Most people give little thought to the tiny wrinkled drupes that serve as seasoning and proverbial companion to table salt. But, as it turns out, black pepper as a lot more going for itself – and for you. In fact, it deserves a place in the apothecary as much as it does the spice rack.
The first activity black pepper exerts occurs as soon as it hits your tongue. Like herbal bitters, the spice is thought to enhance digestion by stimulating the secretion of saliva. Studies indicate that pepper may work in the gastrointestinal tract as well, increasing the production of digestive enzymes to assist in moving food through the gut and enhance nutrient absorption.
You may have heard that black pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin, the active component of turmeric root. Otherwise, turmeric largely passes through the intestines and is not well absorbed. However, an enzyme in black pepper called piperine is said to increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 300% when taken together. This is why most turmeric supplements contain piperine.
Piperine also facilitates the absorption of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine that is associated with a decreased risk of diabetes type-II, heart disease and certain cancers. According to researchers, piperine promotes an increased uptake of resveratrol by inhibiting a metabolic process called glucuronidation, which would otherwise degrade resveratrol before it could be digested and released into the bloodstream.
Feel free to use black pepper in cooking freely. This includes white, green and pink pepper, which all come from the same plant as black pepper but are just harvested and processed differently. However, because the typical dosage used in study mouse models would equate to about two tablespoons per day for humans, you might want to consider a supplemental form of piperine.