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Pepper is one of the oldest and most important spices;
300 years BC, the Greeks were already using it.
In the Middle Ages, only the very rich could get hold of it; certain tributes or rents were paid in pepper.
Venice and the pepper guild in London were considerably enriched by ensuring its trade with the Arabs, but it was thanks to Vasco de Gama that the Portuguese had a monopoly for two centuries from 1500 to 1700, then it was the Dutch.

The pepper tree is a liana native to western India (Malabar coast) and Burma.
Very quickly spread throughout Southeast Asia, it grows in humid equatorial zones with little seasonal variation.
In the wild the liana clings to trees up to 10-15 m in height.



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While PIPER NIGRUM is the real pepper, other species are sometimes substituted for it:
PIPER LONGUM (India, Hymalaya, Ceylon),
PIPER RETROFACTUM (Indonesia and Malaysia),
PIPER CUBEBA (Indonesia),

Other PIPERACEAE are in common use: PIPER BETLE (see BETEL) and PIPER METHYSTICUM (see KAVA).

Pepper, cultivated for a very long time, has many varieties.
In general, it is a woody liana which attaches itself to the supports by small lateral branches.
The leaves are oval, alternate with a pointed apex.
The inflorescence in spikes (like catkins) is opposite the leaves, the flowers are tiny.
The fruits (berry) in tight clusters, 4 to 10 mm in diameter, turn from green to red and then to black during ripening.

GREEN PEPPER (immature) is very aromatic and not very spicy, it is stored in aqueous solution.

BLACK PEPPER is the complete fruit, having reached its maturity, dried (peppercorns), which we grind to obtain the pepper (black or gray powder).

WHITE PEPPER is the powder of the ripe fruit but first treated with water to remove its husks and then dried, it is therefore the powder of the pepper seed alone.

These three preparations of pepper give a different spice by its smell, its spicy side, its texture.


The aroma of pepper is the smell of essential oil (1 to 3% of the dried weight).

- by a mixture of monoterpenes: limonene, alpha and beta pinene,
- and sesquiterpenes including beta caryophyllene which gives the typical aroma of black pepper.

Black pepper essential oil is analgesic by contact and activates digestive secretions (eupeptic), thus promoting digestion.
It is considered to be a "tonic" essential oil, taken in the evening it can delay or disrupt sleep, it is an essential oil for the morning!

The BETA CARYOPHYLLENE present in this essential oil has many pharmacological properties: antioxidant, antiseptic, protector of the digestive mucosa, neuroprotector, analgesic, antiviral, protection against cancerous degeneration.
It is easily absorbed in the digestive system and does not exhibit any notable toxicity.

It is currently being particularly studied to combat neuropathic pain (for example in the event of multiple sclerosis), because it is an agonist (activator) of type 2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2).

The other components of pepper of medical interest are an alkaloid and amines typical of pepper (5-10% of the dry weight) mainly PIPERINE (derivative of piperidine) and its isomers.

PIPERINE (alkaloid) is responsible for the burning and irritating flavor for the mucous membranes of the pepper powder, it is not present in the essential oil of black pepper, it has many properties:

- action on the diggestive system: promotes salivation, gastric secretions and the secretion of pancreatic enzymes (digestion of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates); this promotes digestion and reduces the transit time of food.

- piperine is both a protector of the digestive mucosa (perhaps through increased secretion of protective mucus) and an irritant at high dose.

- piperine has anti-inflammatory properties, in particular digestive (chronic colitis).

- Piperide is a central nervous system depressant and an anti-convulsant in animals: derivatives of this molecule have been tested in Asia in the treatment of epilepsy.

- Curcumin (extract of turmeric) and other substances used for healing are more easily absorbed in the digestive system and persist longer in the blood under the influence of piperine. This notion is not accepted by all pharmacologists.



In the past, black pepper and long pepper were used both to protect against plague and venereal diseases or to reduce fever.

Pepper is still considered an aphrodisiac and it is certainly a culinary spice used worldwide that gives appetite, enhances the taste of tasteless dishes and improves the digestion of dishes heavy with cooked fat.

It should nevertheless be consumed in moderation, abuse of pepper is at the origin of gastroduodenal disorders (toxic gastritis) or even hemorrhoidal crises.


Pepper is very often part of the drugs of Indian medicine (Ayurvedic) but in Europe it is no longer considered as a phytomedicine since its common use as a culinary spice (which may seem a mistake, indeed pepper seems to modify the bioavailability of drugs in the digestive tract).

It is mainly used to improve digestion:
- by adding it to food,
- in the form of herbal tea (1/2 g of powder in a bowl of very hot water),
- of powder capsules (1 g per capsule),
- alcoholic tincture (titrated to 1/20 for example) 50 drops once or twice a day.

We also find in pharmacies food supplements containing pepper or piperine, pepper and turmeric, and sometimes ginger for the dosage complying with the indications of the manufacturer's laboratory because the active ingredient dosages are not standardized.

Stop in the event of digestive intolerance (digestive burns, colic pain).

We can combine these two spices which have anti-inflammatory properties, pepper helping the digestive absorption of turmeric: the commonly accepted proportion is one dose of black pepper powder for nine doses of turmeric powder.

Prepare capsules with the mixture of the two powders, and consume the equivalent of 3 to 5 g of powder per day by treatment of two to three weeks with 2 weeks of stop between the cures.

PIPER NIGRUM ESSENTIAL OIL is very interesting for CALMING TOOTH PAIN, mouth ulcers.
It can be applied directly to the painful tooth with a cotton ball soaked in essential oil or as a mouthwash (a few drops in half a glass of lukewarm water, shake with a spoon to disperse the essential oil).

Inhaling pepper essential oil can help cure bronchitis, it can irritate, tone, and therefore delay the onset of sleep.

The pepper tree Piper nigrum is a liana which therefore needs a support to develop, it only grows in countries with a well-watered tropical climate.
The producing countries are Asian, African or South American, but for several years industrial plantations have been affected by a recurrent fungal infection which persists in the soil and is difficult to eradicate.

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A digestive and aphrodisiac spice
Pepper is a vine native to India and Southeast Asia but is now cultivated in all tropical regions.
Its dried and crushed fruit gives black pepper; it contains, among other things, essential oil and a burning-flavored compound, piperine.
Culinary pepper is used to increase the quantity of digestive secretions from the stomach and intestines, thus promoting digestion.
Many populations consider it an aphrodisiac but its abuse leads to digestive burns and hemorrhoidal inflammation.