Black pepper has been used for centuries for both medicinal and culinary purposes; in aromatherapy, black pepper essential oil has a number of uses and properties.
In ancient times, pepper was one of the most valuable spices; it has been used in the Far East for over 4,000 years and in Europe since at least the fifth century. Attila the Hun is said to have demanded a ransom of 3,000 pounds of black peppercorns for the city of Rome. In the East, both white and black pepper have been used; in Chinese medicine, white pepper is used in the treatment of diarrhea, stomach ache, malaria, cholera, dysentery and digestive problems.
Origins and Characteristics of Pepper
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is native to southwest India; major producers of black pepper essential oil are India, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Madagascar. Pepper is a perennial, woody vine of the Piperaceae plant family, which grows up to 16 feet in height; it has heart-shaped leaves and small, white flowers which blossom into small, round fruits.
As they mature, the berries turn from red to black and black pepper is produced from the dried, unripe fruit, when fully grown; white pepper is produced from the fruit, if the rind is removed. Black pepper essential oil is produced from the steam distillation of the dried and crushed black peppercorns.
The Properties and Use of Black Pepper Oil
Black pepper essential oil is anti-septic, analgesic, digestive, anti-catarrhal, diuretic, a stimulant, bactericidal, expectorant and a tonic; it is used in the treatment of toothache, anemia, bronchitis, coughs, rheumatism, indigestion, fever, muscle tension and circulation. Black pepper is also a mental stimulant and helps to increase stamina and aid alertness; it can be used to help concentration and memory loss. Black pepper is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
Other Uses of Black Pepper
Black pepper has been used for many centuries to maintain stamina in long journeys or significant endurance feats; Indian monks are said to swallow a few grains of pepper each day to help maintain their strength for the long distances they walk. A study of Rose and Behm (1994) indicates that the inhalation of the vapor of black pepper extract may lessen smoking withdrawal symptoms.
Cautions for Using Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black pepper essential oil should only be used in small amounts; it is a very powerful oil, composed mainly of the chemical component of sesquiterpenes. It is capable of being an irritant and also of stimulating the kidneys; over use of black pepper oil, or in large quantities, may result in kidney damage. As with the use of all essential oils, care should be exercised and professional advice taken if unfamiliar with the use of essential oils.