Scientists from India recently found that this world’s most traded spice, which you can find in any home kitchen, can kill the dangerous virus that nowadays everyone concerned about.
Piperine from black pepper actively binds with the virus
Lead by Umakanta Tripathy, a team of researchers from the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology conducted a computational study on 30 natural molecules present in common kitchen spices and explored their roles as potential virus inhibitors.
Piperine, an alkaloid present in black pepper, could bind to the virus proteins and stop it from entering human cells, says a study published in the “Taylor and Francis Public Health Emergency Collection.” Although, the study is purely computational, the results look very promising:
“We have found that though all the molecules bind actively with the virus, but piperine has the highest binding affinity among the 30 screened molecules. Besides, the comparative study between piperine and currently used drugs show that piperine is more effective. …We anticipate immediate wet-lab experiments and clinical trials in support of this computational study that might help to inhibit the virus.”
Computer-based studies are often considered as the first step before these get tested in laboratories and undergo subsequent trials if found efficient. If the experiments prove successful, it will be a game-changer particularly since pepper is a natural product and there may not be side effects that are normally associated with chemical-based drugs.
Black pepper: common spice in our kitchen
“There’s certainly too much pepper in that soup!” Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing. – Alice in Wonderland (1865). Chapter VI: Pig and Pepper. Note the cook’s pepper mill. Image source: Wikimedia
Like many eastern spices, ground, dried and cooked peppercorns have been used since antiquity, both as a seasoning and as a folk medicine. As a folk medicine, pepper appears in the Buddhist Samaññaphala Sutta, chapter five, as one of the few medicines a monk is allowed to carry.
Black pepper is native to present-day South India, and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Producing 36% of the world total in 2018, Vietnam is the largest producer and exporter of black pepper.
Pepper gets its spicy heat mostly from piperine derived from both the outer fruit and the seed. Black pepper contains 5%-10% of piperine by mass, and white pepper slightly more than that. Refined piperine, by weight, is about 1% as hot as the capsaicin found in chili peppers.
Piperine is under study for its potential to increase absorption of selenium, vitamin B12, beta-carotene and curcumin, as well as other compounds.
Black pepper: the world’s most traded spice
Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice, and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Its spiciness is due to the chemical compound piperine, which is a different kind of spicy from the capsaicin characteristic of chili peppers. It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning, and is often paired with salt and available on dining tables in shakers or mills.