P. nigrum is commonly known as Kali Mirch in Urdu and Hindi, Pippali in Sanskrit, Milagu in Tamil and Peppercorn, White pepper, Green pepper, Black pepper, Madagascar pepper in English. Hot and pungent peppercorns are obtained from Black pepper which is the most famous and one of the commonly used spices throughout the world.
Black pepper is used as medicinal agent, a preservative, and in perfumery. In the recent years, phytoconstituents arouse curiosity in the mind of researchers as they are more biofriendly to cure and prevent human ailments. About 6000 plants are used in folk, herbal and traditional medicine in India and contribute about 75% of medicinal needs of the world.
Taxonomical Classification of Piper nigrum:
Sub class: Magnoliidae
Super order: Magnolianae
Black pepper, which is prepared by drying the mature green berries, is a major spice with varied applications in processing industries. It is employed in a very wide range of foodstuffs, particularly in meat products.
Black pepper products include black pepper powder, pepper oil and pepper oleoresin. Pepper oil and oleoresin are produced in response towards the increased quality consciousness, preference for natural flavours and inconsistency in quality of raw materials (John Zacharriah, 1989).
White pepper is the white inner corn obtained after removing the outer skin or pericarp of the pepper berries. For white pepper the berries are harvested when ripe and prepared by retting, steaming /boiling and rolling or running water treatment (Gopalan et al., 1990). It is made from ripe pepper berries by keeping it in slow flowing water or dipping it in water for seven to nine days to soften the pericarp of the skin. The pericarp is then removed by scrubbing or macerated against a plastic wire mesh and the corns are washed and dried (Madusoodanan et al., 1990).
The green pepper is prepared from unripe developed pepper berries, which are artificially dried or preserved in the ‘wet’ form in brine, vinegar or citric acid. The buff coloured pepper is obtained by subjecting freshly harvested over-mature berries to heat treatment to prevent the blackening of the skin and dried to get a bleached finish. The colour is as white as that of white pepper and the percentage of dry matter yield is high (28-30 per cent) compared to white pepper as there is no loss of outer skin (John Zacharriah, 1989).
Chemical Composition of Piper nigrum
The phytochemical investigations of P. nigrum revealed that it contains variety of phytochemicals. Piperine was the first pharmacologically active compound isolated from different members of Piperaceae family. Many investigators isolated different types of compounds viz Phenolics, flavonoids, alkaloids, amides and steroids, lignans, neolignans, terpenes, chalcones etc and many other compounds.
Some of the compounds are Brachyamide B, Dihydro-pipericide, (2E,4E)-N-Eicosadienoyl-pereridine, N-trans-Feruloyltryamine, N-Formylpiperidine, Guineensine, pentadienoyl as piperidine, (2E,4E)-Nisobuty- ldecadienamid, isobutyl-eicosadienamide, Tricholein, Trichostachine, isobutyl-eicosatrienamide, Isobutyl-octadienamide, Piperamide, Piperamine, Piperettine, Pipericide, Piperine, Piperolein B, Sarmentine, Sarmentosine, Retrofractamide A. The different pharmacological activities were reported due to the presence of these phytochemicals. Piperine reported to have four isomers viz; Piperine, Isopiperine, Chavicine and Isochavicine. Among all isolated compounds isolated from P. nigrum. Piperine, pipene, piperamide and piperamine were found to possess diverse pharmacological activities
Black pepper is a rich source of minerals like manganese, copper, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium source, and vitamins like riboflavin, vitamin C, K, and B6. Black pepper has a high content of dietary fiber and has a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates too.
The antibacterial property of black pepper helps fight against infections and insect bites. Pepper added to the diet helps keep your arteries clean by acting in a similar way to fiber and scraping excess cholesterol from the walls, thereby helping reduce atherosclerosis, the condition highly responsible for heart attack and stroke.
Pepper doesn’t have cholesterol. It enhances digestion process by helping faster break down of larger fat molecules into easily digestible simple molecules and prevents the accumulation of fat in body.
