We are all familiar with black pepper on our dinner table, but did you know that black pepper essential oil has many proven health uses as well? Let’s learn more about this oil, which makes a great addition to your collection.
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Source and Chemical Components
Black pepper is derived from Piper nigrum, a flowering vine that produces peppercorns as its fruit. It is known as the “king of spices” and was originally cultivated in India. (1) It is one of the most frequently used spices in the world and its history dates back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans thousands of years ago.
Black pepper oil is steam distilled from peppercorns and while it does have plenty of health uses, you can still use it in your culinary preparations.
The major constituents of black pepper essential oil include the following: (source)
Of interest, beta-caryophyllene, the first known “dietary cannabinoid” that has been approved by the FDA as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) to be used in food for its flavor. (source) It so also happens to be the primary sesquiterpene in cloves, hops, rosemary, copaiba, and cannabis, which binds with CB2 receptors.
Meaning, when you use black pepper, copaiba or any essential oil that contain beta-caryophyllene, you activate the ECS without any psychotrophic effects (i.e. you won’t get “high”). Kinda of like having your gluten-free, naturally-sweetened cake and eating it, too, huh?
One of the reasons black pepper essential oil has received a resurgence of popularity in the essential oil world is because of its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system.
Discovered in the 1990s when researchers were studying tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – a known cannabinoid), the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is crucial for our survival as it plays a critical role in maintaining homeostasis of the human body:pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune and reproductive function. (source)
For the ECS to work properly, it requires cannabinoids, compounds made by the body and in nature (i.e. cannabis), which bind with and trigger cannabinoid receptors that, in turn, produce a variety of physiological responses such as pain relief, insomnia relief, increased appetite, reduced stress, euphoria and the feeling of being “high.”
The two receptors of interest to us include:
- CB1 receptors – found in the central nervous system (i.e. brain and spinal cord). Can trigger the sensation of being “high.”
- CB2 receptors – found in the peripheral nervous system, immune cells, muscles, skin, and vital organs. When triggered, will not get you “high.”
THC is the famous cannabinoid in cannabis that gets people high and it can bind with both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
So, to confirm, will using black pepper essential oil get you high like cannabis can? Of course not!
Can it help you in ways that CBD can? Yep!
8 Benefits Of Black Pepper Essential Oil
Here are 8 ways you can incorporate black pepper essential oil into your life for better health.
1. Helps You Quit Smoking
According to the CDC, smoking cigarettes is one of the top causes of preventable illness and mortality in the United States – and almost 40 million adults smoke! This devastating habit adds up to $170 billion worth of treatment for diseases related to smoking. (2)
The Office of the Surgeon General has reported that that two-thirds of smokers try to quit but nicotine is so addictive that it often takes at least several attempts to permanently kick the habit. (3) The good news is that quitting at any age helps the healing start.
And that’s where black pepper essential oil can help. A study from 2013 showed that inhaling this oil reduced nicotine craving. It also “allowed a longer delay before next use of tobacco.” (4)
Black pepper oil can also be effective in relieving food cravings and other types of addictive cravings, so try this any time you feel the urge to make an unhealthy food or drink choice.
Application: Add 2 drops of black pepper oil to an organic cotton cloth in a personal inhaler. Inhale when cravings arise.
2. Manage or Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is another preventable disease that is on the rise. The CDC reports that 90-95% of the 34 million Americans with diabetes suffer from type 2. (5) To reduce your chance of getting this disease, we recommend a healthy diet and talk to your doctor about developing a fitness regimen.
In addition, black pepper essential oil can support you on your journey to good health. Research from Nigeria shows that its antioxidant abilities along with its impact on enzyme activity may help you to manage or even prevent type 2 diabetes. (6) If you struggle to keep your blood sugar in line, you may want to add this oil to your routine.
Application: Add 1 drop of black pepper essential oil to your savory recipes.
3. Help for Hypertension
Nearly half of all American adults also suffer from high blood pressure. This condition can lead to heart disease or stroke and it contributed to half a million deaths in the U.S. in 2018. (7) Fortunately, because of its antioxidant abilities, (6) black pepper oil may be able to prevent or manage hypertension, when added to other healthy habits such as managing stress, eating right, and proper exercise.
Application: Diffuse with lavender and vetiver oils to create a relaxing atmosphere during stressful times or before sleep.
4. Activates Your Endocannabinoid System
As discussed above, black pepper is one of several essential oils that interacts with your endocannabinoid system (ECS). You may have heard of this thanks to the popularity of CBD oil and medical uses for THC found in cannabis. ECS was discovered in the 1990s when scientists researched the effects of THC. This system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in many of our body’s processes such as sleep, metabolism, immune function, and memory, just to name a few.
