Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is an ancient spice native to the mountains of India.1 For centuries, this spice has been traded internationally and has been used widely as a flavoring in food.1 Today, the black pepper plant is grown around the world, and it is the source of black pepper essential oil.2
Black pepper essential oil has a spicy and notably sharp aroma. It is derived from the fruit of the black pepper plant, which is picked after 6-7 months of growth when the berries are red. The berries are then dried and powdered, and the oil is extracted using steam distillation.2,4
Throughout history, black pepper has been used to treat various medical conditions such as diabetes, constipation, and parasites.1 Now, researchers have discovered that concentrated forms of black pepper essential oil have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties, along with other therapeutic characteristics.3,6
Black Pepper Essential Oil Uses
Black pepper essential oil is multi-functional and can be used in various ways around the home. From aromatherapy and massage, to a natural cleaning agent, discover how you can incorporate black pepper essential oil into your everyday life.
Black pepper essential oil has a spicy and penetrating smell and can be used at home for aromatherapy. Add 3 drops of black pepper essential oil to a diffuser, or put a few drops in a bowl of steaming hot water; inhale the steam. As the smell of this oil is quite strong, some users prefer to diffuse it in combination with other essential oils, such as rose, juniper berry, copaiba or bergamot.
Because of its spicy qualities, black pepper essential oil has been reported to have a pleasant, warming sensation upon contact. To use this oil for a massage at home, add 2 drops of black pepper essential oil to a carrier oil (such as coconut, almond or grapeseed) and rub the mixture into the skin.
Due to its antibacterial properties, black pepper essential oil may be used as an alternative household cleaner.3 Combine 10-15 drops black pepper oil with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray onto surfaces, and then wipe clean.
Reported to have a warming and stimulating effect, black pepper essential oil can be used to help alleviate bloating, indigestion or stomach discomfort.
Dilute 2-4 drops of black pepper essential oil in to 4 Tsp. of carrier oil such as grapeseed or almond. Apply to the stomach area and gently rub in a clockwise motion until it’s fully absorbed.
Black pepper essential oil has pain-relieving properties that can help soothe sore muscles or aching joints when applied topically. For a natural pain-relief ointment, add 5 drops of black pepper essential oil to 2 Tbsp. of a carrier oil. Apply to the affected areas.
Benefits of Black Pepper Essential Oil
Due to a growing demand for natural products, preservatives and therapeutic approaches, essential oils have received increased attention from the scientific community. As a volatile oil, black pepper essential oil is extremely potent and shows promise in naturally calming cigarette withdrawals, aiding in the preservation of food, reducing neck pain and demonstrating anti-cancer properties.
Decrease Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms
The international journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence published a study examining the effects of black pepper essential oil on 48 patients who smoked cigarettes.4
After refraining from smoking overnight, participants were divided into three groups and invited to casually inhale vapor from a device for a three-hour period. One group inhaled black pepper essential oil, one group inhaled mint and menthol, and another group inhaled nothing. At the end of a three-hour period, the participants who had inhaled black pepper oil self-reported having far fewer cravings for cigarettes than those in the other groups.4
In the future, black pepper essential oil may become beneficial as an alternative to chemical food preservatives. A 2015 study tested this essential oil’s ability to kill microorganisms that spoil food by adding black pepper oil directly to chicken soup. The soup was tested after 24, 48, and 72 hours and it was found that the oil was effective at controlling the growth of bacteria.7
Note: Always use black pepper essential oil according to the instructions on the label. Taking the oil internally is not recommended unless you are directly instructed to do so by a health care professional.
Pain Relieving Properties
A 2014 study suggested that black pepper essential oil may help reduce symptoms of neck pain. This study divided 60 participants into a separate test control groups and had patients apply cream to their necks daily for four weeks. The test group applied cream containing a 3% concentration of black pepper, marjoram, lavender, and peppermint essential oils; the control group applied unscented cream.5
After the treatment, the pain tolerance of those in the test group was evaluated using the pressure pain threshold. Their pain was observed to have improved by 2.96 points on the left lower neck and 2.88 points on the right lower neck. These results suggest that the essential oil cream was more effective than the placebo, unscented cream.5
Another benefit of black pepper essential oil is its ability to disinfect. A study in The Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research investigated black pepper oil’s effectiveness in killing the bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Black pepper essential oil showed significant antibacterial properties against these bacteria when it was diluted at ratios between 1:4 and 1:64.3
A 2010 study of black pepper extracts and compounds showed promising anti-cancer properties. The extracts and compounds of this oil were observed to stop human tumor cells from reproducing by 3.5%-86%.6
Other studies have shown that treatment with piperine, the main component of black pepper, may inhibit free radical damage and therefore reduce oxidative stress—a contributing factor in cancer.6
Note: While these findings are promising, this experiment was only done in a laboratory setting with isolated human tumor cells. Essential oils require further research before they can be tested in human clinical trials, and they should not be used in place of conventional cancer treatments.
Side Effects of Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black pepper essential oil is considered generally safe for topical and aromatherapy use when it is used according to the label on the bottle.8
Ingesting black pepper essential oil is not recommended, as essential oils can be harmful or toxic. Only ingest essential oils when under the direct supervision of a health care provider.
Health care practitioners recommend that children and pregnant or breastfeeding women consult a professional before using black pepper essential oil.
Where to Buy Black Pepper Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. (n.d.). Piper nigrum (black pepper). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/piper-nigrum-black-pepper – View reference
- The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2017, January 20). Black Pepper. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/plant/black-pepper-plant#sthash.3Y9ndGJJ.dpuf – View reference
- M.Z., Zaringhalam, J., Shadnoush, M., Safaeyan, F., & Tekieh, E. (2013). Inhibitory Effect of Black and Red Pepper and Thyme Extracts and Essential Oils on Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli and DNase Activity of Staphylococcus aureus [Abstract]. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research,12(3), 363-369. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://applications.emro.who.int/imemrf/Iran_J_Pharm_Res/Iran_J_Pharm_Res_2013_12_3_363_369.pdf
- Rose, J. E., & Behm, F. M. (1994). Inhalation of vapor from black pepper extract reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms [Abstract]. Drug and Alcohol Dependence,34(3), 225-229. doi:10.1016/0376-8716(94)90160-0
- Ou, M., Lee, Y., Li, C., & Wu, S. (2014). The Effectiveness of Essential Oils for Patients with Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Study [Abstract]. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,20(10), 771-779. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0453
- Liu , Y., Yadev, V., Aggarwal, B., & Nair, M. (2010). Inhibitory effects of black pepper (Piper nigrum) extracts and compounds on human tumor cell proliferation, cyclooxygenase enzymes, lipid peroxidation and nuclear transcription factor-kappa-B [Abstract]. Natural Product Communications,5(8), 1253-1257. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20839630.
- Nikolić, M., Stojković, D., Glamočlija, J., Ćirić, A., Marković, T., Smiljković, M., & Soković, M. (2015). Could essential oils of green and black pepper be used as food preservatives? [Abstract] Journal of Food Science and Technology,52(10), 6565-6573. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-1792-5
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2016, April 1). CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.20