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Black Pepper Essential Oil

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Black pepper (Piper nigrum) continues to stand as one of the most vital and widely used spices worldwide, some even dubbing it as the "king of spices" for obvious reasons. It is a well-recognized food seasoning valued immensely since ancient times because of the distinct aroma and flavor that it bestows to our foods. Adding to its unparalleled worth is the fact that black pepper not only is used as a spice in a broad range of culinary dishes but also is utilized as a natural treatment and traditional medicine for a variety of disorders, as a preservative, and as an element in perfumery. [1]



Black pepper essential oil is extracted through steam distillation from peppercorns, the dried berries of P. nigrum that have not yet reached the full ripening phase. The essential oil ranges in color, from clear or colorless, to light amber, to greenish or yellow green. It has a thin consistency and watery viscosity and characteristically diffuses a strong, crisp, sharp, spicy aroma that is described by many to be elating, soothing, and energizing. Moreover, it blends well with most essential oils, especially bergamot, clary sage, clove bud, coriander, fennel, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, juniper, lemon, lime, mandarin, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang essential oils.

Black Pepper Essential Oil - Uses and Reported Benefits

Black pepper essential oil enjoys an incredibly lengthy reported list of beneficial therapeutic properties, including analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, laxative, rubefacient, and tonic (particularly of the spleen). It is applied in aromatherapy (i.e. a few drops added to a massage oil) as a remedy for tired, aching extremities, sore muscles and joints, and rheumatoid arthritis and can be used to stimulate the appetite and help fix bowel problems such as constipation and sluggish digestion. Some people also find it useful in decreasing high temperatures during fever, increasing integument circulation, and restoring proper functioning of the skin. [3]

Black Pepper Essential Oil - Contraindications and Safety

Black pepper essential oil should not be taken internally but is generally considered safe and nontoxic for external use when appropriately diluted. However, its application on sensitive skin may result in irritation. Individuals with kidney disease are advised to minimize or avoid the use of black pepper essential oil due to the risk of overstimulating the kidneys. [3] Patients taking lithium, phenytoin, propranolol, rifampin, and theophylline similarly need to be cautious because of the moderate possibility of interaction between the aforementioned drugs and black pepper essential oil. [4]

Black Pepper Essential Oil - Scientific Studies and Research

Black Pepper Essential Oil as intravenous catheter insertion aid: Kristiniak, Harpel, Breckenridge, and Buckle (2012) found the topical application of black pepper essential oil to be effective in improving vein visibility and palpability prior to intravenous catheter insertion in hospitalized patients with limited vein accessibility. In this randomized controlled study, the experimental group displayed optimal or improved scoring to black pepper essential oil intervention as compared to standard nursing care, with the number of patients whose veins are non-visible or non-palpable and attempts of intravenous catheter insertion having been reduced into half in comparison with those of the control group. [5]

Black Pepper Essential Oil for nicotine withdrawal: Black pepper essential oil is believed to help alleviate smoking withdrawal symptoms when inhaled from cigarette substitutes and may prove valuable in smoking cessation therapies. Rose and Behm (1994) from the Nicotine Research Laboratory, Durham VA Medical Center, tested a cigarette substitute delivering a vapor of black pepper essential oil for its subjective effects on suppressing smoking withdrawal symptoms among cigarette smokers. In this study, study participants who had been deprived overnight of smoking were randomly assigned into three groups, and the group comprising smokers who puffed on a device delivering black pepper essential oil vapor reported reduced cigarette craving when compared with the control groups. Moreover, the experimental group demonstrated lesser somatic symptoms of anxiety.



Black Pepper Essential Oil as antimicrobial: Black pepper essential oil possesses curative antimicrobial properties, making it of immense potential as an alternative remedy for a broad range of infectious diseases. Rabadia, Kamat, and Kamat (2011) evaluated the antifungal activities of black pepper, cardamom, cumin, Boswellia, and patchouli essential oils against fungal strains resistant to fluconazole, an established antifungal medicine prescribed to treat fungal infections such as vaginal candidiasis, oral thrush, urinary tract infections, and meningitis. Their study results demonstrated the inhibitory effect of the previously mentioned essential oils against Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, and Trichophyton mentagrophytesi in different degrees of dilutions. The growth of all three fungal cultures tested was put off even at 1:10 dilution of the essential oils. Black pepper essential oil in particular had a 16 mm zone of inhibition for C. albicans, 15 mm for C. tropicalis, and 36 mm for T. mentagrophytes. [7]