ECS requires cannabinoids, which trigger receptors inside the system. These then produce responses such as pain relief, reduced stress, improved appetite, and the feeling of getting “high” that people experience with cannabis.
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP), one of the major constituents of black pepper oil, binds with receptors that are found in the peripheral nervous system, immune cells, muscles, skin, and vital organs. When you use oils that are rich in BCP, you activate the benefits of ECS without getting high, making black pepper oil an excellent choice if you are leery about using THC. (8)
Application: Add 2-3 drops each of marjoram, black pepper, lavender, and peppermint oils to your homemade body lotion recipes.
5. Relieves Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Thanks to that interaction with ECS, black pepper oil also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Lab experiments on mice showed that BCP is ideal for treating chronic pain, without developing a tolerance that leads to reduced effectiveness, as many pain medications do. In fact, “the researchers concluded that the effect of BCP became stronger during the treatment period,” making this an effective and safe choice for dealing with pain and inflammation. (8)
Application: Add your favorite carrier oil to a roller bottle and add 2 drops of black pepper oil, 2 drops of lavender oil, and 1 drop of clove oil. Roll over painful areas.
6. Antimicrobial Properties
Numerous research articles have been written on the antimicrobial benefits of black pepper essential oil. For example, it’s been shown to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that is strongly resistant to antibiotics. Several essential oils were tested in this experiment and black pepper was one of the most effective in eliminating Staph biofilm. It also hindered its ability to damage and infect the host. (9)
Black pepper oil also inhibited the growth and proliferation of bacteria in (10) in vitro studies. In this particular study, researchers compared the effectiveness of essential oils commercially available compared to ones that they distilled in their lab and found samples to be more effective. This underscores the importance of finding a trustworthy brand that sells unadulterated oils. Learn how to choose the best brand of essential oil.
Application: Add a few drops of black pepper oil to your homemade all-purpose or bathroom cleaner recipes.
7. Helps with Tick Bite Infections (Babesiosis)
Babesiosis is an infection caused by the parasite Babesia microti and is spread by black-legged (or deer) ticks, mostly in the Northeast and upper Midwest United States. In this region, the number of cases of this infection has nearly doubled from 2011 to 2018. (11) This disease can be life-threatening for at-risk populations, such as those with compromised immune systems, serious health conditions, or people of advanced age. ((12)
In 2020, researchers sought alternatives to the standard medical treatments of babesiosis. These medications can have serious side effects and do not always prevent the infection from repeatedly returning. Ninety-seven essential oils were tested and black pepper and garlic oils were discovered to be the most effective at fighting these infections. (13)
Application: Use a pipette to add 2-3 drops of black pepper oil to a gel capsule and fill the rest with coconut or olive oil, then seal snugly. Take with water twice daily for no more than 2 weeks.
8. Wound Dressing
Minor cuts and abrasions don’t generally need a trip to the doctor but they can become infected and lead to more serious issues if not treated properly. It’s important to clean and dress your wound well but most over-the-counter solutions are laden with antibiotics that can be harmful if used too frequently.
Essential oils can help here. Scientists in India and Poland tested the properties of black pepper and ginger essential oil on films and discovered that both significantly inhibit the growth of various bacteria. (14) They suggested that a blend of these oils can be a potential alternative wound dressing option.
A Note About Safety
Black pepper essential oil is relatively safe and poses only a slight risk of skin sensitization. According to Tisserand Institute, one of the foremost leading authorities on essential oil safety, there are no known contraindications, or maximum adult oral or dermal dose limits.
Black pepper essential oil is somewhat mild. It has warming properties but it is not a “hot” oil, the term for essential oils that can be irritants or allergens. (15)
Use these common-sense tips when working with black pepper essential oil:
- At present, there is no clinically safe level of dosage for children, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot give it to them. You should start off small with “culinary doses,” that is, no more than one drop per dish. Black pepper essential oil is safe to use in your diffuser and topical applications if you keep it to 1% or less for children.
- Don’t consume it straight out of the bottle, and don’t add it to water for drinking (remember that oil and water do not mix).
- You can consume safely by adding 2-3 drops of black pepper essential oil into a veggie gel capsule and fill it with olive oil. Consume with food.
- Do not stay on black pepper oil for an extended length of time. Ideally, you should rotate your oils every few weeks.
- Stop using it immediately if you experience any side effects.
- Use with caution if you take medications. Check with your healthcare provider first.
Black pepper has a long and rich history, especially in traditional cooking, and its essential oil has many uses as well. Its aroma is energizing and peppery, and it blends well with other spice oils.