Botanist's Glossary

Pepper - Piper nigrum

  • Description
    • Pepper is a vine that grows up to 8 to 10 m, with thin, multi-branched stems and thick, ovate, pointed leaves. It has tiny white flowers that grow on slender spikes. Its small, round berries are red when mature and blackish-brown when dry (peppercorns). Pepper originates from the south-east coasts of India and is widely cultivated from India to Indonesia. The dried mature fruit is "black pepper". "White pepper" is produced by soaking the ripe peppercorns and removing the outer skin.
  • Traditions
    • Pepper has been an important spice since ancient times, when it was worth its weight in gold, if not more. In the Middle Ages, it was seen as a sign of wealth and contributed to the fortune of Venice. Paradoxically, the Middle Ages prescribed this "hot" remedy to treat fever. In Asia, pepper is used as an anti-venom and to treat dysentery. Pepper represents one quarter of the spices sold today, with over 200,000 tons sold per year.
  • Properties
    • Pepper essential oil has balancing properties. In aromatherapy, it is used as a digestive tonic and sedative for tooth pain.