Black pepper and white pepper (piperine)

Long used for its medicinal purposes, pepper is believed to help combat germs, amongst other benefits.

What are its health benefits?

Black pepper and white pepper – also known as piperine, which is the main alkaloid in pepper – are extracted from the Piper nigrum (pepper) plant, grown extensively in India. Pepper is the most traded spice in the world.

Black pepper is ground from the whole dried unripe fruit, while white pepper is ground from the dried, ripe fruit whose outer layer has been removed.

Black pepper and white pepper are believed to help fight germs and increase the flow of digestive juices.

Pepper supplementation may have the following benefits:

  • Black pepper may assist in the relief of symptoms associated with stomach upset.
  • Assists in the symptomatic relief of bronchitis.
  • It is sometimes applied directly to the skin (topically) for assisting in pain relief associated with neuralgia (nerve pain) and scabies.
  • It is also thought to enhance the bioavailability of other nutrients, by increasing their absorption. 
  • White pepper may also assist in the relief of symptoms associated with stomach upset.
  • White pepper may assist in the management of malaria and cholera.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

Based on its function in assisting the absorption of other nutrients, a typical supplementary dose would be between 5 and 10mg per day.

Warnings

Caution should be taken to not take too large doses by mouth, as there is a risk it may get into the lungs, which can be fatal.

Applied to the skin it is generally safe for adults, although it may cause redness, but there is not enough information for its use in children.

In normal amounts in food, pepper is safe to use in pregnancy and breastfeeding, but, again, large amounts should be avoided during these periods. 

Caution is advised when using the following medication as combining pepper with these could lead to adverse drug interactions:

  • Lithium (prescribed for psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia)
  • Rifampin (used to treat tuberculosis)
  • Theophylline (asthma medication)

Discuss any medication you are on with your Clicks pharmacist or doctor before taking pepper supplementation, as it also affects medicines that undergo changes in the liver.

Possible side effects

Side effects could include:

  • Irritation to the skin when applied topically
  • A burning aftertaste
  • Can be fatal if ingested into the lungs

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in September 2015