Does Black Pepper Have Cancer-Fighting Properties?

Black pepper, also known as a peppercorn, is a fruit of a flowering climbing vine, Piper nigrum, in the Piperaceae family. It is a small round berry that ripens from green to red and finally brown. The color depends on when it was harvested. Most people dry them and use them as a spice or seasoning like these I have found on Amazon.

Black pepper has antioxidant chemicals including ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, camphene, carvacrol, eugenol, gamma-terpinene, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, myristic acid, myristicin, palmitic acid, piperine, terpinene-4 ol, and ubiquinone.

An antioxidant is a molecule that prevents your cells from being damaged by unstable compounds resulting from oxidation during normal metabolism. The unstable compounds are also known as free radicals and they play a part in causing cancer, heart diseases, stroke, and age-related diseases.

Black pepper also has chemical compounds that give it its characteristic aroma, pungency, and medicinal properties. They include alpha-terpineol, acetophenone, hexanal, nerol, nerolidol, 1,8-cineol, dihydrocarveol, citral, alpha-pinene, and piperonal.

Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled multiplication of abnormal cells in your body. The abnormal cells can also spread to other body organs, for example, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain through blood and lymph systems.

There are many different types of cancer and the most common ones are oral cavity cancer, lung cancer, tumors on the brain, skin cancer, throat cancer, liver cancer, bone tumors, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, uterine cervical cancer, thyroid cancer, and ovarian cancer.

The antioxidant piperine is abundant in black pepper. Many studies report it as an inhibitor of pro-inflammatory cytokines produced by tumor cells. In doing so, it interferes with the communication between cancer cells and eventually reduces the chances of tumor progression.

Scientific evidence:

Rafiq A Rather and Madhulika Bhagat, 2018, reviewed recent scientific papers on the cancer-fighting properties and mechanisms of piperine, an antioxidant found in large quantities in black paper. The papers they reviewed reported piperine as a chemical that stops the multiplication and survival of many types of cancer cells. In addition to this, piperine can reverse multidrug resistance in cancer cells. They concluded that piperine is a “promising cancer chemopreventive agent.”

Y Ba and A Malhotra, 2018, investigated the anticancer action of piperine that might be mediated via voltage-gated K+ current blockade. They found out that the inhibition of voltage-gated K+ current by piperine caused G0/G1 phase cell cycle arrest resulting in the stoppage of cancer cell multiplication which caused cancer cell death in a dose-dependent manner. The researchers concluded that cancer-fighting properties of piperine are directly linked with the inhibition of voltage-gated K+ in human prostate cancer cells (LNCaP and PC-3). This might be responsible for piperine’s anticancer activities in prostate cancer cells.

Minh Truong Do and colleagues, 2013, investigated the molecular mechanisms by which piperine fights tumors in HER2-overexpressed breast cancer cells. They found out that piperine stopped the multiplication and caused the death of cancer cells. They concluded that “piperine may be a potential agent for the prevention and treatment of human breast cancer with HER2 overexpression.”

Paul B Yaff and colleagues, 2015, showed the ability of piperine to stop the multiplication of many colon cancer cell lines without damaging normal fibroblasts and epithelial cells. They concluded that pipeline “may be useful in the treatment of colon cancer.”

To identify compounds that enhance the efficacy of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligant-based therapies (TRAIL), Sherif Abdelhamid and colleagues, 2014, screened 55 compounds from natural products in combination with TRAIL in triple-negative breast cancer. They found out that piperine enhanced the efficacy of TRAIL-based therapies in triple-negative breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo much better than all the other compounds screened. Their conclusion was that “piperine may enhance TRAIL-based therapeutics for triple-negative breast cancer.


In addition to having cancer-fighting properties, black pepper boosts absorption of nutrients may promote gut health, may offer pain relief, and may reduce appetite. However, the consumption of black pepper may cause side effects for some people. If you have got a medical condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your doctor before eating black pepper.


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