Piper nigrum


Piper nigrum

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Black pepper, pepper, common pepper, peppercorns

Original Habitat

Piper nigrum, or Black pepper, is native to India and Sri Lanka and is found growing throughout Europe and the United States. It requires direct sunlight and tolerates little shade. The peppercorns (fruit) of the pepper plant are ground and used globally as a spice. The pepper plant is branchy and likes to climb.  The perennial plant has leaves that are greenish and oval in shape. Both black and white pepper are harvested from the Piper nigrum fruit, with the difference in product dependent upon stage of growth at harvest.  Historically, black pepper oil was used for circulation, as a stimulant and to treat food poisoning.

Plant Part Used

Fruit (peppercorns)


The essential oil of P. nigrum is regularly found in the food and beverage industry as a flavouring agent.  It is less often used in the fragrance industry, but is occasionally found in Asian fragrances. In aromatherapy, it is primarily used as a single oil and sometimes found in formulations.


The steam-distilled essential oil of Piper nigrum is a strong-smelling, spicy essential oil and can range in colour from greenish-yellow to brown. This oil is thin in consistency.

Chemical Constituents

Caryophyllene oxide [1][2][3]

Medicinal Uses


Antioxidant- A recent study evaluated the antioxidant activity of black pepper essential oil as well as the oleoresin. Both showed strong free radical scavenging activity.[3] When examined against twelve essential oils, P. nigrum showed moderate antioxidant activity.[4]

Antimicrobial- Several oils, including black pepper, were tested against certain pathogens and bacteria.  The oils demonstrated inhibitory effects to varying degrees.[5]

Traditional Use

Digestive aid++++
Colds and flu+++
Rheumatic pain, headache, backache+++
Muscle stiffness++
Bruising and wounds++

 Insecticidal Activity- Toxicity of different essential oils was tested against Callosobruchus chinensis, commonly known as the pulse beetle. The fumigant activity was demonstrated by black pepper essential oil, among other oils. This effect of the oil was seen through different developmental stages of this beetle.[6] In a separate laboratory analysis black pepper essential oil was found to have no effect against cockroaches.[7]

Sympathetic Activity- Inhalation of black pepper essential oil increased relative sympathetic activity and increased systolic blood pressure when compared to placebo in normal healthy adults. The inhalation of this essential oil resulted in a 1.7-fold increase in adrenaline concentration.[8]

Smoking Cessation- Forty-eight smokers were assigned one of three inhalers after not smoking during sleep and then for three more hours. The inhalers had either pepper essential oil, menthol, or placebo inside. The results showed those using the pepper inhaler had a reduction in nicotine cravings. Also, the pepper group also demonstrated a decrease in anxiety due to nicotine withdrawal and an increase in chest sensation, an important element of a smoking cessation program.[9]

Contraindications and Precautions

This oil is generally considered to be safe if used as directed.[10]

The essential oil may cause skin sensitivity.

Large amounts of this oil may place stress on the kidneys.

This essential oil should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.


[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Cultivation

  3) Safety

  4) Malaysian Herbal Plants


  1. Orav A. Effect of storage on the essential oil composition of Piper nigrum L. fruits of different ripening states. J Agric Food Chem. 5May2004;52(9):2582-2586.
  2. Ao P. Essential oil analysis and trace element study of the roots of Piper nigrum L. [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Jan1998;23(1):42-43,63.
  3. Chemistry and in vitro antioxidant activity of volatile oil and oleoresins of black pepper (Piper nigrum). J Agric Food Chem. 24Jun2009;57(12):5358-5364.
  4. Politeo O. Chemical composition and antioxidant activity of essential oils of twelve spice plants. Croatica Chemica Acta. 2006;79(4):545-552.
  5. Dorman HJ. Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils. J Appl Microbiol. Feb2000;88(2):308-316.
  6. Chaubey MK. Fumigant toxicity of essential oils from some common spices against pulse beetle, Callosobruchus chinensis (Coleoptera: Bruchidae). J Oleo Sci. 2008;57(3):171-179.
  7. Thavara U. Repellent activity of essential oils against cockroaches (Dictyoptera: Blattidae, Blattellidae, and Blaberidae) in Thailand. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. Jul2007;38(4):663-673.
  8. Haze S. Effects of fragrance inhalation on sympathetic activity in normal adults. Jpn J Pharmacol. Nov2002;90(3):247-253.
  9. Rose JE. Inhalation of vapor from black pepper extract reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms. Drug and alcohol dependence. 1994;349(3):225-229.
  10. Lis-Balchin M.  Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Pharmaceutical Press; 2006. 273.