Piper nigrum Piperaceae.
This woody perennial climber originates in South-east Asia, where its culinary and medicinal properties have been known for 4000 years. Its leaves are unlobed, thick and shaped like spearheads. The small lateral branches sprout roots, which enable the plant to grip as it climbs. Its small white flowers form long spikes and are followed by green fruits that ripen to reddish brown.
The fruits are picked when ripe from plants that must be at least three years old. After drying in the sunshine, they turn black
A pungent essentia I oi I is extracted from the seeds. It is the oi I that is usually employed medicinally although the seeds can also be used .
As much as 2.5 per cent of the black pepper seed consists of the pungent, greeny yellow essential oil. The seed is rich in the alkaloid piperine (5 to 9 per cent).
Black pepper stimulates digestion and in Europe it is taken orally to treat sluggish digestion, flatulence, bloating and lack of appetite. Its antispasmodic properties make it useful for treating stomach cramps.
Black pepper has long been used to soothe rheumatic pains, a use that is supported by Indian research in 1990, which showed that piperine inhibits inflammation. Applied externally, black pepper produces a warming and reddening of the skin (and considerable temporary irritation), which eventually leads to an anaesthetic effect.
In 2000, UK researchers found that black pepper had antibacterial properties since it was shown to effectively combat the bacteria responsible for food poisoning.
Piperine can strengthen the effect of numerous other medicines, herbal remedies and spices. Therefore it is important to seek advice from a doctor or qualified herbalist before taking medicinal doses of black pepper in addition to other drugs.
Black pepper seeds present no immediate dangers although excessive intake can have an adverse effect on the liver.
Pure essential oil must only be taken on a doctor's prescription.
Seek medical advice before using black pepper when taking other drugs. For example, it should not be taken with blood-thinning agents. . It is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
PREPARATION AND DOSAGE
For internal use
TO TREAT sluggish digestion INFUSION Put 3g of pepper seeds into 150ml of boiling water, Flavour with mint. Leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes, then strain. Take two or three times a day.
For external use
TO TREAT rheumatism CREAM (with a base of essential oil) Rub into the painful areas two or three times a day.
IF SYMPTOMS PERSISTCONSULT A DOCTOR
The plant thrives in rich, moist soil and temperatures above 15°C.
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