|Black Pepper, en.wikipedid.ord|
Pepper not only improves the taste of food, but it also has definite medicinal value. "A few grains of black pepper a day will make your heart stronger", is the slogan I frequently hear whenever I step into the local market here where the traders sell local medical stuff called Nattu Marunthu (country medicine) that does not have side effects as the Allopathic medicines have.
|Black pepper. www.keralaayurveda.biz|
The Malabar Coast (presently the state of Kerala) is still the major producer of pepper. The history of black pepper in India dates back to the prehistoric times. Frequently referred to as "black gold" in ancient India, on account of its demand and trade value mainly due to its high trade value, the Zamorin ruler of Malabar coast had a flourishing trade center for export of pepper and other spices in Kerala. The main mercantile traders were Arabs and people from Middle East. Portuguese arrived on the coastal Malabar in May, 1498 under Vasco de Gama and thus began spice trade between Malabar and Europe in 1500s.
Kerala accounts for about 90% of India's total pepper production and pepper is also grown in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. India is one of the leading producers of Black pepper in the world. Besides Kochi, Nagpur, Indore and Delhi are major centers for black pepper. The cultivation of pepper began in Java, Sunda, Sumatra, Madagascar, Malaysia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, by the 16th century.
It was during the medieval period, black pepper was introduced in Europe, Middle East and North Africa from its native place. Pepper is a valuable spice because it has high medicinal values and is a major ingredient in the preparation of many traditional Ayurvedic and Siddha medicine. To some extent, the system of Unani medicine has found pepper to be useful to cure certain ailments. Pepper is used to cure a host of many health problems such as indigestion, pain in the joints, liver problems, lung disease, oral abscesses, sunburn, tooth decay, toothaches, insect bites constipation, diarrhea, heart disease, hernia, hoarseness. The black pepper essential oil, produced through the process of steam distillation of the dried and crushed black peppercorns, is considered as anti-septic, analgesic, digestive, anti-catarrhal, and diuretic. Black pepper is also bactericidal and aphrodisiac and expectorant. It is believed to improve stamina and alertness.
Pepper is found useful to treat eye problems; piperine found in pepper can increase absorption of selenium, vitamin B and beta-carotene, and also other nutrients.