Black pepper is a spice that goes back thousands of years to the ancient Mayans and Aztecs. It has taken recent hold in the western world as a flavor for many foods. The name “black pepper” comes from the black coating on the surface of the pepper, which is why the spice is often used in place of salt. Black pepper also has a long and glorious history in traditional herbal medicine. Several studies have shown that black pepper serves as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibiotic in the body .
Two recent studies appear to indicate that there may be some truth to the claims about black pepper’s usefulness as a natural way to improve one’s health. One study performed at the University of California Davis indicates that it may promote better digestion and increases the absorption of nutrients in the intestines (graduate student in nutrition). The same study seems to indicate that black pepper may reduce the risk of gallstones by decreasing the risk of their development. In a related study, participants who took a supplement that contained a high amount of black pepper were less likely to suffer gallbladder disease after the treatment was administered. No conclusions can be drawn regarding the effect of the supplement on cancer rates or mortality. However, the preliminary research indicates that the herb may promote digestive health and may help decrease the risk of esophageal cancer.
In another study conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine, test-tube and rabbit studies indicate that the spice may promote antioxidant enzymes activity and release free radicals from the body. Preliminary findings from a test-tube feeding study indicate that the spice may also improve the absorption of iron and help prevent iron deficiency. A nutritional study completed by the University of Illinois College of Medicine indicates that black pepper contains catechins and flavonoids that may prevent cataracts and improve visual defects in animals. In a test-tube feeding study, test-tube larvae increased in survival when given black pepper, as did human infants.