August 3, 2021

What Are the Health Benefits of Black Pepper?

The natural spice has more upside than you might know

black peppercorns pepper

If you’ve ever faced a plate or bowl of bland food or even a dish that was missing just a little something, chances are you’ve reached for a set of salt and pepper shakers. But while the risks associated with salt are well-known, using black pepper isn’t nearly as hazardous.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Registered dietitian Gillian Culbertson, RD, explains some of the research into black pepper, the health benefits and what you should be wary of when you’re dashing it across your plate.

Potential Health Benefits of Black Pepper

While there hasn’t been extensive research on black pepper, studies that have been done indicate a good number of health benefits from using pepper, including:


The alkaloid piperine is a key compound in black pepper when it comes to these health benefits, including providing antioxidant properties. “Studies of piperine in rats have shown these properties exist,” says Culbertson, though she notes evidence in human patients is lacking thus far.


“Piperine has also been linked to potential anti-inflammatory benefits,” Culbertson says. “At least one study showed that black pepper, when combined with turmeric and ginger, had anti-inflammatory effects on the same level as prescription medication for patients with knee osteoarthritis.” (And turmeric and ginger have benefits of their own!)

Nutrient enhancer

“We know that the piperine compound also helps with absorbing nutrients like iron and beta-carotene,” Culbertson says, pointing to a 2020 study. “It’s especially powerful when combined with turmeric because it helps your body absorb that spice’s curcumin compound which also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.”


A salt substitute

One of the biggest benefits of black pepper, though, is what it keeps you from eating. “It’s a great salt substitute when you’re looking for something to spice up your meal,” says Culbertson.

Too much salt in your diet can be bad for your heart, raising your blood pressure which increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and heart failure. “You’re getting a great flavor for your foods while making it healthier by cutting out salt,” Culbertson adds.

A history of potential benefits

There are additional benefits listed for black pepper and, specifically, the piperine it contains. Culbertson notes that we still need additional data from studies but, historically, black pepper has popped up frequently as a treatment.

“It’s been used by different cultures as a medicine of sorts for thousands of years,” she says. “It was applied to aid everything from pain relief to digestive issues to immune enhancement.”

Is black pepper bad for you?

While black pepper doesn’t have the same negative effect on your health as salt, eating too much may cause discomfort. “Mostly, too much black pepper can upset your stomach,” says Culbertson. “Overdoing it may lead to the feeling of heartburn or indigestion.”


How much black pepper should you eat?

How much black pepper you eat is, ultimately, up to you.

When using it as an additive to food, especially as a replacement for salt, you want it to meet your tastes. You just don’t want to overdo it. Besides the potential to upset your stomach, too much black pepper will also drastically affect the taste of what you’re eating.

“To help with mineral absorption, you can use just a little bit, as much as an eighth of a teaspoon,” she says. “Some studies looking at its benefits use as much as 1 to 2 tablespoons, but that’s probably too much for most people to tolerate.”

Related Articles

Meal prepping various dishes for snack, lunch and dinner
January 29, 2024
75 Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

No more scrambling to figure out what to eat during your busy week

Display of various types of foods prepped in individual containers
January 15, 2024
A Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Meal Prep

Set yourself up for success by carefully choosing your recipes, storage containers and prepping day

pumpkin cheesecake bites
October 16, 2023
Recipe: Healthy Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

Small but oh-so satisfying seasonal treats

Baked salmon with a salad on the side plated on an individual clay platter.
October 9, 2023
What To Eat To Lower Your Risk of Colon Cancer

Get lots of fiber, cut back on red meat and limit your alcohol intake

Person making sandwich with deli meat and a croissant with veggies.
September 10, 2023
Is Deli Meat Bad for You? How To Choose a Healthier Lunch Meat

If you don’t have time to DIY, opt for lean cuts of low-sodium deli meat fresh from the counter

Elderly woman's hands toss bean salad in bowl on a white kitchen table.
July 6, 2023
Nutrition for Older Adults: Why Eating Well Matters as You Age

Age-related physical changes and personal circumstances can impact healthy eating

Beef liver on a black cutting board being prepared for cooking by cutting into chunks.
July 4, 2023
Is Beef Liver Good for You?

Packed with iron, vitamin A and protein, beef liver provides a healthy low-calorie meat option

jar and spoonful of quinoa
June 29, 2023
The Health Benefits of Quinoa

This versatile seed is packed with protein and fiber to ward off hunger

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery