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Most kitchens around the world are quite well stocked with varied seasonings and condiments but nothing quite matches the varieties of pepper. From the spicy cayenne to the sweet bell peppers, there is a flavour for every taste bud. Black and white peppercorns are the pungent and sharp peppers that have slowly got its place in the heart and the kitchen. And looking at the history of these peppercorns, it seemed almost obvious. After all, not many spices have a history of being used as gold.

But what exactly is white pepper and how is it different from black pepper?

Essentially, white peppercorns are obtained from the same plant as black pepper, that is, Piper nigrum. However, white peppercorns have the outer covering removed, which is present in black pepper. White pepper also has a stronger bite than black.

White pepper is mainly used in dishes where the black colour of these peppercorns is not needed, such as some sauces, soups, mayonnaise.

Being the core of black peppers, white peppercorns have most of the benefits from the former. It is an excellent digestive aid and also helps in reducing inflammation. It could help you get rid of congestion and cough and may even relieve headaches.

If you aren’t yet aware of the asset white pepper could be to your health and kitchen, this article is for you.

But before that, here are some basic facts about white pepper:

  • Botanical name: Piper nigrum
  • Family: Piperaceae
  • Common name: White pepper, Safed mirch
  • Parts used: Fruit
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Piper nigrum is native to southern India, however, it is also cultivated in Indonesia, China, West Indies and Brazil
  1. White pepper nutrition facts
  2. White pepper health benefits
  3. White pepper side effects

White pepper is rich in calcium, iron, vitamin C and dietary fibre. Also, it is low in fats. The nutrition facts of white pepper are as follows:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Energy 296 Kcal
Carbohydrates 69 g
Proteins 10 g
Fats 2.1 g
Fibre 26 g
Sodium 5 mg
Vitamin C 35 %
Calcium 26 %
Iron 80 %
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White pepper has a lot of active compounds which make it the perfect supplement for your health. Also known as the “king of spices”, it aids in digestion and also improves the availability of some drugs along with reducing inflammation and free radical damage. Let us have a look at the scientifically proven health benefits of white pepper.

Other benefits of black pepper

  • White pepper is believed to be good for preventing dandruff and for revitalising hair. Being an antioxidant, regular consumption of white pepper could prevent premature hair greying and hair loss.
  • Being a warming spice, white pepper is used for reducing cough and cold in traditional medicine. In Chinese medicine, a hot soup made from white pepper and scallion stalks is known to alleviate cold if you lie down in a quilt after consuming it.
  • Pepper is also considered an effective antibiotic. Though studies are needed to confirm its efficacy and safety in humans.
  • Pepper has been found to stimulate immune function by improving the proliferation of both T-cells and B-cells. It also leads to an increased number of macrophages. (Read more: How to improve immunity)

White pepper fights cancer

Piper nigrum, is one of the spices which are considered to possess anticarcinogenic properties. Extensive studies have been done to assess the anti-cancer potential of pepper and piperine. Lab-studies demonstrate that piperine interferes with the expressions of certain genes which can induce apoptosis (Cell death) in breast cancer cells and is equally effective in reducing the risk of both androgen-dependent and independent prostate cancer. It also arrests the cell cycle (multiplication) of cancer cells in case of colorectal cancer along with reducing oxidative stress, which is considered one of the top risk factors for cancer.

Improves bioavailability and absorption of certain natural chemicals

Apart from having so many health benefits of its own, black pepper also increases the absorption of some natural chemicals in the body which are obtained from various food sources.

Curcumin is a compound present in turmeric which is very useful for healing and reducing the risk of diseases. However, it is not readily available to the body due to being quickly metabolised in liver. Studies demonstrate that piperine can increase the absorption of curcumin from the intestines in both animal and humans. No wonder turmeric and peppercorns are used side by side in many traditional dishes.

Resveratrol is yet another compound known for its health promoting properties. It is excellent for both the heart and brain but also suffers from quick liver metabolism and less bioavailability as curcumin. In vivo (animal-based) studies indicate that piperine can improve the bioavailability of this compound too, thus increasing its efficiency. Resveratrol is found in grapes, peanuts and mulberries.

White pepper for skin

White pepper is an efficient antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. This means that it can help slow down skin ageing and wrinkle formation. It can also aid in reducing acne and skin inflammation. Regular consumption of black pepper may help keep those ageing signs at bay along with giving you a glowing and healthy looking skin. White pepper is also used in some commercial exfoliants and scrubs. Though white pepper should not be applied directly on the skin as it can be an irritant.

Vitiligo is a condition wherein the skin starts to lose its pigment and thus leads to the formation of patches on the skin. This is due to the loss of melanocytes (skin pigment cells) from those patches. Studies indicate that piperine may be effective in improving the number of melanocytes in vitiligo and is, therefore, be beneficial in vitiligo treatment in the future. However, more studies are needed to confirm the usage and safety of this treatment for humans.

White pepper for brain

Did you know that the peppercorns in your meals can save you from depression and improve brain function? Preclinical studies suggest that piperine exhibits an anti-depressant activity on the brain. It also increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, the pleasure hormones thereby reducing stress and has been found to improve cognition. Furthermore, it can also aid in reducing epilepsy and convulsions

Piperine, when administered along with curcumin (found in turmeric), is demonstrated to be a more potent stress buster and cognition enhancer than curcumin alone.

