You might be surprised to learn that one of your kitchen staples can do more than add flavor to your dishes. Learn all the benefits black pepper fruit has to offer and different ways you can use it.
What Is Black Pepper Fruit?
Black peppercorns are the fruit of the flowering vine in the Piperaceae family. The vine is native to India, but today most of the world's exported black pepper fruit derives from Vietnam and is grown in most tropical regions. Traditionally peppercorn uses have ranged from healing toothaches to alleviating insomnia.
Today, science is uncovering more about the medicinal mechanisms behind this ancient spice. Black pepper fruit has apparent benefits for enhancing the immune system, reducing inflammation and stabilizing overall health.
Black Pepper Fruit Immune System Benefits
Black pepper fruit benefits go beyond adding a dash of spice to your food—it also has many immune system advantages. From antioxidants to reducing inflammation to anti-cancer properties, black pepper fruit extract is filled with health-enhancing compounds.
Offers Antioxidant Benefits
Black pepper is rich in antioxidants. Piperine, the active compound in black pepper fruit, has rich phytochemistry shown to promote cognitive function, improve digestive health and increase nutrient absorption.
Antioxidants, like piperine, combat free radicals and prevent oxidative stress—a condition that leads to chronic disease. Studies have found that black pepper has free radical scavenging properties that can be beneficial in slowing cancer growth.
Additional studies on rats found that concentrated black pepper fruit extract reduced oxidative stress after the rats were fed high-fat diets.
Black pepper fruit extract can also help reduce chronic inflammation, which results from many conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Chronic inflammation can also occur in people with autoimmune disorders, where the immune system is in an overactive state.
Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to a health threat, signaling immune cells to take action. It's also your body's reaction to help minimize further injury or infection. Because of this, inflammation is considered an essential defense mechanism.
But inflammation becomes problematic when it lingers even after the physical threat has been removed, or if it occurs when there has been no injury or danger. In autoimmune diseases, inflammation can be the result of white blood cells attacking healthy tissues, keeping the immune system in a constant state of defense.
Studies done in rats with arthritis showed less swelling in joints when treated with piperine. Additionally, the same research done in mice with asthma and allergies demonstrated reduced inflammation when given piperine.
Piperine appears to help stabilize immune responses by reducing the amount of pro-inflammatory substances that get released as the body defends itself.
May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Black pepper is also thought to have cancer-fighting properties. In 2018, researchers tested the effect of piperine on cancer cells. The results showed that piperine slowed cancer cell replication, specifically in breast, prostate and colon cancers.
Additional studies discovered that compared to dozens of other plant compounds, piperine was the most successful complementary therapy for patients undergoing traditional treatment for triple-negative breast cancer.
A review of research supports these anti-cancer benefits of piperine. In 2018, researchers found that piperine stops the proliferation of cancer cells and helps to reduce the resistance that cancer cells build against drugs. Researchers said that piperine’s antioxidant benefits, as well as its detoxifying enzymes, might be what are responsible for its anti-cancer properties.
While this research is promising, studies have yet to be completed on humans. Researchers have recommended that piperine be tested in clinical cancer trials.
Black Pepper Fruit Uses
Black pepper fruit’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits make it useful for managing a few immune-related conditions, including allergic reactions and infections.
Studies show that piperine reduces histamine in mice. High histamine levels trigger an immune response to allergens, causing the undesirable symptoms of an allergic reaction. Because piperine inhibits the allergic response, you might notice fewer symptoms like nasal congestion or hives when taking black pepper extract.
Additionally, the mice who received piperine showed an improvement in nasal rubbing, sneezing and redness around the nose. This has led researchers to believe that piperine can help modulate the immune system while reducing inflammation, making it a useful treatment for hay fever or seasonal allergies.
Black pepper also exhibits antibacterial properties. Studies found that black pepper extract inhibited bacterial growth by promoting “zones of inhibition”—areas where bacterial colonies can’t grow.
The study was tested on five different types of bacteria, including Candida albicans (a common gut bacteria) and Aspergillus niger (a potentially dangerous black mold).
The study results showed that inhibition zones increased with the concentration of piperine. Some researchers have suggested that black pepper could be a good candidate for new antibacterial drugs—especially as so many strains are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Black Pepper Fruit in Summary
With antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antibacterial properties, black pepper is a promising natural immune enhancer. As research on the benefits of black pepper fruit continues, we may start to discover even more that this household spice has to offer.