9 Proven Health Benefits of Black Pepper

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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A pinch of black pepper added to any recipe works as more than just a flavor enhancer. Often called the king of spices, black pepper is known to offer a number of health benefits while providing an excellent depth of flavor to any dish. The use of black pepper in the diet helps promote weight loss, improve digestion, relieve cold and cough, boost metabolism, and treat skin problems.

What is Black Pepper?

Black pepper is the fruit of the black pepper plant from the Piperaceae family. It is used as both, spice and a medicine. There is an ingredient in it called piperine, which causes the spiciness.

It is native to Kerala, the southern state of India. Since ancient times, black pepper is one of the most widely-traded spices in the world. It is not a seasonal plant making it available throughout the year. When dried, this plant-derived spice is referred to as a peppercorn. Due to its antibacterial properties, pepper is used to preserve food. Black pepper is also a very good anti-inflammatory agent.

A bowl of black pepper corns with a wooden spoon and fresh leaves on a table

Whole black peppercorns on a blue table Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Spices, pepper, black
Serving Size :
Water [g]12.46
Energy [kcal]251
Energy [kJ]1050
Protein [g]10.39
Total lipid (fat) [g]3.26
Ash [g]4.49
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]63.95
Fiber, total dietary [g]25.3
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.64
Sucrose [g]0.02
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.24
Fructose [g]0.23
Galactose [g]0.15
Calcium, Ca [mg]443
Iron, Fe [mg]9.71
Magnesium, Mg [mg]171
Phosphorus, P [mg]158
Potassium, K [mg]1329
Sodium, Na [mg]20
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.19
Copper, Cu [mg]1.33
Manganese, Mn [mg]12.75
Selenium, Se [µg]4.9
Fluoride, F [µg]34.2
Thiamin [mg]0.11
Riboflavin [mg]0.18
Niacin [mg]1.14
Pantothenic acid [mg]1.4
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.29
Folate, total [µg]17
Folate, food [µg]17
Folate, DFE [µg]17
Choline, total [mg]11.3
Betaine [mg]8.9
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]27
Carotene, beta [µg]310
Carotene, alpha [µg]12
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]25
Vitamin A, IU [IU]547
Lycopene [µg]20
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]454
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]1.04
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]6.56
Tocotrienol, alpha [mg]0.85
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]163.7
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.39
6:0 [g]0.01
8:0 [g]0.1
10:0 [g]0.04
12:0 [g]0.09
14:0 [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.53
18:0 [g]0.33
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.74
14:1 [g]0.02
16:1 [g]0.08
18:1 [g]0.65
18:1 c [g]0.65
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1
18:2 [g]0.69
18:3 [g]0.15
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.15
20:3 [g]0.15
Phytosterols [mg]92
Tryptophan [g]0.06
Threonine [g]0.24
Isoleucine [g]0.37
Leucine [g]1.01
Lysine [g]0.24
Methionine [g]0.1
Cystine [g]0.14
Phenylalanine [g]0.45
Tyrosine [g]0.48
Valine [g]0.55
Arginine [g]0.31
Histidine [g]0.16
Alanine [g]0.62
Aspartic acid [g]1.41
Glutamic acid [g]1.41
Glycine [g]0.44
Proline [g]1.41
Serine [g]0.41
Sources include : USDA

Black Pepper Nutrition Facts

Black pepper contains minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, as well as vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. Other nutrients include vitamin E, folate, and vitamin K.

Black pepper also has dietary fiber and a moderate amount of carbohydrate and protein.

Health Benefits of Black Pepper

Black pepper aids in weight loss, and helps in relieving sinus, asthma, and nasal congestion. It also reduces the risk of cancer, and heart and liver ailments. Let us discuss the health benefits of black pepper in detail.

Anti-tumor Properties

Antioxidants in pepper can prevent or repair the damage caused by free radicals and help prevent many diseases. According to a review study conducted by lead researcher Jie Zheng, that compared various spices, piperine found in black pepper exhibits antitumor activity for a few types of cancer – they include breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.

However, more research studies and clinical trials are required to confirm the antitumor potential.

Improves Digestion

Consuming pepper increases the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach, thereby facilitating digestion. Proper digestion is essential to avoid intestinal issues including diarrhea, constipation, and colic.

