Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately 5 millimeters (0.20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described simply as pepper or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (dried ripe seeds).
Black pepper is native to Southeast Asia and China, and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Currently Vietnam is the world's largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world's Piper nigrum crop as of 2008.
Dried ground pepper has been used since antiquity for both its flavour and as a medicine. Black pepper is the world's most traded spice. It is one of the most common spices added to European cuisine and its descendants. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine. It is ubiquitous in the industrialized world, often paired with table salt.
Black pepper is much more than a companion to the salt on your table: it may be your weight loss friend. A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals why an ingredient in black pepper called piperine may help you lose weight. Piperine is an alkaloid that is responsible for black pepper’s unique taste. It can be extracted from black pepper (Piper nigrum) and is claimed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even cancer fighting properties. A 2010 study examined the metabolism boost associated with piperine and black pepper in mice fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet.
The investigators found that visceral fat weights declined significantly in mice fed diets that contained 0.03% and 0.05% piperine, and that body weight and visceral fat weights declined significantly in mice fed a diet that contained 1.0% black pepper. The authors concluded that black pepper “suppresses the effect of body fat accumulation mainly through the action of piperine.”