Five Reasons to Make Black Pepper a Favorite Spice

Black pepper is an inexpensive, common spice with a long list of health benefits

Black pepper is an inexpensive, common spice with a long list of health benefits

Black Pepper Sprinkles Unexpected Health Benefits and Pungent Taste

Sometimes you seek health by expensive, exotic means; you may fail to see the benefits right in front of you in everyday, low cost foods that you take for granted. Such is the case with black pepper.

This common spice has long been a personal favorite. I rarely eat lunch or dinner without enjoying the mildly spicy, distinct taste and enticing aroma of freshly ground black pepper. Finally, I stopped and asked myself “What are the benefits of this food I eat multiple times a day?,” heading to medical journals to see who else had asked this question and what they found out.

Black pepper, called “the king of spices,” is one of the most popular seasonings in countries around the world. The peppercorns are dried fruits of a tropical vine that will not grow in more temperate climates. People have prized black pepper for thousands of years, giving it a prominent role in traditional medicine and trade as well as in cooking. For example, traditional healers used black pepper to aid digestion, soothe stomach problems, and treat sore throat, colds, asthma, itching, pain, and breathing and heart problems.


Recent research validates powerful health benefits of this everyday spice. While black pepper contains hundreds of chemicals that may enhance health, the alkaloid called piperine is the constituent that scientists have studied the most.

Researchers have documented an impressive list of general benefits both of piperine specifically and of black pepper as a whole food.

  • Anti-inflammatory: Inhibits excess inflammation
  • Anti-microbial and anti-parasitic: Limits the growth of many microbes, including some varieties of
    If you look closely, you won't be surprised to find out that black pepper is actually a berry

    If you look closely, you won’t be surprised to find out that black pepper is actually a berry

    staph, salmonella, and strep; helps kill parasites

  • Antioxidant: Neutralizes free radicals and oxidative stress that can damage your body; also slows food spoilage due to oxidation
  • Enhances nutrient absorption: Increases the bioavailability of many nutrients and phytochemicals in other foods and spices; but watch out – it can also facilitate absorption of drugs

Given the above benefits, here are some of the illnesses that recent studies have shown black pepper may help prevent or treat.

  • Cancer: Pepper may reduce the toxicity of chemicals that can get cancer going in the first place. If cancer develops, studies of human cancer cells show that whole pepper or specific components of the spice inhibit the growth of these cells, slow the process of blood vessels growing to nourish a tumor, attack cancer stem cells, and facilitate the self-destruction of malignant cells
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances: Pepper facilitates digestion and normalizes intestinal function, with the ability to help bring both constipation and diarrhea under control. May protect intestinal membranes and improve the production of digestive enzymes
  • Arthritis: Pepper mitigates inflammation in cartilage tissue from the knees of patients with arthritis
  • High cholesterol and blood pressure: Preliminary research suggests that black pepper may lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels


Black pepper would be delicious added to a vegetable soup made with garlic, onion, and bay leaf

Black pepper would be delicious added to a vegetable soup made with garlic, onion, and bay leaf

Health considerations are the first reason to enjoy black pepper. Here are four more.

  • Taste: Black pepper has a unique pungent taste that is spicy without burning your tongue.
  • Convenience: You can buy black pepper in just about any grocery store, and it’s often right at hand wherever you are eating.
  • Versatility: This spice enhances your enjoyment of soups, whole grain dishes, salads, and much more.
  • Ease of grinding: Black pepper is easy to grind, and so one of the spices that is most easily enjoyed “fresh.”


Black pepper tastes and smells best when you freshly grind it right before eating. Part of the flavor, aroma, and health benefits of this spice are due to volatile pepper oil. After the peppercorn has been ground, the oil starts to go into the air and eventually is lost. Invest in a good quality pepper mill that will last for years.

Heat can destroy some of the active constituents of pepper than promote health. Therefore, when using black pepper, add it at the end of cooking. Light can also have a destructive effect on the beneficial components of pepper, so keep the peppercorns in a grinder that is light-proof, or else store it in a dark

Invest in a good pepper mill so you can enjoy fresh ground black pepper

Invest in a good pepper mill so you can enjoy fresh ground black pepper

cabinet if you can.

Finally, enjoy your fresh ground black pepper as part of a whole foods, plant-based diet. Sprinkling some token pepper onto unhealthy animal foods or highly processed foods will not do you much good. Remember, it’s your overall pattern of eating that matters most. And black pepper can be a tasty contributor to the big picture.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read about the benefits of mint, an herb combining health benefits, refreshing taste, and uplifting aroma.

Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on whole foods, plant-based diets. Quick information at no cost!

Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. The book describes a whole foods, plant-based diet that includes flavorful foods seasoned with a wide variety of herbs and spices.



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One Response to “Five Reasons to Make Black Pepper a Favorite Spice”

  1. Michelle Trenholm says:

    Wow, I never knew that pepper had any benefits! I love pepper, but I never use fresh pepper. Time for a trip to the store!