Sweating helps remove toxins and foreign bodies from pores that have lodged there. It can also remove excess water. Urination removes uric acid, urea, excess water, and fat. (Fun fact: 4% of urine is fat)

Good digestion helps in weight loss, makes your overall body function better, and prevents severe gastrointestinal conditions. As black pepper is carminative in nature, it easily discharges the gas out of the body in a healthy downward motion; upward moving gas can be dangerous as it can strain the upper chest cavity and other vital organs.

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Weight Loss

The outer layer of peppercorn assists in the breakdown of fat cells. Therefore, peppery foods are a good way to help you shed weight naturally. When fat cells are broken down into their component parts, they are easily processed by the body and applied to other processes and enzymatic reactions, rather than settling in your body and making you overweight. Ayurvedic tea made with black pepper is one of the teas recommended for weight loss.

Skin Care

Pepper may help to provide relief from vitiligo, which is a skin disease that causes some areas of skin to lose its normal pigmentation and turn white.

According to researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, the piperine content of pepper can stimulate the skin to produce melanocyte pigment. The topical treatment of piperine combined with ultraviolet light therapy is much better than other harsher, more chemical-based treatments for vitiligo. It also reduces the chances of skin cancer due to excessive ultraviolet radiation.

The results from this animal study are promising, however, more research is required to prove the effectiveness in humans.

Provides Respiratory Relief

In Ayurvedic practices, pepper is added to tonics for treating cold and cough. Pepper also provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. It has an expectorant property that helps break up the mucus and phlegm depositions in the respiratory tract.

Soups and stews made with black pepper and other aromatic spices are often used to treat colds and coughs.

Antibacterial Quality

The antibacterial property of black pepper helps fight against infections and insect bites. Pepper added to the diet helps keep your arteries clean by acting in a similar way to fiber such as scraping excess cholesterol from the walls, thereby helping reduce atherosclerosis, the condition highly responsible for heart attack and stroke.

Research published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that the compounds present in black pepper were active against Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus sphaericus, Staphylococcus aureus among gram-positive bacteria, and against among certain gram-negative bacterial strains.

Enhances Bioavailability

Research suggests that black pepper helps in transporting the benefits of other herbs and compounds to different parts of the body, thus maximizing the efficiency of the other foods we consume. That is why adding it to food not only makes it delicious but also helps to make the nutrients more available and accessible to our system.

Improves Cognition

Piperine, one of the key components of black pepper, has been shown in numerous studies to reduce memory impairment and cognitive malfunction. The chemical pathways in the brain appear to be stimulated by this organic compound. Early research demonstrates the possibility of pepper to benefit Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering other age-related or free radical-related malfunctions in cognition.

Gives Relief from Peptic Ulcers

A number of studies have shown that black pepper may have beneficial effects on gastric mucosal damage and peptic ulcers due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Prevents Asthma

In some cases, pepper may be a good treatment for respiratory conditions due to its properties as an expectorant, as well as its strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Tips to use Black Pepper

  • Preparing grounded pepper powder at home is better than buying it ready-made. However, even homemade powder retains its freshness for only 3 months, while whole peppercorns can keep their freshness indefinitely.
  • Adding a pinch of black pepper to every meal helps to improve both, taste and digestion. It can also help improve your overall health and well-being.

Black Pepper FAQs

Is black pepper good for you?

Yes, it is good for most. According to Ayurvedic medicine, other benefits of black pepper are that they help prevent ear-aches and gangrene. It is also good for treating conditions like hernias, hoarseness, insect bites and is also commonly used to treat dental issues (tooth decay and toothaches). In ancient times, pepper was also administered to treat vision problems.

How to select and store peppercorns?

Black pepper is available around the year in all the stores. It’s better to buy whole pepper seeds, not the powdered black pepper. Look for peppercorns that are compact, round, heavy, and wholesome. Peppercorns can be stored for months in a dry air-tight container at room temperature, in a dry and dark place. And you can keep the ground black pepper in the refrigerator for longer shelf life.

How is pepper made?

Black peppercorns first bud as fruits that originally look green. They are allowed to grow in bunches like a grapevine and are cooked. After this, the peppercorns are sundried. The peppercorns turn into dark brown or black in color during the drying process and they also shrink in size. These are then sold in the market. You can grind the peppercorns to make them into pepper powder for garnishing.

Word of Caution: Pepper may cause sneezing. Patients who have undergone abdominal surgery should not add excessive pepper to their diet because it can have an irritating effect on the intestines. Black pepper should not be taken in high concentration, and if you see signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue its use and consult a doctor.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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