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Black Pepper: Overview of Health Benefits

Singletary, Keith PhD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e3181cb4539
Food Science

The black pepper (Piper nigrum L) vine and its extracts have been used as a folk medicine in a variety of cultures and are the source of the most commonly used spice worldwide. The chemical piperine is a major bioactive component present in black pepper (and white pepper as well) that has numerous reported physiological and drug-like actions. The scientific literature provides evidence that black pepper may have health benefits, particularly in enhancing digestive tract function. There is suggestive evidence that black pepper piperine may have nervous system benefits and may influence body energy usage in rats. Preliminary evidence in cell culture studies suggests that black pepper contains antioxidant constituents and possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. An overview of major uses for black pepper is presented here, and the strength of the evidence is graded

The lowdown on a popular spice that adds zest to meals

Keith Singletary, PhD, is professor emeritus of nutrition at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, Urbana. He had a long-standing research interest in diet and cancer and on the role of functional foods in promoting health.

Funding for this article was provided by the McCormick Science Institute.

Correspondence: Keith Singletary, PhD, University of Illinois, 905 South Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801 (

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.