Ever think about making your food even more delicious with black pepper? Well, I bet you have tried this so far, as women in Bangladesh often want to make their recipes unique and spicy with its subtle heat and bold flavour.
Black pepper is often considered as the ‘king of spices,’ which is derived from the dried, unripe fruit of the native Indian plant Piper nigrum. A bit of black pepper can be a tasty seasoning for cooked vegetables, beef, fish, pasta dishes, poultry, soup, and many more. But, the question is, do you ever consider black pepper for its health benefits apart from cooking?
Basically, ‘Piperine’ is the main chemical constituent of pepper that is one kind of alkaloid (3-9%). Black pepper is such an ingredient that offers a lot of health benefits that we might not know.
Besides adding flavour to foods, black pepper can act as an antioxidant and offer a variety of health benefits. Excess amounts of free radical damage may lead to significant health problems. For example, it may lead to inflammation, premature ageing, and certain cancers. Antioxidants are compounds that fight cellular damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
Research also shows that black pepper may improve the absorption of beta-carotene, a compound found in fruits and vegetables that our body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene act as a powerful antioxidant that may combat cellular damage, thus preventing conditions like heart disease.
Piperine has been shown to improve brain function in animal studies. In particular, it has demonstrated potential benefits for symptoms related to degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The most interesting case is that test-tube studies found that piperine slows down the replication of cancer cells. Reviews noted that black pepper extracts were able to stop up to 85% of cellular damage associated with cancer development. Though these results are promising, more studies are needed to understand the potential cancer-fighting properties of black pepper.
For example, a study conducted at the University of Michigan’s Cancer Centre, says that black pepper, along with turmeric, is capable of preventing the growth of cancerous stem cells in breast tumours.
Black pepper is believed to increase the absorption of dietary supplements that have potential cholesterol-lowering effects like turmeric and red yeast rice. For example, studies have shown that black pepper may increase the intake of the active component of turmeric curcumin by up to 2000%.
Furthermore, you can use black pepper as a natural anti-depressant also. Several studies also suggest it in the use of epilepsy.
However, the use of black pepper should be limited as excess use may cause a burning sensation in the stomach and eyes (even though it is temporary). One must not inhale black pepper as it may lead to respiratory problems like respiratory irritation and asthma etc. Patients taking cyclosporine A, digoxin, and cytochrome P450 should avoid consuming black pepper as it shows contraindication.
So, the use of black pepper not only provide spicy food but also helps you to improve specific health conditions silently. Just make sure to use it between its safety margins.
The writer is a student at the Department of Pharmacy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj.