as a symbol of wealth and status. The spice was so highly valued that it was often used as a form of currency, and it played a significant role in the expansion of the Roman Empire,” says Dr Roy.
Ways to add black pepper to the diet
“Tea, coffee and other warm drinks can easily accommodate powdered or whole black pepper to improve the flavour and taste. Vegetable preparations and curries in Indian households are seldom prepared without adding black pepper. You can add black pepper to salads, dressings and soups,” says Dr Roy.
Incorporating black pepper into your daily meals is easy and delightful. Here are some creative ways to do so, as suggested by Tantia:
1. Seasoning: Use freshly ground black pepper to season your salads, soups, and roasted vegetables for an extra layer of flavour.
2. Spice blends: Create your spice blends by mixing black pepper with other spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric to make your own seasoning mixes for meats or veggies.
3. Turmeric latte: Try a trendy turmeric latte with a pinch of black pepper for an added kick and enhanced absorption of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric.
4. Marinades: Add black pepper to your marinades for meats or tofu, infusing your dishes with its distinct taste.
5. In breakfast: Sprinkle black pepper on your eggs or avocado toast for a savoury morning treat.
Who shouldn’t have black pepper
While black pepper offers many health benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone.
“People with gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux or gastritis may want to use it in moderation, as it can sometimes exacerbate these conditions. It’s also advised to avoid excessive black pepper consumption if you have ulcers or a history of kidney stones, as it can contribute to their formation,” says Tantia.
“Piperine in black pepper may reduce blood clotting and slow blood clot formation. During surgery, this could cause bleeding complications and alter your blood sugar levels. In the cases of people with diabetes, taking black pepper in large amounts may similarly affect blood sugar levels,” says Dr Roy.
Interesting facts about black pepper
Tantia shares fascinating facts about black pepper or Kali Mirch:
- Black pepper was once so highly valued that it was used as a form of currency and a dowry payment in ancient Egypt.
- Piperine in black pepper can enhance the absorption of various nutrients, including curcumin in turmeric, making it a common combination in many traditional dishes.
- In the medieval ages, black pepper was so sought after that it led to the exploration and discovery of new trade routes, including the famous Spice Route.
- Black pepper is also known as ‘black gold’ and ‘king of spices’ and has been grown for thousands of years.