Far and away one of the most widely used spices in the world today (one of the most widely used spices in human history, for that matter), black pepper – and its essential oils, is so much more than just a culinary staple. Black pepper essential oils are frequently used for medicinal purposes, and this spice can also be used as a preservative or in perfumes. Thanks to its major active chemical agent piperine, it’s also a powerful all-natural medicine. To learn a little bit more about everything that black pepper REALLY brings to the table, let’s dive into this quick guide!
The History of Black PepperThe history of black pepper is pretty unique, at least as far as spices go. Unlike its table partner salt, which can be found or produced pretty much anywhere in the world, black pepper is indigenous only to a small province in southwest India called Kerala. The ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans “peppered” their trade reports with references to this spice. This suggests that there was a significant amount of trade between India and Western civilization dating back thousands of years, revolving around an almost impossible to find otherwise spice – black pepper.1 Other historical records show that as early as 1000 BC traders in Southern Arabia were able to corner the market on black pepper, enjoying a ruthless monopoly on the spice while also stockpiling tremendous wealth built around pepper. These ancient traders were pretty shrewd about protecting the spice, telling fantastical stories to scare outsiders off of cultivating it on their own. Westerners were told that they would be attacked by dragons guarding “pepper pits”, and that only a handful out of a hundred men would come back with enough pepper to make the journey worthwhile.2 The monopoly on the pepper trade may have inadvertently led to the discovery of the Americas. European nations (particularly Italy and Spain) were pushing to open up the Silk Road for their own interests. Finding pepper (and other spices) was a big impetus for Christopher Columbus to find a new trade route to India that would open up these new opportunities. Of course, Columbus was in for a bit of a surprise when he filled the holds of his ships with what he believed to be pepper brought back from the “West Indies”, only to discover back in Spain that the ships were filled with chili peppers and not black peppercorns at all!
Chemical PropertiesStrong and spicy smelling, the essential oils made from the black pepper is very reminiscent of clove oil. Sweet and spicy, it is immediately recognizable by anyone on the planet that has had ground pepper added to a dish. Depending upon the quality of black pepper oil, the color usually ranges from a light amber color to a more yellow-green color (with light amber being the higher quality of the two), and viscosity levels that are very watery. Essential oils are extracted from unripe and sun-dried peppercorns through a steam distillation process. This is a process that usually results in a yield of close to 2% essential oils compared to the overall amount of peppercorns used in the process. A number of varied biochemicals in this oil do the “heavy lifting” as far as producing the positive benefits that black pepper essential oils bring to the table are concerned.3 Some of these chemical constituents include, but are not limited to quite a wide variety of terpenes:
Benefits of Black Pepper Essential OilThe most significant of these benefits include acting as a powerful antiseptic and antispasmodic, working as an antitoxin and antioxidant, improving digestive processes, and even working as a tonic to help rejuvenate your spleen. As far as utilizing black pepper oil goes, there are a couple of different approaches you can take. One of the most popular ways is to use a “burner” or vaporizer. Black pepper oil can be used in vapor therapy, working to clear the mind, provide a lot of focus and stress relief, but also adding quite a bit of warmth to those that are feeling chilly and under the weather. Blending black pepper oils in with carrier oils, massage oils, or other essential oils can also work wonders when applied topically. This approach can improve circulation, help to heal bruises faster, and can help heal rheumatoid arthritis, muscular aches and pains, and stiffness in your joints and tendons. Black pepper essential oils can be combined with “base creams” as well. These topical combination creams can be applied to alleviate aching muscles, to stimulate your appetite and elevate your metabolism, and can even be effective at reducing high body. These kinds of creams have been shown to improve the overall appearance of skin, too. Black pepper oil works to repair laugh lines and wrinkles, even out blemishes, and fight back against acne and other skin conditions caused by bacteria. And, of course, black pepper oil can be used in a portable essential oil diffuser to provide many of these same health effects.
Uses for Black Pepper Essential OilAs we alluded to above, there are a lot of benefits you’ll enjoy when you take advantage of everything that black pepper brings to the table. Some of the biggest benefits available from this essential oil include: 4
- The ability to improve your digestion, breaking down food consistently and making its resources more bioavailable
- Relieving spasms almost immediately after topical application while preventing them from happening again in the future
- Eliminating excess gas, dissolving all of that discomfort, and preventing gas from building up later down the line
- The ability to reduce arthritic pain as well as stress and pressure on your muscles, tendons, and joints