Black Pepper Essential Oil as antioxidant: The recent study of Jenna et al. (2014) provides scientific evidence regarding the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antinociceptive properties of black pepper essential oil. Findings from their study illustrated the scavenging activities of black pepper essential oil on superoxide, DPPH, and hydroxyl radicals and its inhibitive action on tissue lipid peroxidation in vitro. Intraperitoneal administration of black pepper essential oil led to the inhibition of production of PMA-induced superoxide radicals elicited by macrophages, whereas 1-month oral treatment with the said essential oil increased significantly the levels of superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and glutathione reductase in the blood of mouse models and glutathione-S-transferase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione in the liver. Black pepper contains piperine, which has been confirmed by several in vitro studies to protect the body against oxidative damage by inhibiting free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Interestingly, black pepper essential oil also effectively reduced the acute inflammation elicted by carrageenan and dextran and significantly suppressed the inflammation present in rat models of formaldehyde-induced chronic inflammation. Results of the acetic acid-induced writhing test performed demonstrated as well the antinociceptive property of black pepper essential oil. [8]

Black Pepper Essential Oil as anti-cancer agent: Black pepper oil was among the essential oils derived from 17 Thai medicinal plants that were tested by Manosroi, Dhumtanom, and Manosroi (2006) for their anti-proliferative activity on human mouth epidermal carcinoma (KB) and murine leukemia (P388) cell lines. Certain amounts of cells per well of both cell lines were treated with essential oil samples at different concentrations. Black pepper essential oil exhibited antiproliferative action with an IC50 value of 0.215 mg/ml on KB cell line and 0.2005 mg/ml on P388 cell line, making it a possible candidate for further development as an anticancer agent. [9]

Black Pepper Essential Oil - Molecular Components and Chemistry

Essential oils derived from black, green, and white peppers are a natural source of compounds such as delta-3-carene, eugenol, terpinen-4-ol, hedycaryol, beta-eudesmol, and caryophyllene oxide. Black pepper essential oil though contains more monoterpenes but less sesquiterpenes and oxygenated terpenoids in comparison to green and white pepper essential oils. [10] Its chief components include ß-caryophyllene, limonene, sabinene, 3-carene, ß-pinene, and a-pinene. [11]

Piperine, which is black pepper's main active constituent, has been well reported by numerous studies to execute a variety of physiological effects. It positively triggers the production of pancreatic digestive enzymes, enhances the digestive capacity, and appreciably decreases the gastrointestinal food transit time. It also lowers lipid peroxidation and improves the bioavailability of quite a lot of therapeutic drugs and phytochemicals. [12]

Black Pepper Essential Oil - References

[1] Meghwal M., Goswami T. K. (2012). Nutritional constituent of black pepper as medicinal molecules: a review. 1: 129. doi:10.4172/scientificreports.129. Retrieved from http://omicsonline.org/scientific-reports/srep129.php

[2] Black pepper 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oil- 10 ml. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pepper-Therapeutic-Grade-Essential/dp/B0046WD6Y0

[3] Black pepper 100% pure essential oil - 1oz (30ml). Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pepper-100-Pure-Essential/dp/B003CB7UFW

[4] Black pepper and white pepper. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-800-black%20pepper%20and%20white%20pepper.aspx?activeingredientid= 800&activeingredientname=black%20pepper%20and%20white%20pepper

[5] Kristiniak S., Harpel J., Breckenridge D. M., Buckle J. (2012). Black pepper essential oil to enhance intravenous catheter insertion in patients with poor vein visibility: a controlled study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 18(11): 1003-1007. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0106. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23153036

[6] Rose J. E., Behm F. M. (1994). Inhalation of vapor from black pepper extract reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 34(3): 225-229. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8033760 Rose JE1, Behm FM.

[7] Rabadia A. G., Kamat S. D., Kamat D. V. (2011). Antifungal activity of essential oils against fluconazole resistant fungi. International Journal of Phytomedicine. 3: 506-510. Retrieved from http://www.arjournals.org/index.php/ijpm/index

[8] Jeena K., Liju V. B., Umadevi N. P., Kuttan R. (2014). Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties of black pepper essential oil (Piper nigrum Linn). Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants. 17(1): 1-12. doi 10.1080/0972060X.2013.831562. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0972060X.2013.831562

[9] Manosroi J., Dhumtanom P., Manosroi A. (2006). Anti-proliferative activity of essential oil extracted from Thai medicinal plants on KB and P388 cell lines. Cancer Letters. 235(1): 114-120. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15979235

[10] Orav A., Stulova I., Kailas T., Müürisepp M. (2004). Effect of storage on the essential oil composition of Piper nigrum L. fruits of different ripening states. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 52(9): 2582-2586. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113161

[11] Bagheri H., Abdul Manap M. Y., Solati Z. (2014). Antioxidant activity of Piper nigrum L. essential oil extracted by supercritical CO2 extraction and hydro-distillation. Talanta. 121: 220-228. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2014.01.007. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24607131

[12] Srinivasan K. (2007). Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 47(8): 735-748. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17987447

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