Spices form an integral part of Indian cuisine not just because they elevate the taste of any dish, but also for their health benefits. They have antibacterial properties that slow down the rotting of food, and are known to cure and prevent a vast variety of illnesses and diseases.
Among these beneficial spices is the pippali, or long pepper, which in recent years has made a comeback to the Indian palate. Historian K T Achaya said that pippali was among the earliest spices to ever be recorded in India, and was exported from southern regions of the country around 4,000 years ago. In fact, it was used to add heat to food long before chillies gained popularity in the subcontinent.
“Sushruta describes seven types of cooked meats,” wrote Achaya, “[which] could either be spiced with long pepper (pippali), round pepper (maricha) and ginger, or sweetened with guda and ghee.” Pippali also found common usage in Awadhi cuisine, including kakori and galouti kebabs. It was also used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine.
While it belongs to the pepper family — Piperaceae — pippali looks very different from the round and small black pepper that we commonly use. It is a climbing perennial plant that bears long and slender spike-like fruits that are packed with several beneficial natural compounds.
A native of the Indo-Malaya region, it grows wild in the tropical rainforests of India, as well as in the Northeastern region, West Bengal, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
This unique spice is known to be an analgesic and for its rich content of alkaloids and beta sitosterol. It also possess a long list of essential nutrients and compounds like glycosides, eugenols, terpenoids, resins, sugar, saturated fat, essential oil, and volatile oil, alongside several active components like piperine, piperlatine, piperlongumine, myrcene, triacontane, quercetin, and sylvatine.
While many ancient scriptures and Vedic texts mention its numerous health benefits, a plethora of modern-day studies continue to demonstrate the spice’s prowess.
1. Helps in regulating blood sugar levels
Pippali is known to regulate high blood glucose levels. According to a study conducted on rats, it was observed that the administration of pippali extract in diabetic rats resulted in a significant decrease in their blood glucose levels.
Even in Ayurveda, pippali has been used as one of the ingredients in treating diabetic patients.
2. Helps in curing digestive issues
Pippali also has excellent digestive properties. It has anti-flatulent or carminative properties that help reduce or prevent the formation of gas in the stomach. It also helps prevent the formation of excessive acids that in turn help prevent issues like ulcers.
It has laxative properties that can prevent constipation.
3. Helps in curing respiratory issues
Pippali’s ability to help treat respiratory issues is highly talked about. It is known for its effectiveness in providing relief from cough, cold, and congestion, as well as clearing phlegm from the respiratory tracts. It also works effectively against other respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
4. Aids weight loss
The presence of piperine can aid weight loss. It has antioxidant and thermogenic properties that help in improving metabolism, thereby promoting weight loss. Besides, it can help fight fat formation in the body.
5. Antidepressant properties
According to a study, the piperine in the pippali also has antidepressant properties, and the spice is hence considered an antidepressant agent.
Several Ayurvedic studies also state that pippali helps combat menstrual cramps and regulates heavy menstrual flow. It is also considered good for liver health and has good antimicrobial properties.
Edited by Divya Sethu
Anti-inflammatory activity of two varieties of Pippali (Piper longum Linn.), published by National Centre for Biotechnology Information in April 2012.
Health Benefits Of Long Pepper (Pippali) And Its Side Effects, published by lybrate.com on 18 August 2020.
Antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic activity of Piper longum root aqueous extract in STZ induced diabetic rats, published by National Centre for Biotechnology Information on 18 February 2013.
Suffering from gastric issues? Here’s how this Ayurvedic herb can help, published by The Indian Express on 19 November 2019.
THERAPEUTIC USES OF PIPPALI [PIPER LONGUM LINN.] IN ANCIENT LITERATURE, published by World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in July 2016.
ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITIES OF PIPPALI (PIPER LONGUM) PROTEINS, by Dr Dinesha Ramadas; published by ResearchGate in January 2014.
Effects of piperine on lipid metabolism in high-fat diet induced obese mice, published by Journal of Functional Foods in August 2020.
Overview for Various Aspects of the Health Benefits of Piper Longum Linn. Fruit, published by Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies in June 2011.
Pippali, an ancient spice, makes a comeback, by Avantika Bhuyan; published by Mint Lounge on 9 September 2020.
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