Imagine open ocean crossing was discovered by explorers to

Imagine
you’re sitting around the table with your family trying to enjoy dinner with
some friends and family. There is a sea of foods right in front of you and you
happen to grab some disappointingly under seasoned steak. What’s the first
thing you think to do? Most people would obviously grab the nearest seasonings,
salt and pepper. It’s a quick, simple fix that has been used for as long as
most of us can even remember. There is so much to just say about salt on its
own, but this paper is going to be on pepper. Black pepper in fact, is one of
the most used seasonings there is, but would it be viable in other situations? Is
there a realistic medical solution to using black pepper in other situations,
like in the medical field, that’s viable enough to replace a current practice?

Black pepper is the most sought after spice. It
is a type of vine from the family piperaceae, and is used for its fruit, which
is of course the pepper, natively called Piper Nigrum. It has been used since
as far back as 2000 BC in ancient India. Peppercorn was a huge trade good,
often seen as “black gold” and was used as money. For a few thousand years, it
was primarily used in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and it all
came from the India region. Morales
wrote about the findings of spice off an ancient port near the Red Sea proving
that spices were traded largely even back in Roman times in his paper The Roman and Islamic Spice Trade (Morales, 2016). To
protect their routes, traders actually had to create amazing stories about the
hardship of obtaining and producing pepper. Fun fact: most of the stories were
about traders traveling around the world to get pepper from dragons, who guarded
it.

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Pepper
was thought to be an uncommon and expensive item that only richer patrons could
afford, but by the time of the early Roman Empire, an open ocean crossing was
discovered by explorers to allow for pepper to become easier to obtain and
trade, dominating the pepper trade into Europe for over a millennium. It is
actually what explorers like Christopher
Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and S ir Francis Drake were out doing. They
were trying to find peppercorn around the world. Pepper was so valuable it was
actually used as collateral in some situations. It is said that Alaric the
Visigoth and even Attila the Hun would demand from Rome a ransom of over a ton
of pepper when they sieged the city back in the 5th century (Butler
2013).

Pepper
grew in even more popularity once more trade routes were established, coming to
be up to 70 percent of the international spice trade. As it became more
available, the prices dropped, and more people were able to enjoy it. More
foods began incorporating pepper alongside native spices and herbs, which
resulted in new spice blends.

According
to The Agronomy And Economy Of Black
Pepper, it is actually predicted that global demand will rise to around
280,000 tons by 2020 and will continue to rise to 360,000 tons by 2050 (Nair 2004).
Obviously, the more pepper we consume, the more likely it is that we will run
out. It’s the same about everything we have on this planet, but that’s an
argument for a different paper.

Peppercorn
begins its helpful nature before it’s even grown. In the article “Effect of long-term Continuous
cropping…” Xiong and his team of researchers found that extended periods of
cropping of black pepper will lead to a serious decline in soil ph. (Xiong,
2015). What this means is that black pepper is creating a healthier soil for
not only other peppers to grow on, but other things a farmer decides to grow as
well. Xiong and his team also found that you could actually plant with 40-50%
less with nitrogen based fertilizers which of course would reduce global
pollution.

Though it won’t reduce pollution by
a lot, considering how much pollution we have, any little bit can help. It
could reduce the ever increasing respiratory problems, could increase lung
function in more people, even lower the rate of aggravated asthma. If black
pepper planted correctly could reduce pollution in any way, it could help the
world immensely, and could even get more people to try to ‘go green” and
produce healthier plants as well as reduce the pollution.

Traditionally,
black pepper has been used in a variety of different remedies as well as just
different purposes. The health benefits of black pepper include relief from
respiratory disorders, coughs, the common cold, constipation, indigestion,
anemia, impotency, muscular strains, dental disease, pyorrhea, diarrhea, and
heart disease. The biggest thing pepper can help with is actually digestion, as
the taste of it causes the stomach to release hydrochloric acid, used to digest
proteins, to build up before your food can even get to the stomach, really
aiding in the digestion. It also helps prevent intestinal gas and can promote
sweating and urination, which gets rid of toxins in the body. Sweating removes
the toxins and cleans out the pores of dangerous foreign bodies that could have
gotten in there, and can remove extra water in your body as well. Same with
urination, where it removes excess water, but also uric acid, urea, and fat
stored in urine. All of this means that consuming black pepper can help you not
only lose weight, but also increase your body’s health and prevent
gastrointestinal conditions as well as some forms of cancer. Black pepper
inhibits the in vitro growth of TNBC cells, as well as hormone-dependent breast
cancer cells, without affecting normal mammary epithelial cell growth. (Hoskin
2014)

Black
pepper also has a very significant impact on weight loss, skin health, and
respiratory relief and so on. The outer layer of peppercorn can help breakdown
fat cells, helping you shed weight naturally. Pepper can help cure Vitiligo,
which is a skin disease that causes some areas of your skin to lose pigment and
just turn white. Pepper can actually stimulate the skin to produce pigments, so
this paired with ultra violet light therapy can cure that disease and leave you
with healthier skin. In certain practices, pepper is used in tonics for colds
and coughs, and also relieves sinusitis and nasal congestion. It breaks up
mucus and phlegm depositions and is a stimulant to make you cough or sneeze to
get that stuff out.

