Black Pepper—like cinnamon, is another staple spice for the Ayurvedic pantry and here in the US, I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s probably one of the most commonly used spices. It can be easily found at restaurants, cafes, fast food joints, either on the table or in a packet. Even pantries that aren’t filled with array of spices likely have black pepper. Its accessibility and likely hood of being in every savory meal you eat, is why I thought sharing its medicinal benefits would be helpful.
Black Pepper stimulates the agni (digestive fire) like cinnamon. It’s considered to be one of the strongest digestive stimulantsthat is also considered a cleanser because it burns ama (toxins). In-turn, helping to better absorb nutrients from your food as it prevents stagnation.
In taste, black pepper is pungent and its heating—a great spice to bring balance to cold or raw foods such as cucumbers or salads.
It rajastic quality makes it an irritant, or produces an action like sneezing or coughing making excellent to treat respiratory issues related to congestion. I think we have all experienced a good sneeze when coming a little to close to peppercorn at some point in our lives—yes?
Black pepper’s pungent, heating and rajastic qualities makes it a great spice for these cold winter months (Kapha time) helping to counter balance common winter imbalances—colds, flus, sinus and congestion. While also helping to digest and balance heavy winter foods.
The ratio of black pepper used when cooking is often times less compared to other spices due to is strong flavor—a little goes along way. Of course, all of our tolerances to spices differ, but I encourage you to give your pepper mill a few extra turns this season.
Experimenting with quantity or type (whole vs. ground) can help to find the balance thats right for you. Especially if cooking with spices is new to you—this is the fun part.
Ask yourself, do you feel a bit warmer? Did it make you sneeze, loosen some phlegm you didn’t realize you had in your chest? Did you enjoy a little extra pungent flavor or maybe even with a few extra turns you didn’t notice a difference?
Now don’t go crazy. Its still about maintaining balance—if your mouth is burning or your sweating up a storm, its a good indication that maybe ½ tsp would have been better than 1 tsp.
Eating should be a pleasurable experience—visually, aromatically and for your taste buds.
Well,tell me, tell me – what are the benefits of black pepper?
Helps absorb nutrients
Stimulates the appetite
Promotes sweating (great for those who retain water)
Pacifies Vata and Kapha. Increases Pitta (this doesn’t mean Pitta constitutions should not eat black pepper, monitor the quantity as sometimes its about balancing the food)
How do I incorporate pepper into my next meal?
Salad: Grind about ¼ tsp to ½ tsp into your salad dressing or after tossing—this is a great way to balance the cold qualities of salads and help digest raw/cold foods.
Sauté: Add ½ tsp to 1 tsp depending on quantity to hot oil/ghee to release the aroma (about 30 secs), prior to adding in your veggie.
Soup: Grind ¼ tsp to a ½ tsp in your bowl in addition to what the recipe call for. The hot steamy nature of soup combined with a pungent spice, is like giving yourself an internal steam.
Make a quick black pepper tea/infusion and cook your rice, grains, pasta etc.. in this broth to infuse the flavor and add an amazing aroma. (Add some cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and/or bay leaves—go crazy!)
When making a stew style dish or a broth, add whole peppercorns in addition to ground, its adds a subtle quality to the background that less peppery and more warming.
Find a whole peppercorn in your next meal? Eat it and see how you feel.
Whether you cook or not having knowing the medicinal benefits of spices is important in expanding our awareness of seeing food as medicine and to further appreciate every meal we enjoy.
People with a little extra (imbalance) Pitta (heat) or digestive issues like IBS, should be wary… too much black pepper might not be the best option—listen to your body.
Lad, Vasant and Frawley, David; The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine; Lotus Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico USA, c1986