No matter what your favorite type of cuisine is, chances are, you have black pepper in your pantry. Also known as the king of spices, it comes standard with salt on most dining tables. Spices have long been used not only for flavor, but also for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Is there more to black pepper that we don’t know about? Read on to find out more!

Black pepper (Piper nigrum L) is one of the most common spices in the world. It’s a standard feature on the dining table, and features in almost every dish (even some desserts!). It’s been used since the Middle Ages to flavor cured meats and other foods. In India, it’s popular in Ayurvedic medicine, where it’s used for menstrual and ear-nose-throat disorders. And in traditional Chinese medicine, black pepper is used to treat epilepsy.

Absorption of nutrients

Compounds found in black pepper are responsible for many of its health benefits. Piperine (responsible for pepper’s bite) is said to improve the absorption of other compounds in our food, namely curcumin and resveratrol. Curcumin is found in turmeric root and there’s a host of benefits associated with it, all thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Resveratrol, on the other hand, is mostly associated with red wine, and may reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Piperine has a somewhat protective effect on these compounds, which helps your body to absorb more if it. However, studies are still in their infancy, and for now, scientists say that you need a very high amount of black pepper to get these benefits – an amount that they don’t think would be safe to consume.

Reducing carcinogens

Research shows that when used in marinades, black pepper can significantly reduce (or even eliminate) heterocyclic amines (HCA) – cancer-causing compounds that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. While marinades reduce these compounds, a new study worked out that a single teaspoon of black peppers per one pound of meat is sufficient to completely eliminate the HCAs during cooking.

Digestion

Black pepper is also useful for digestion. Studies suggest that it stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes, which helps with the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. It could also possibly enhance the absorption of other nutrients.

It seems as though the studies on black pepper are not all conclusive yet, but what we do know, is you can happily add it to a marinade for its anti-HCA effects!