            With the known uses and abundance, why don’t we use
pepper more often? I only named a view things pepper could help, but we don’t
seem to think about using it in the helpful ways we could. From a simple cough
cure to curing skin disease and even inducing weight loss, black pepper is such
a diverse plant. What would it take to convince more people to use peppercorn
in a healthier, more recognizable fashion? Are people even okay with the idea
of change?

            The first problem is that people in general just don’t
like change. No matter what situation whether they feel they have too much
uncertainty of what could happen, or if they could change themselves, or even
if they just don’t want to change, it’s hard to convince people to use
something new. Some people believe that it could bring unneeded stress, or
cause problems, and there are some who associate change with past mistakes.
Just the idea of having pepper in medicine could upset a lot of people, even
with the physical proof of it being extremely viable. It’s really just part of
human nature to disregard the idea of change.

Here’s
the problem with that though: imagine if we weren’t ever open to the idea of
change. We could still have some very bad things going on in the world, and the
world quite literally wouldn’t be the same as it is today. People might not
have moved from Europe to America, we might still have slavery, women might not
have rights. With every action, there is a reaction, and we need to push for a
better world. Though black pepper is looked at as just a seasoning, it has so
much potential to be so much more than that.

            With all the benefits of the pepper, it can still cause
some problems with a lot of people. Like most other peppers, black pepper is
still a hot pepper, and too much consumption can lead to health problems. If
you consume too much it can dry your skin and cause skin irritation and rashes.
For pregnant women, it could cause difficulties in breastfeeding as spices can
transfer into breast milk and cause problems with their infant latching. People
taking certain drugs can’t consume it, as well as people with gastrointestinal
disorders as to risk upsetting their stomach or worsen the disorder. As well as
for some of the few people who accidentally get pepper in their eye, as it
would not only burn, but may risk other problems with their sight, as black
pepper could be used as an ingredient in pepper spray.

            Even with the problems with black pepper could be serious
for some people, there just aren’t that many serious issues that are associated
with black pepper. Which of course is obvious because of how much it is
actually consumed by people. If it wasn’t safe for humans, it wouldn’t be
considered “King of Spices”, and it wouldn’t be one of the most thriving spices
for as long as it has. If we can just show people all of the real, factual
benefits of black pepper, maybe we can convince them to use it more in
medicine.

With
all the facts laid out, it’s hard to see why black pepper isn’t used in
medicine as it can cure a number of things like serious respiratory disorders
as well as colds, coughs, constipation, muscular strain and so on. It can be
used as a therapeutic oil to soothe muscle pain or sore joints, and could even
be used as a sunscreen for certain situations. Of course, most commonly, black
pepper can be used as a spice. It is such an adaptable spice capable of curing
many aliments and should be thought of as such. With the ever increasing demand
in trade, people are definitely using up the pepper faster than they can be
grown with us using over 280,000 tons now and it predicted to sky rocket over
360,000 tons in the next 30 years. It’s on a serious fast track for it to
become endangered, even if it doesn’t happen within 50 or more years, global
demand will continue to rise to where before we know it, were going to be out.
So more than anything we need to focus on conservation, as well as more
medicinal practices for black pepper. Our “King of Spices” has untapped
potential to become the most diverse spice we have.

 

Bibliography

Butler, S. (2013). Off the
Spice Rack: The Story of Pepper. Retrieved April 21, 2016

Choochana, P., Moungjaroen,
J., Jongkon, N., Gritsanapan, W., &

Tangyuenyongwatana,
P. (2015). Development of piperic acid derivatives from

Piper
nigrum as UV protection agents. Pharmaceutical Biology, 53(4),
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doi:10.3109/13880209.2014.924020

Greenshields, A. L., Doucette,
C. D., Sutton, K. M., Madera, L., Annan, H., Yaffe, P. B.,

&
…Hoskin, D. W. (2015). Piperine inhibits the growth and motility of triple

negative
breast cancer cells. Cancer
Letters, 357(1), 129-140.

doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2014.11.017

Kaleem, M. (2004, July 19).
Protective Effects Of Piper Nigrum And Vinca Rosea In

Alloxan
Induced Diabetic Rats. Indian J Physiol
Pharmacol

Morales, J. (n.d.). The Roman and Islamic spice
trade: New archaeological evidence.

Retrieved February 18, 2016 Journal of Ethnopharmacology

Nair,
K. P. (2004). The Agronomy And Economy Of Black Pepper (Piper Nigrum L.) –

The
“King Of Spices.”.Advances In Agronomy, 82271-388.

Smith, S. (2015, June 5). In
the shadow of a pepper-centric historiography:

Understanding
the global diffusion of capsicums in the sixteenth and seventeenth

centuries.
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Boundaries of Food and Medicine

Srinivasan,
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Iss. 8, 2007

Xiong,
Wu., Li, Z., Liu, H., Xue, C., Zhang, R., Wu, H., … Liang, W. (2015). The
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Long-Term
Continuous Cropping of Black Pepper on Soil Bacterial Communities

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(2015).
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