Monday, October 29, 2012
Piper Nigrum aka Black Pepper.
The wonderfully pungent spice so many of us have as a companion to salt. However, there is so much more to it, which makes it one of my most favorite spices and something I never leave home without. (It's always included in my First Aid Kit when I travel.)
Black Pepper is simply the unripe fruit of the Piper Nigrum plant (white pepper is the ripe fruit). Most sources list India, or Southeast Asia, as the original source where Black Pepper came from. Nowadays, Vietnam is generally given credit as being the largest producer of Black Pepper. This now common spice still accounts for approximately 1/5th of all spice trade, and can be found as whole peppercorn (for pepper grinders), an essential oil, and pepper spirit (natural flavoring).
Historically, Black Pepper was referred to 'Black Gold' due to it's usage as collateral and/or payment for other expensive trade goods. It's been said that it was used for everything from food preservation to the mummification process. (Black Peppercorns were even found in the nostrils of Rameses II!)
As Black Pepper made it's way around the world and into modern times, both it's use and the knowledge of it's properities have been greatly expanded. This ranges from using both the oil and spirit for everything from cosmetics to medicines.
Some of the more interesting uses are for: constipation, diarehhea, heart disease, tooth decay, insomnia, earache, congestion, sinusitis, arthritis and nerve pain. And, of course, Black Pepper spirit is also part of the Coca Cola formula. Other more cutting edge/medical uses are for: vitiligo (skin pigment/coloration loss), weight loss, stop smoking aids and cancer treatment. And in cosmetics it's generally used as an antimicrobial to prevent product contamination or irritation to other ingredients.
My most favorite ways to use Black Pepper are:
- as a spice, nothing beats it as a seasoning on fresh baked squash or potatoes.
- tea for congestion (couple quick grinds in a cup of hot water, let sit for 30 seconds or so, or until you see the yellowy black oil on the surface of the water, then drink.)
- remedy for food poisoning symptoms (like some other people, I can't take charcoal for indigestion/food poisoning symptoms & discovered Black Pepper works really well. Make tea, like above; however, if food poisoning symptoms don't begin to improve within a few minutes, seek immediate medical care.)
- remedy for sunburn, cuts, scratches, or scrapes (put fresh ground Black Pepper directly on area of concern and bandage lightly. It does not burn or produce a burning sensation. This is the reason doctors now suggest it topically for arthritis or nerve pain. Like anything else, if the sunburn, scratch, cut or scrape doesn't improve in a short while, or discolors around the edges or streaks show under nearby skin, seek immediate medical attention.
Again, like I said, Black Pepper has a long and varied history, which medical science and research continues to verify all the amazing properities it has; so for all the above reasons, it has a place of honor in my kitchen and First Aid Kit.
NOTE: Like any other spice, Black Pepper can, and does, lose it's flavor, odor, and potency due to evaporation. So keep it properly stored, or as much away from direct heat and light as possible. (A few feet away from the stove or on the table/island is better than right next to, or on, the stove.)
I can also be found at:
http://www.uberreiki.com (all things Reiki, including How To Photos & ongoing blog)
coming soon: Three Twisted Sisters Studio.com (unique/fun arts, crafts, & minerals)
Sources: www.webmd.com, www.wikipedia.org, www.indianetzone.com, and www.kew.org
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