Piperine is the main component in black pepper, and is responsible for its strong smell and flavor (1).
While most people think of black pepper as being simply a spice used to add flavor to food, the piperine it contains actually makes it useful for combatting a variety of health issues, from upset stomachs to dental problems (2).
The piperine in black pepper slows down some of the processes of the liver and intestines, meaning that it can cause the body to hold certain compounds inside it for longer. This helps the body to absorb more of the nutrients it needs, and it heightens the effectiveness of several supplements and drugs (3).
Piperine inhibits a process in the liver known as glucuronidation. This process normally involves a signal being sent to the liver to expel medicinal drugs and supplements as urine (3).
Piperine, however, stops this process, which means that the body retains the drug for longer. Piperine also changes the rate of metabolism in the body by slowing down the intestinal transit rate, giving the body more time to absorb certain compounds (4).
This is beneficial to the body because piperine keeps certain chemicals from being released before the body is finished absorbing them (5).
It has a low bioavailability, which means that when it is administered, not much of the compound remains in the body before being expelled in urine or feces (7).
Piperine works well with curcumin, in that it keeps the body from metabolizing it so quickly. It enables the body to hold the curcumin inside longer, which allows it to be better absorbed. Studies have shown that taking curcumin with piperine increases the bioavailability of the curcumin by 2000% (8).
It enhances the benefits of these compounds by changing the way the body processes them, which increases their absorption and allows the body to accrue more of the benefits from them before they are expelled from the body (10).
Aside from its use as a magnifier for other dietary supplements, piperine can also benefit the body on its own. Piperine has long been known as an anti-inflammatory agent (11). It also works as a pain reliever by blocking the expression of a gene that causes arthritis pain. It reduces the amount of pain the body feels, making things like arthritis and other injuries easier to withstand (12).
A 2008 study recorded in Food and Chemical Toxicology also touted the benefits of Piperine on the brain. Although the reasons behind this outcome were not clear at the time, the results of the study showed a significant improvement in mental processes, increased attention span, and heightened reasoning skills after taking piperine (13).
Piperine is widely considered safe for human consumption, but it does have a few possible side effects (14).
One of the most worrisome of these possible side effects is the fact that black pepper (including the piperine it contains) is a possible carcinogen (15).
There have been several preliminary studies that list cancer as a side effect of long-term use of piperine, but this side effect was most commonly noted when the piperine was used as a topical agent, not as a food product (16).
This was not found to be the case when the product was tested on rats, which are hypersensitive to the effects of piperine, but for human beings, oral consumption of piperine appears to be completely safe in this context (17).
Unfortunately, though, there is another downside to piperine use. The same processes that piperine employs to aid in the absorption of curcumin and other supplements are also processes that can cause major problems in the body (18). While piperine can make curcumin 2000% more effective in the body, it can also stop a particular protective measure the body takes against toxic xenobiotics (19).
Ingesting piperine in the form of black pepper does not present as many of these side effects, but taking it in its pure form as a dietary supplement can cause problems if not taken in the direct dosage (20).
While the benefits of piperine are backed by more research than the possible side effects, one must always check with a doctor before adding it to their diet.
While piperine is most commonly ingested via black pepper added to various food dishes, it is also available on its own as a dietary supplement. In order to make this supplement, the piperine is extracted from the black pepper using an organic compound called dichloromethane (21).
Companies such as BioPerine sell piperine in capsules or tablets that one can swallow one to two times a day (22).
The recommended dosage of piperine is 5-15mg per day (23). It is fast-acting, and the effects of the piperine on the bioavailability of other supplements in the body usually begins in fifteen minutes, with the short-term effects peaking at around two hours. The long-term effects on the metabolism last much longer than this, however (23).
It is best to take piperine around the same time that one is taking the supplement whose effects they want to enhance.
The primary benefit of piperine is the fact that it amplifies the effectiveness of other supplements, especially curcumin. It helps supplements that would normally pass through the body without being effectively absorbed to stay in the body longer, and to metabolize slower. This way, the body gets what it needs, and gets the maximum benefits from the supplements ingested.
While there are some potential side effects of piperine, these are much rarer than the benefits it provides. If taken as a part of a larger dietary supplement routine, piperine can be very good for one’s health.