White Pepper
A climbing vine with dark green leaves, white flowers and red berries, growing to about 6m. Originally a forest plant, now widely cultivated on supports reaching up to a maximum of 3.5 m for convenience. The spice is available as white or black pepper, but the essential oil is obtained from black pepper.

Legend has it that Attila the Hun demanded three thousand pounds of pepper, among other items as ransom for the city of Rome. Black pepper was a highly sought after spice during the Middle Ages that was available only to the wealthy, although today it is in virtually every home. Studies with laboratory animals dating back to the 1980s suggest that black pepper may protect against cancer of the colon by reducing the amount of toxins in the body.

This pantropical genus includes over 1000 species of evergreen, pungent-smelling climbers, shrubs, and small trees. Piper nigrum (pepper) is one of the oldest known spices, and was the main commodity traded along caravan routes of the East. It was the inspiration for early European exploration of sea routes, which created the wealth of cities such as Venice. Pepper has always been one of the most valuable spices: Attila the Hun demanded a huge quantity of it as ransom during the siege of Rome (CE408), and its use as currency gave rise to the term "peppercorn rent". It accounts now for a quarter of the spice trade, India being the main producer. Most peppers are grown for their fruits, which are rich in volatile oil and pungent piperidine alkaloids. Piper guineense (West African, or Ashanti pepper) produces mild-flavored peppercorns, and leaves that are used as a substitute for P. betel in betel quids. Piper methysticum (kava kava) is unusual among peppers in being root crop; the roots may weigh 5.5-7.3kg (12-16lb). It is an important ritual plant in Oceania, used in social and religious gatherings. Research has shown that kava kava is as effective as benzodiazepene in relieving anxiety. Piper auritum (hoja santa) and P. angustifolia (matico) are tropical American species, grown for their leaves. Those of the former resemble spinach, and are used for flavoring in Mexican and Guatemalan cooking; the latter is an astringent, styptic herb with a tea-like aroma, used in S America for wound healing, gastrointestinal complaints, and internal hemorrhage. Pipe auritum is often grown as an ornamental shrub or small tree. The leaves contain large amounts of safrole (as in Sassafras albidum, See, Sassafras), which is carcinogenic; they are traditionally fed to fish in Panama to flavor the flesh. In SE Asia, the leaves of P. sarmentosum (cha phloo) are used as a vegetable and wrapping for savory snacks; similarly P. lalot (la lot) is used as a pleasant-flavored wrapping in Vietnamese cuisine, and in folk medicine for arthritis and rheumatism. Numerous species other than P. nigrum are grown for their fruits, but only P. longum and P. retrofractum (Javanese long pepper) are sufficiently similar in flavor to use as substitutes. Pink peppercorns come from an unrelated S American tree, Schinus terebinthifolius; they may be mixed with green, black, and white peppercorns for decoration, but they have a resinous flavor so cannot be used as a substitute. Red and chili peppers are the fruits of Capsicum species (See, Bell Pepper).

Woody-stemmed climber, with ovate, heart-shaped leaves 12-18cm (5-7in) long. Tiny white flowers are borne on pendulous spikes, about 7cm (3in) long, with males and females usually on separate plants, followed by globose red berries, 6mm (¼in) across.

