Black Pepper (Hei Hu Jiao)
Botanical Name: Piper nigrum
Black pepper stimulates the taste bud sending a message to the stomach to increase its hydrochloric acid secretions which improve the digestion of proteins and other food components. This increase in digestive activity also ensures that food is properly digested prior to arriving in the intestines, where undigested food can become food for unwanted bacterial growth and cause constipation or diarrhea. Black pepper helps stimulate the breakdown of fat cells and helps prevent atherosclerosis.
Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.
Below is an overview of black pepper, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of black pepper.
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Also Known As: Pepper, Black Peppercorn, Piper
Organs/Systems: Digestion, Lungs, Brain, Skin
Key Actions: Carminative, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Expectorant, Antiseptic, Rubefacient, Aromatic, Relaxant, Stimulant
Medicinal Uses: Intestinal gas, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, promotes sweating, increases urination, weight loss, cough, colds, skin problems, vitiligo, peptic ulcers, dementia, atherosclerosis, asthma, prevent gangrene, toothache, gum swellings, antistress, depression, headaches, menstrual cramps, cancer, bronchitis, colic, measles, neuralgia, scabies, eye infections.
Pin Yin: Hei Hu Jiao (translates as Black Pepper)
Also Known As: Hu Jiao (translates as Barbarian Pepper), Hu Jiao Li (translates as Peppercorns)
Meridians: Stomach, Large Intestines
Key Actions: Warms the Stomach, Warms the Interior, Expels Cold, Calms Rebellious Qi, Descends Qi Downwards, Reduces Pain, Antimalarial
Medicinal Uses: Abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea, colds, flu, chills & fevers, headaches, bronchitis, arthritis, depression, menstrual cramps, nausea, constipation, food stagnation, intestinal cramping, malaria, constipation, joint pain, muscle aches, coughs, wheezing.
Black pepper plant is a flowering, smooth, woody vine that can grow up to 33 feet. It is in the family Piperaceae. They begin to bear small white clustered flowers after 3-4 years that develop into the berries that are dried and then known as peppercorns. The pepper berry is a drupe, producing a single seed. A single stem will bear 20-30 fruiting spikes.
Native to Southern India, black pepper likes hot humid tropical climates. It is extensively cultivated in India and other hot tropical regions of the world. Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of pepper.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Peppercorns (Dried Berries)
Flavors/Temps: Pungent, Warming, Hot
Caution: Very safe. Essential oil can be irritating to the skin.
Key Constituents: Manganese (37% of RDA), Vitamin K (16%) A and C, Copper, Iron, Chromium, Calcium, Potassium, Oxalate, Dietary fiber, Phytochemicals (including Amides, Piperine, Piperidines, Pyrrolidines).
History/Folklore: Black pepper is called the “King of Spices.” The potassium in black pepper aids digestion and the outer layer of the peppercorns aids the break-down of fat cells. In ancient times, when there was no refrigeration, it was especially valuable for its ability to mask a food’s lack of freshness or if a food had begun to go rancid. However, peppers used as a preservative remains questionable as the value of the spice and the amount needed to actually preserve a meat would make it less likely to be used than salt which is excellent for preserving. Pepper was valued as a flavoring and medicine.
Black pepper is often confused historically with long pepper (Piper longum). The Romans used both of these types referring to them each as only “pepper.” Long pepper fell out of favor with the later introduction of chili peppers from the New World. As a medicine, long pepper is stronger than black pepper. Both have been used to treat eye problems.
Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II of Ancient Egypt as part of the mummification process.
Pepper has been so important to ancient cultures that it has been used as a currency, called “black gold”, and as a sacred offering to the gods. In Greece it was used to honor the gods, pay ransoms and taxes. When Rome was invaded, by Atilla the Hun, he demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as a ransom for freeing the city as an honored peace offering. Pepper was one of the key spices that the ancient spice trade was built upon, leading to the discovery of new lands and the building of new trade routes across the European and Asian continents. Black pepper is the world’s most commonly traded spice.
By the third century CE, black pepper was first mentioned in Chinese texts where it is described as “foreign pepper.” By the 12th century it was a popular ingredient in cuisine.
The Dutch use the phrase “peperduur” meaning “pepper expensive” to describe a very expensive item.
Black (half-mature, about to turn red and dried), green (unripe berries) and white peppercorns (entirely ripe berry is soaked in brine to remove the dark outer skin, exposing the inner white-colored pepper seed) are actually all from the same fruit (Piper nigrum). The difference is derived from the different stages of development and processing methods. Orange and red pepper consists of the ripe red pepper drupes from the plants being preserved in brine and vinegar. Pink peppercorns are from an entirely different plant, the Peruvian pepper tree (Schinus molle).
The spiciness of pepper is due to the constituent piperine. Once the berries are dried pepper spirit and oil can be extracted from the berries by crushing them. Pepper spirit is used medicinally and in beauty products. Pepper oil is used in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine as a massage oil. Pepper was one of the few medicines a Buddhist monk was allowed to carry.
Black pepper used in large amounts may have abortifacient properties. Used as a seasoning it is safe to consume but in high doses it can cause upset stomach, uterine cramping, and diarrhea.
Piperine is being studied for its abilities to increase the absorption of selenium, vitamin B12, beta-carotene, curcumin and other compounds. Studies indicate that levels of selenium, B6, and beta-carotene are significantly increased in the blood by almost 60% while using black pepper signifying that black pepper may aid the body’s ability to hold onto and make better use of important compounds for improving immunity and overall health.
It is also being studied for its ability to reduce loss of memory and other cognitive malfunctions. Chemical pathways in the brain appear to be stimulated by piperine making it a possible aid to treating Alzheimer’s and dementia in older patients.
In Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, pepper is used as a tonic for treating colds, coughs, sinus and nasal congestion.
Pepper helps keep your arteries clean by scraping excess cholesterol off arterial walls, reducing atherosclerosis and helping to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
The skin condition, vitiligo, which causes skin to lose its normal pigmentation and turn white is aided by the stimulating effects the constituent piperine has on producing melanocytes pigments in the skin. Pepper is also said to reduce the chances of skin cancer due to excessive ultraviolet radiation.
The potassium in black pepper aids digestion and the outer layer of the peppercorns aids the break-down of fat cells.
In the 1840’s, the word pepper was used to mean “spirit” or “energy,” and through the early 20th century the word was shortened to the slang word, “pep” to describe a person full of spirit and energy.
Black pepper was thought to protect against the ‘evil eye’ and wearing a peppercorn was said to free one of envious thoughts. Used in spells and charms, black pepper will banish negativity and provide protection. Burning black pepper before smudging your home with sage is a powerful combination. The black pepper will help remove negative energies and invigorate Qi prior to smudging with the soothing and cleansing properties of sage. Black pepper is also used in voodoo and black magic.
As an essential oil black pepper is used to provide comfort, support endurance and stamina, and increase flexibility.
In the tropical areas where black pepper is native, the ground peppercorns will be added to tobacco and smoked to ease pain caused by throat inflammation.
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How to use Black Pepper to take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!
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