Pepper: Meaning & Application in Ayurveda – Part 1

Dec 30, 2021 By Sascha Kress

Black pepper, apart from being a culinary favourite, is an essential part of the Ayurvedic system of medicine and is widely used for the treatment of various ailments. There are several potential health benefits of black pepper for the body and brain, and many of them come from the black pepper compound, piperine: it acts as an antioxidant, pain killer and improves breathing. Oral administration of black pepper is also popular for reducing arthritis, asthma, upset stomach, bronchitis, bacterial infections and several other disorders. Some studies show that the application of black pepper on the skin reduces measles, nerve pain and itchy skin. Piperine also assists in cognitive brain functioning, boosts nutrient absorption and improves gastrointestinal functionality.

Pepper: Importance in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, black pepper is known as Maricha. According to Dhanwanthari Nighantu and Raja Nighantu, yet another variety of maricha is known as swetha maricha (white pepper). The plant is identified by various names based on the morphological and sensory characteristics: it is called ‘vellajam/vallijam’ as the plant is a climber, ‘vrutha phalam’ as the fruits are round in shape, and ‘shirovrutham’ as the fruits have a minute cup on the top. The pepper plant is also called Ooshanam, theekshnam, rooksham, katukam, veeram etc. to describe its sharp pungent qualities.  As per Bhojana Kutuhalam, a book based on principles of dietetics and culinary art, Maricha is katu (pungent) and bitter to taste, laghu (light), teekshana (pierching/strong), sookshma (enters deep) in quality, undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion, hot in potency and balances kapha and vata. It is known to cure jantu santanan nashanam (intestinal worm infestation), hrudrogahara (heart diseases), improves ruchikaraka (taste perception), treats shwasahara (respiratory disorders) and vishama jwara (recurrent fever), and cures disorders due to Vata dosha. It is an avrushya (anaphrodisiac) and also could induce periods when consumed orally by women. Black pepper extracts the fat deposition by blocking fat cell formation and therefore useful in obesity management. In Ayurveda, black pepper, long pepper and ginger are often used together in equal proportions in a preparation known as “trikatu”, a Sanskrit word meaning “three acrids”.  Out of 370 compound formulations listed in the Handbook of Domestic Medicines and Common Ayurvedic Remedies, 210 contain either trikatu or its individual ingredients. According to Ayurveda, the three acrids collectively act as kapha- vatta-pitta-haratwam (correctors of the three humors (doshas) of the human organism).

Author: Dr. Akhila K. Adisser

Note: The information and claims shared in this blog express the authors view or opinion.