Compounds derived from black pepper show the potential to treat vitiligo, one of the more disfiguring skin conditions known.
In vitiligo, the body mysteriously loses pigment. Most experts feel vitiligo occurs when the body attacks its own melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Michael Jackson is the world's most famous vitiligo patient. Most historical dermatologists believe the leprosy of the Bible was actually vitiligo.
Treatment for vitiligo has been at best spotty. While the Excimer laser and the IPL UVB band may be a superior treatment for resistant vitiligo, often the results are only partially effective and the patient can be left with a mottled appearance.
Along comes that condiment so loved by waiters everywhere, black pepper. It seems that when an ingredient in black pepper, piperine, is applied to a poorly pigmented mouse model, hopefully not any of the mice inhabiting the restaurants I frequent, a light even pigmentation is produced. When ultraviolet radiation was added, the results were even more impressive as the skin grew darker and lacked any of the patchiness caused by ultraviolet light alone.
If similar results are obtained in humans and proved to be safe, there is the promise of far superior results than are currently available.
Black pepper has other uses; it's practically a health food. When black pepper hits the palate it stimulates hydrochloric acid, helping with digestion. Black pepper has a long folk tradition as being a carminative, or a substance that prevents gas. So next time you are in an eatery and your waiter is a little too vigorously grinding away on the pepper mill, he may be trying to tell you something.
The above mentioned piperine is a potent antioxidant and also helps absorb a host of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Finally, studies have shown that black pepper blocks some of the signaling between malignant cells, and therefore might inhibit some cancers.