According to a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, piperine may have an inhibitory effect on Alzheimer’s related neurodegeneration and cognition loss. This is due to the fact that it inhibits lipid peroxidation and the levels of acetylcholinesterase enzyme which have a crucial role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and it also improves the development of healthy brain tissue.

(Read more: How to improve brain power)

White pepper for heart

Heart diseases have become one of the top causes of hospitalisation and death all over the world, blame the sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diets. However, sprinkling a bit of white pepper on your food may help in keeping cardiovascular problems at bay. It has the following benefits for the cardiovascular system:

  • Animal studies demonstrate that piperine can efficiently reduce cardiac fibrosis by interfering with the expressions of certain genes. Cardiac fibrosis refers to the thickening of heart valve muscles. If left untreated, it may lead to heart failure.
  • According to a study mentioned in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, piperine lowers the blood pressure by blocking calcium channels but it also has a vasoconstricting effect (constricts blood vessels) which keeps the blood pressure from being too low. (Read more: High blood pressure treatment)
  • High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors in heart diseases. Piperine inhibits the retention and uptake of cholesterol, as evident from lab and animal-based studies.
  • Being rich in natural antioxidants, it protects the heart from oxidative damage and helps keep your heart healthy. Additionally, piperine and antioxidants reduce lipid peroxidation, a process which leads to the formation of plaques in blood vessels and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

So, don’t forget to add a dash of white pepper the next time you cook a sauce.

White pepper for diarrhoea

Apart from being an excellent digestive, black pepper also helps in relieving diarrhoea. In vivo (animal-based) studies indicate the antidiarrhoeal effects of piperine.

In a random controlled trial, stir-fried white pepper was demonstrated to reduce diarrhoea in children under 2.5 years of age.

According to a research article published in Pharmaceutical Biology, piperine mediates its antidiarrheal effects by blocking some calcium channels and its activity is quite similar to that of verapamil, a commercial calcium channel blocker drug.

White pepper as anti-inflammatory

White pepper is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation refers to the body’s natural response to an injury or infection, however, in long-term it may become the causative factor for diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Preclinical studies suggest the benefits of piperine in reducing inflammation by downregulating the expression of inflammation-inducing genes like COX-2 and NF-kB. Since white pepper is one of the best sources of piperine,  it obviously shares the trait.

In a recent study, piperine administration was found to reduce Helicobacter infection in animal models which was not due to an antibacterial activity. The study added that piperine may have some use in H.pylori treatment and prevention of gastric cancers which develop due to inflammation.

Arthritis is a condition marked by the inflammation of the joints. It can be very discomforting and painful. Being an anti-inflammatory, piperine is found to be helpful in alleviating arthritis symptoms. In fact, it is claimed to be as effective as indomethacin in reducing joint pain and swelling in case of rheumatoid arthritis.

In spite of such an extensive research, the evidence is lacking in clinical settings.

(Read more: Inflammatory diseases types)

White pepper for digestion

White pepper has numerous benefits for your stomach. Traditionally, pepper is considered to be good for remedying bloating and flatulence. It has a heating effect on the body and thus would be an effective metabolic booster.

Peppercorns are one of the most well-known digestive aids. They stimulate the process of digestion throughout the alimentary canal. White pepper has a compound known as piperine which has been found to increase the production of saliva and stomach enzymes.

Animal-based studies suggest that piperine increases the production of trypsin, which is a digestive enzyme found in the small intestine and has also been indicated to reduce the total transit time of the food from the digestive tract. This means, your body is efficiently able to digest and process food and we all know that a healthy digestive system is a key to a healthy body.

(Read more: How to improve digestion)

Safed mirch for eyes

Traditionally, white pepper is considered a good remedy for eye conditions like itchy eyes as well as in improving eyesight.

A 3g mixture made from white pepper, almonds, mishri, poppy seeds and cow ghee, when taken with milk twice a day is ascertained to improve vision. Applying white pepper mixed with myrrh is known to relieve itching in eyes.

Regular intake of white pepper is also believed to keep eye allergies and conjunctivitis at bay.

Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to prove any of these benefits and hence it is best that you refer to a doctor before applying white pepper in any form to your eyes since it is an irritant.

  • White pepper could be an irritant when applied to certain skin types. It is best to avoid using white pepper topically or get a patch test before you apply it on your skin.
  • Due to lack of evidence on the safety of white pepper for pregnant and nursing mothers, it is better to take this spice only in low amounts instead of using it as a health supplement. It is further advisable to check with a doctor to know more about the safety of this condiment during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Pepper is known to reduce blood clotting. If you are suffering from a blood clotting disorder or are about to undergo a surgery, it is recommended that you stay away from white pepper.
  • Keep white pepper away from children as inhalation may be harmful to the lungs. Similarly, it may cause redness or itchiness in eyes. (Read more: Red eyes treatment)
  • The effect of piperine varies on the blood sugar levels depending on its dosage. While it is considered a hypoglycemic (reduces blood sugar) generally, at higher doses it may have an opposite effect. Diabetic people are suggested to consult their doctor to know about the safety concerns of white pepper.
  • White pepper may lower blood pressure. If you suffer from hypotension, caution must be taken before consuming white pepper as a health supplement.

References

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