Black Pepper

Black pepper, also known as Piper nigrum (family Piperaceae), is a spice frequently used in the culinary arts for flavor and in traditional medicinal systems for its therapeutic value.

Black pepper is grown in many tropical regions throughout the world and is prepared by drying the unripe fruits of the Piper nigrum plant.

Investigators have isolated many health promoting substances in black pepper. Examples include phenolic acids, flavonoids, lignans, and terpenes. However, most researchers attribute black pepper’s most desirable therapeutic attributes to piperine.

Piperine is an alkaloid. Alkaloids are naturally occurring compounds that contain nitrogen and exert significant biologic effects. Other important alkaloids are caffeine, morphine, and dopamine.

Potential Benefits of Black Pepper for Musculoskeletal Health*  

1. Black pepper is an antioxidant* 5,6,7,8

Oxidative damage is a widely accepted risk factor chronic musculoskeletal disease. Research demonstrates that piperine neutralizes destructive free radicals and high energy oxygen molecules called super reactive oxygen species. Piperine has also been shown to decrease the unhealthful oxidation of fat, referred to as lipid peroxidation.

Investigators from India explored the effects of black pepper in rats fed a high fat diet. Results suggested supplementation with black pepper helped protect against oxidative stress as demonstrated by maintenance of the body’s natural defense enzymes against free radicals.(Vijayakumar RS et al. Antioxidant efficacy of black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) and piperine in rats with high fat diet induced oxidative stress. Redox Rep. 2004;9(2):105-10.)

2. Black pepper is an anti-inflammatory* 9,10,11

Chronic inflammation contributes to the progression of many types of bone, joint, tendon, and muscle disease. Research has shown that piperine inhibits destructive signaling molecules, like interleukins and prostaglandins  that drive inflammation and cause pain. Also, research has demonstrated that piperine can obstruct enzymes, such as matrix proteases, that breakdown musculoskeletal tissue.

Indian researchers examined the effects of piperine on a rat model of arthritis. The study demonstrated significant reduction in the pro-inflammatory mediators IL-1β, TNF-α and PGE2. The authors concluded piperine may be useful in the treatment of arthritis type diseases.(Ulmar et al. Piperine ameliorates oxidative stress, inflammation and histological outcome in collagen induced arthritis.Cell Immunol. 2013 Jul-Aug;284(1-2):51-9.)

3. Black pepper improves the absorption of healthful nutrients*12,13

Piperine increases intestinal permeability at sites of nutrient absorption and inhibits various enzymes that breakdown health promoting compounds. Piperine has been shown to increase the bioavailability of powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances, like turmeric and trans-resveratrol.

Researchers at St: John’s Medical College investigated the effects of piperine on the absorption of turmeric in humans. The investigators found clearance of turmeric was significantly decreased and the bioavailability was increased by 154%.(Shoba et al. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998 May; 64(4):353-6.)

4. Black pepper may possess anti-depressant activity* 14,15,16

Pain is a cardinal symptom of joint and muscle injury. Negative emotion and pain signals are processed in the same area of the brain. Investigation implies that chronic negative emotions can magnify the intensity and frequency of pain perception. Animal research suggests that piperine can have an anti-depressant like effect, potentially helping to reduce pain symptoms.

Chinese researchers used a mouse model of depression to asses the effect of piperine on mouse behavior.  Treating the animals with piperine significantly suppressed behavioral and biochemical changes consistent with depression The results suggested that piperine produces an antidepressant-like effect in corticosterone-treated mice. (Mao et al. Piperine reverses the effects of corticosterone on behavior and hippocampal BDNF expression in mice.Neurochem Int. 2014 Jul;74:36-41.)

5. Black Pepper may act as a pain killer*17

Chronic pain is the primary complaint of most individuals with chronic muscle and joint disease. In addition to the previously described mechanism, recent animal research supports piperine’s direct pain killing potential. Investigators suggested that the analgesic activity might be mediated via the opioid pathway.

Researchers at King Saud University explored the analgesic effect of piperine in mice. Piperine reduced the pain indices to similar effect when compared to indomethacin, a strong NSAID. (Bukhari IA et al. The analgesic and anticonvulsant effects of piperine in mice. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2013 Dec;64(6):789-94.)



