Long hailed as the “king of spices,” black pepper (piper nigrum) is a common seasoning in households worldwide.
However, this staple seasoning may have surprising benefits for your health when taken as a dietary supplement.
Black pepper contains a powerful compound known as piperine that gives the spice its distinct flavour and has some surprisingly beneficial effects.
However, this compound only makes up a small part of the black pepper plant by volume, so you would have to sprinkle an awful lot on your lunch to enjoy these health benefits. On average, black pepper contains 2-7% piperine, so you would need to eat over six teaspoons of pepper to get 1 gram of piperine.
Fortunately, there are much better ways to enjoy the health benefits of this compound, such as BioPerine, a patented piperine extract that contains at least 95% piperine by volume. In this article, we’ll explore the effects of black pepper and how to maximise BioPerine benefits, including potential side effects and tips on incorporating black pepper into your diet.
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Piperine is an alkaloid compound found in various pepper species, including the black pepper plant and long pepper species (Piper longum and Piper officinarum). Like capsaicin (the active ingredient in chillies), piperine lends a distinctive spicy taste to pepper, but it makes up a very small amount of peppercorns by volume – roughly 5% on average.
Pepper has traditionally been used as a digestive aid, and recent studies show it can support various health concerns, such as cognitive function and weight management in the form of supplements like BioPerine. Pepper may be a common spice, but there are plenty of known BioPerine benefits to recommend its use as a dietary supplement.
Black pepper, piperine, and BioPerine are often used to describe the same thing, but it’s important to understand the difference to find the best supplements for you. While they are all closely linked, they’re not the same, and upping your intake of black pepper won’t have the same benefits as taking BioPerine supplements.
Black pepper is a spice produced from the cooked and dried unripe fruit (or peppercorns) of the black pepper plant, which naturally contains piperine. BioPerine is a patented piperine extract made from black pepper, usually extracted using organic solvents, as piperine has poor solubility in water.
Piperine (also known by its trademarked name, BioPerine) is an extract derived from black pepper with antioxidant effects. Piperine gives peppers their spicy taste, and it has been found to have beneficial properties and increase the absorption of various nutrients, leading it to be marketed as a nutritional supplement.
BioPerine has many health benefits and may help support general health in the following ways:
Supplementing with BioPerine benefits the absorption of various nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and certain other herbal supplements. Black pepper supplements can increase the amount of nutrients your body absorbs, as they inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down these nutrients in your digestive system.
RELATED: Piperine also helps to improve the absorption of curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric. More on this later in the article.
BioPerine supplements have also shown potential benefits for digestive health, as they help increase the production of digestive juices in the stomach, promoting better digestion. Furthermore, piperine’s anti-inflammatory properties may help alleviate digestive discomfort and improve overall digestive health.
RELATED: Our blog on supplements for leaky gut syndrome has lots of tips and tricks to help improve your digestive health and gut biome.
Inflammation is a natural immune response, but chronic inflammation is linked to various health problems, including heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. Fortunately, BioPerine has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce your risk of chronic inflammation and the chronic health conditions it’s linked to.
A 2012 study found that small doses of piperine can lower blood glucose levels, which may help to manage symptoms of diabetes. However, more research is needed to determine whether BioPerine benefits diabetes symptoms, as the same study found that high doses (around 40mg per kg of body weight) increased blood glucose levels.
RELATED: Read our blog on the best multivitamins for people with diabetes to learn more about managing diabetes symptoms whilst using dietary supplements.
One of the more interesting BioPerine benefits is how it boosts the absorption of curcumin – the main active ingredient in turmeric – which has poor bioavailability when taken on its own. The piperine in black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%, making it much more effective than curcumin alone.
RELATED: Many turmeric supplements contain black pepper extract to improve absorption – our blog on turmeric pills has lots of tips and tricks to get the most out of this herbal supplement.
There are two theories on why the fruit of the black pepper plant has such a strong effect on curcumin, as piperine may make it easier for curcumin to pass into your bloodstream, and it may slow the breakdown of curcumin by your liver. Regardless of why piperine improves the absorption of curcumin, the results are clear: you get much better results by taking BioPerine and curcumin together.
While black pepper is widely regarded as safe to eat, concentrated forms of piperine may have side effects when taken in higher doses. While clinical studies may back up BioPerine benefits, there is no official guidance for safe dosages of this herbal supplement, so we’re relying on existing studies and expert guidance.
The manufacturers of BioPerine recommend taking 3 doses of 5mg daily, and studies show that doses of 5-20mg are generally safe and only associated with minimal side effects. However, piperine may interact with certain medications, including drugs for insomnia, anxiety, and blood thinners, as it may slow blood clotting.
Thanks to the many natural compounds it contains, black pepper is an incredibly versatile spice with some surprising health benefits, including antioxidant effects that support digestive health, among other things. The main active ingredient – piperine – has many proven health benefits and helps improve the absorption of vital nutrients and other supplements, notably curcumin.
The fruit of the black pepper plant contains very low amounts of piperine by volume, so we recommend using dietary supplements like BioPerine to enjoy the health benefits of this herbal supplement. However, you should be careful when choosing supplements, as the potential side effects may outweigh the BioPerine benefits.
Piperine supplements can increase your absorption of certain medications, so we strongly recommend asking your healthcare provider whether they’re right for you before adding them to your supplement routine.