The Indian Kitchen as an Ayurvedic Pharmacy – Pepper

Black Pepper, often described, as black gold, was sought after not only in India where it originated, but also across ancient civilisations from the Egyptians and Romans; to Greece and China. The Malabar Coast in Kerala where pepper originated, has seen traders come to its shores from the 4th Century BC if not before with Roman and Arab traders.

Pepper, in its forms – as green pepper corns, dried as black peppercorns or white pepper, made from the seed of the peppercorn with the black skin removed – has been an intrinsic part of the Indian Kitchen and every spice mix – whether ground or whole.

Pepper is a rich source of Vitamin C, K and B2 and B6. It also is rich in manganese, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and potassium. In Ayurveda it is used to improve digestion, as a cold and congestion remedy and to remove toxins.

However, its main utility comes from its principal bioactive alkaloid compound called piperine. Piperine is a natural bioavailability enhancer. A bioavailability enhancer is a substance that increases the bioavailability and bio-efficacy of active substances with which it is combined without having any activity of its own.

The concept of bio-enhancers was known in Ayurveda, where Trikatu Churna, a combination of Black Pepper, Long Pepper and Ginger have been used to multiply the effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicines, either in combination or individually. The action of bio-enhancers was first documented by Dr. K. C. Bose in 1929, who described the action of long pepper in increasing the anti-asthmatic properties of Adhatoda vasika leaves.

As mentioned in my earlier blogs, the major problem with sourcing our nutrients, vitamins and minerals from our food is their low bioavailability. A small addition of a bioavailability enhancer in our food, helps us get our daily nutrient requirement from the food we eat by multiplying its availability.

It is claimed that piperine can substantially increase the bio-absorption of Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10, Selenium and Beta carotene.

Black pepper has long been used an as aid for digestion. It increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, helping digestion. Better digestion is the key to gut health and the absorption of nutrients from the small intestine. Mixed with honey, it has been used to clear chest congestion.

It also reduces the chances of antibiotic resistance.

You do not need too many peppercorns for it to be effective. A few peppercorns added to our food can be extremely effective in multiplying the availability of nutrients from most food. Freshly ground black pepper corns are the most effective source of piperine in its natural form. As the pepper mill and/or a mortar and pestle are part of most kitchens in India and around the world, multiplying the benefits we get from our food is not difficult.

– Vasant

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