Black pepper is generally recognized as safe when consumed in usual culinary and herbal doses.

As with any consideration of any form of supplementation consult your healthcare provide prior to use if you are pregnant, nursing, taking any medications or have any medical conditions. Discontinue use and consult your doctor is any adverse reactions occur.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



  1. Ahmad N, Fazal H, Abbasi BH, Farooq S, Ali M, et al. (2012) Biological role of Piper nigrum L. (Black pepper): A review. Asian Paci c J Trop Biomed: S1945-S1953
  2. Damanhouri and Ahmad, A Review on Therapeutic Potential of Piper nigrum L. (Black Pepper): The King of Spices  Med Aromat Plants 2014, 3:3
  3. Parmar VS, Jain SC, Bisht KS, Jain R, Taneja P, Jha A, et al.(1997) Phytochemistry of the genus Piper. Phytochemistry46:597-673.
  4. Vijayakumar RS, Surya D, Nalini N (2004) Antioxidant ef cacy of black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) and piperine in rats with high fat diet induced oxidative stress. See comment in PubMed Commons below Redox Rep 9: 105-110.
  5. Selvendiran K, Sakthisekaran D (2004) Chemopreventive effect of piperine on modulating lipid peroxidation and membrane bound enzymes in benzo(a) pyrene induced lung carcinogenesis. See comment in PubMed Commons below Biomed Pharmacother 58: 264-267. 

  6. Ahmad N, Fazal H, Abbasi BH, Rashid M, Mahmood T, Fatima N (2010) Efficient regeneration and antioxidant potential in regenerated tissues of Piper nigrum L. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture. Plarma Res 102:129-134. 

  7. Agbor GA, Akin resoye L2, Sortino J2, Johnson R2, Vinson JA2 (2012) Piper species protect cardiac, hepatic and renal antioxidant status of atherogenic diet fed hamsters. See comment in PubMed Commons below Food Chem 134: 1354-1359. 

  8. Bang JS, Oh da H, Choi HM, Sur BJ, Lim SJ, et al. (2009) Anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects of piperine in human interleukin 1beta-stimulated broblast-like synoviocytes and in rat arthritis models. See comment in PubMed Commons below Arthritis Res Ther 11: R49.
  9. Umar S1, Golam Sarwar AHUmar KAhmad NSajad MAhmad SKatiyar CKKhan HA. Piperine ameliorates oxidative stress, inflammation and histological outcome in collagen induced arthritis. 2013 Jul-Aug;284(1-2):51-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2013.07.004. Epub 2013 Jul 19.
  10. Li Y, Li K, Hu Y, Xu B, Zhao J. Piperine mediates LPS induced inflammatory and catabolic effects in rat intervertebral disc. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology. 2015;8(6):6203-6213.
  11. Acharya SG, Momin AH and Gajjar AV (2012) Review of Piperine as A Bio- Enhancer. Am J Pharm Tech Res 2:32-44
  12. Shoba, G.; Joy, D.; Joseph, T.; Majeed, M.; Rajendran, R.; Srinivas, P.S. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998, 64, 353–356. 

  13. Mao QQ, Huang Z2, Zhong XM2, Xian YF3, Ip SP4 (2014) Piperine reverses the effects of corticosterone on behavior and hippocampal BDNF expression in mice. See comment in PubMed Commons below NeurochemInt 74: 36-41.
  14. The influence of negative emotions on pain: behavioral effects and neural mechanisms. Wiech K, Tracey I. Neuroimage. 2009 Sep;47(3):987-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.059. Epub 2009 May 28. Review.
  15.  How does pain induce negative emotion? Role of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in pain-induced place aversion. Minami M, Ide S. Curr Mol Med. 2015;15(2):184-90. Review.
  16. Bukhari IA, Pivac N, Alhumayyd MS, Mahesar AL, Gilani AH (2013) The analgesic and anticonvulsant effects of piperine in mice. See comment in PubMed Commons below J PhysiolPharmacol 64: 789-794.
  17. Thiel A1, Buskens C2, Woehrle T3, Etheve S3, Schoenmakers A2, Fehr M3, Beilstein P3. Black pepper constituent piperine: genotoxicity studies in vitro and in vivo. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Apr;66:350-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.01.056. Epub 2014 Feb 10.

 Lucas J. Bader MD

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