Common Name:
White Pepper
Other Names:
Black Pepper, Pepper, Pepper Bark, Peppercorn, Pimenta, Piper, Vellaja
Botanical Name:
Piper nigrum
Native Location:
India, Malaysia, United States, S and E India
Rich, well-drained soil in light shade and high humidity (P. longum, P. nigrum). Deep, rich soil, including heavy clay, ample moisture and shade (P. betle, P. cubeba). P. auritum thrives in full sun. Well-drained, stony soil, with ample water and humidity, in sun (P. methysticum). Plants are usually grown on frames. Remove weak of congested stems in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. For optimum fruiting (P. nigrum), cut back young plants to 30cm (12in) several times a year to stimulate growth of shoots, retaining the ten strongest, and tying in at each node. Mature vines are pruned regularly to 4m (12ft). Susceptible to fungal root rot, pepper weevil, and pepper flea beetle.
By seed sown at 20-24°C (66-75°F); by semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
Leaves are picked as required (P. auritum), blanched in the dark, often pressed together, and dried for extracts or to use whole (P. betel). Roots are lifted as required, usually from plants about 2m (6ft) tall, and used fresh, or dried for use in decoctions, liquid extracts, powders, and tablets (P. methysticum). Fruits are picked unripe and distilled for oleo-resin and oil, or dried for use in liquid extracts, powders and tinctures (P. cubeba). Fruit clusters are picked unripe and dried for use whole, ground or in decoctions (P. longum). Fruits of P. nigrum are picked unripe and used fresh, pickled (green peppercorns), and dried (green and black peppercorns); or ripe, and retted for eight days before drying (white peppercorns); black peppercorns are ground or decocted for medicinal use.
Steam Distillation
Parts Used:
Ripe Peppercorns, Fruits (hu jiao)
Color and Odor:
The essential oil is colorless, with a strong, penetrating, sharp and spicy middle note and an unexpectedly refined, warm aroma quite unlike the spice itself.
Pepper is probably the earliest known spice and was highly regarded and prized. It was very popular with both the Romans and the Greeks. Later the European powers fought over its monopoly, the Portuguese and Dutch having the most influence over the spice islands of the East. As a spice, pepper is among the most important in the world.
4m (12ft)
Min. 15-18°C (59-64°F)
Warming, rubefacient, circulatory stimulant, expectorant, antispasmodic, carminative, aphrodisiac and tonic.
A pungent, aromatic, warming herb that lowers fever and improves digestion. It is regarded as a stimulating expectorant in Western and Ayurvedic medicine, and as a tranquilizing and anti-emetic in Chinese practice.
The essential oil is best used in lower concentrations as it may cause irritation in sensitive people and may be over-stimulating.
  • Digestive Sytem—Valuable for dyspepsia and sluggish digestion. Pepper's antispasmodic action soothes the gut and restores tone to lax muscles of the colon. Helps to ease the constipation caused by colds and cold weather conditions. Also good for loss of appetite. Acts as an antitoxic agent in food poisoning.
  • Urinary System—Stimulates the kidneys and can be used as a diuretic.
  • Circulatory System—Pepper's ability to increase the circulation (like ginger) makes it useful for people with cold limbs. It is indicated where there is extreme physical or emotional cold. It is a spleen tonic. Useful for anaemia and bruising.
  • Respiratory System—Good remedy for colds and flu. The warming and expectorant action on the respiratory system promptly clears mucus. It brings on sweat and can be helpful in the first shivery stages of a cold or flu.
  • Muscular System—Pepper is good for rheumatic pains.
  • Emotions—Pepper has cephalic qualities, stimulating and strengthening the nerves and the mind. It is helpful for indifference and frustration or hidden angers, offering stamina and strength. Pepper helps with alertness and concentration, especially for individuals who tend to daydream or drowse during meditation or long-distance driving. It is also useful for bolstering courage in stressful situations such as public speaking or confronting a difficult person.
Medicinal Uses:
To treat digestive problems, scabies, nerve pain, arthritis, asthma, cough, and hemorrhoids.
Internally in Western medicine, for indigestion and gas; in Chinese medicine for stomach chills, food poisoning (from fish, meat, crab, or fungi), cholera, dysentery, diarrhea and vomiting caused by cold. Externally, in Ayurvedic medicine, mixed with ghee, for nasal congestion, sinusitis, epilepsy, and skin inflammation.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of black pepper may range from 0.3 to 0.6gm, totaling 1.5gm daily.
Possible Side Effects:
No side effects are known when black pepper is taken in designated therapeutic doses.
Drug Interactions:
Taking black pepper with these drugs may increase absorption and blood levels of the drug;
Phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek) Propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran XL) Theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theochron)
Lab Test Alterations:
May increase phenytoin, propranolol and theophylline serum concentrations.
Supplement Interactions:
When taken with Scotch broom, black pepper may increase the activity of sparteine, the principle alkaloid in Scotch broom, which can be toxic in large doses.
Black Pepper 6
Marjoram 3
Anise 2
Black Pepper 7
Fennel 3
Parsley 2
Black Pepper 6
Marjoram 3
Rosemary 3
Black Pepper 6
Benzoin 4
Pine 2
Black Pepper 6
Coriander 4
Lavender 3
Black Pepper 5
Lemon 4
Cedarwood 3
Culinary Uses:
Black and white peppercorns are, respectively, the dried unripe and ripe berries; they give flavor and piquancy to most savory dishes, meat products, sauces, dressings, pickles, and coatings for fish, meat, and cheese. Ground white pepper is less aromatic. Mignonette pepper (also called "shot pepper" or poivre gris) is a blend of ground white and black peppercorns. Green (fresh, unripe) peppercorns are used in creamy sauces, to flavor duck, pickled for pàtés, butters, and sauces, and dried for stock, soup, and casseroles.
Aromatherapy Blends and recipes by Franzesca Watson Copyright © 1995 Thorsons, Harper Parker Publishing Inc. Pp 64-66
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg MD and Barry Fox PhD, Copyright ©2007 by Barry Fox, PhD Pp. 80-81
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp. 319-321