What Pepper Can Do for You
Sprinkle on this spice to calm a cold, detox your skin, and even help fight cancer.
A little pepper may go a long way with your health—it might even help ward off breast cancer. A chemical compound in peppercorns called piperine may be able to help prevent a breast cancer tumor from developing, a University of Michigan Cancer Center study suggests. Pepper’s potential cancer-preventing properties are heightened when it’s paired with turmeric; combine the two in a delicious Indian-style dish, such as yellow curry.
Are your favorite clothes starting to fade? Grab your pepper shaker! The spice may keep colors vibrant longer, says Karyn Siegel-Maier, author of The Naturally Clean Home. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of ground pepper per load, along with detergent, into your washing machine at the start of the wash cycle. It will drain away with the water, so there’s no extra cleanup
Get a smoother, clearer complexion with a scrub made from—you guessed it—pepper. It stimulates your circulation to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the surface of your skin, and the grains help slough off dead cells, says Wendy Allred, education manager at Bliss Spa.
Try her clarifying at-home scrub: In a bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup unscented massage oil, 6 drops orange essential oil, and a pinch of ground pepper; stir together with a spoon. Rub the scrub onto wet skin in the bath or shower, wash off, then enjoy the lingering spicy scent (and your buffed body).
All stuffed up? Pepper is a natural decongestant—it contains chemicals that irritate your mucus membranes, making them produce a thinner, more watery mucus (translation: giving you a runny nose) to help clear out your nasal passages, explains Neil Schachter, MD, a professor at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu. Just add a few pinches of pepper to a bowl of chicken soup—the perfect comfort food when you’re sick—and you’ll soon be breathing easier.
Black, white, and green peppercorns are all fruit of the same plant, so you can use them interchangeably. Their flavors differ: Black pepper is hot and pungent, white pepper is hot but less aromatic, and green pepper has a fresher flavor. Pick the one that suits your palate.