Black pepper exhibits immunomodulatory effect on human body. It is able of boost and supports the number and the efficiency of white cells and assists the body to raise a powerful defense against invading microbes and cancer cells. Lianzhong et al. found that the analysis of component PN-IIa showed a different monosaccharide composition, which contained a significant proportion of galactose, arabinose, galacturonic acid and rhamnose; and PN-IIa did react with β-glucosyl Yariv reagent, which indicated that PNIIa might be an arabinogalactan; and purified anti-complementary polysaccharides from Piper nigrum is suggested as a supplement for immune enhancement.
Ayurvedic, Yunani, Siddha and folklore medicines in India used pepper and pepper containing preparations for the treatment of intermittent fever, neuritis, cold, pains and diseases of throat are practiced in Pepper is also used as an anti-periodic in malarial fever and therefore it is claimed having analgesic and antipyretic properties.
Analgesic and antipyretic actions of piperine have been experimented on rabbit and mice and found strong antipyretic effect on typhoid vaccinated rabbits at a dose of 30 mg/kg body weight. Singh et al. reported that piperine gave a strong activity with an ED50 of 3.7 mg/kg on writhing method and 104.7 mg/kg on tail clip method.
Consumption of pepper increases the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach, thereby facilitating digestion. Proper digestion is essential to avoid diarrhea, constipation, and colic. Pepper also helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas, and when added to a person’s diet, it can promote sweating and urination. Sweating removes toxins and cleans out the pores of the foreign bodies that may have lodged there and it can also remove excess water.
In terms of urination, you can remove uric acid, urea, excess water, and fat, since 4% of urine is fat. A good digestion helps in weight loss, makes your overall body function better, and prevents severe gastrointestinal conditions. As black pepper is carminative in nature, it easily expels the gas out of the body in a healthy downward motion, as upward moving gas can be dangerous because it can strain the upper chest cavity and other vital organs.
The outer layer of peppercorn assists in the breakdown of fat cells. Therefore, peppery foods are a good way to help you shed weight naturally. When fat cells are broken down into their component parts, they are easily processed by the body and applied to other processes and enzymatic reactions, rather than settling in your body and making you overweight.
Pepper helps to cure vitiligo, which is a skin disease that causes some areas of skin to lose its normal pigmentation and turn white. According to researchers in London, the piperine content of pepper can stimulate the skin to produce melanocytes pigment. Topical treatment of piperine combined with ultraviolet light therapy is much better than other harsher, more chemical-based treatments for vitiligo. It also reduces the chances of skin cancer due to excessive ultraviolet radiation.
Antidepressant activity of black pepper
The antidepressant-like effect of piperine and its possible mechanisms was evaluated in corticosterone-induced model of depression in mice. Depression-like behavior in mice was developed after 3 weeks corticosterone injections. The depression was revealed by the significant reduction in sucrose utilization and augmentation in immobility time in the forced swim test and tail suspension test. Further, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein and mRNA levels in the hippocampus were also significantly decreased in corticosterone-treated mice. Corticosterone induced the behavioral and biochemical changes were significantly diminished after treatment to animals with Piperine. These results showed that piperine produces an antidepressant-like effect in corticosterone-induced model of depression in mice
Antioxidants in pepper can prevent or repair the damage caused by the free radicals and thus help prevent cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and liver problems. Free radicals are the by-products of cellular metabolism that attack healthy cells and cause their DNA to mutate into cancerous cells.
Antioxidants neutralize these harmful compounds and protect your system from many conditions and even symptoms of premature aging like wrinkles, age spots, macular degeneration, and memory loss.
Black pepper helps in transporting the benefits of other herbs to different parts of the body, thus maximizing the efficiency of the other foods we consume. That is why adding it to food not only makes it delicious but also helps to make the nutrients more available and accessible to our system.
A number of studies have shown that black pepper may have beneficial effects on gastric mucosal damage and peptic ulcers, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Pepper is a good treatment for respiratory conditions due to its properties as an expectorant, as well as its strong anti-inflammatory properties.