Pepper is one of the oldest and most important of all spices. It is known as the "king of spices". The pepper plant is a stout, smooth evergreen creeper, much swollen at its nodes.
Black pepper is the whole dried fruit, while white is the fruit subjected to treatment in water with the mesocarp removed. Both varieties are ground and used in a powdered form.
Pepper was mentioned by Theophrastus in 372-287 B.C. It was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. By the Middle Ages, pepper had assumed great importance and was used to season food and as a preservative in curing meats. Together with other spices, it helped overcome the odours of bad food.
Pepper is a native of the Western Ghats of India but has now been introduced into most tropical countries. An analysis of black pepper shows it to consist of moisture 13.2 per cent, protein 11.5 per cent, fat 6.8 per cent, minerals 4.4 per cent, fibre 14.9 per cent and carbohydrates 49.2 per cent, per 100 grams. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, iron, phosphorus, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Its calorific value is 304.
Black pepper is stimulant, pungent, aromatic, digestive and nervine tonic. Its pungency is due to the resin chavicine, which is most abundant in the mesocarp. Black pepper is useful in relieving flatulence.
Pepper has a stimulating effect on the digestive organs and produces an increased flow of saliva and gastric juices. I t is an appetiser and a good home remedy for digestive disorders. Powdered black pepper, thoroughly mixed with malted jaggery, may be taken in the treatment of such conditions. Alternatively, a quarter teaspoon of pepper powder mixed in thin buttermilk can be taken during indigestion or heaviness in the stomach. For better results, an equal part of cumin powder may also be added to the buttermilk.
Pepper is beneficial in the treatment of cold and fever. WI pepper seeds finely ground and mixed in a glass of warm water along with 6 pieces of batasha a variety of sugar candy, can ~I taken for a few nights for good results. In case of acute coryza or cold in the head, 20 grams pepper powder boiled in milk with a pinch of turmeric powder can be used once daily for three days.
A pinch of finely ground pepper mixed with honey taken twice a day is effective in amnesia or dullness of intellect.
Pepper is an effective remedy for coughs caused due 00 throat irritation. Three peppers sucked with a pinch of caraway seeds and a crystal of common salt provides relief.
Eating 6 peppers with 4 almonds once daily with milk, is a nerve-tonic and acts as an aphrodisiac especially in an impotent person.
As an external application, pepper dilates the superficill vessels and acts as a counter-irritant. A tablespoon of pepper powder fried in sesame oil until it is charred can be applied beneficially as an analgesic liniment for mylagia and rheumatic pains.
Pepper powder and common salt mixture is an excellent dentifrice. Its daily use prevents dental caries, foul breath bleeding from the gums, painful , toothaches and cures ~ increased sensitiveness of the teeth. A pinch of pepper powder mixed with dove oil can be put in the caries to alleviate toothache.
Pepper is useful in pyorrhoea or pus in the gums. Finely powdered pepper and salt mixture when massaged over the gums relieves inflammation.
Pepper is most widely used as a condiment, its flavour and pungency blending well with most savoury dishes. It is extensively used in pickles, ketchups, sausages and for seasoning dishes.