There's a reason why black pepper accounts for nearly 35 percent of all spices traded internationally: Not only can it add flavor to the blandest of dishes, but it's also used worldwide to treat fever, asthma, colds, and tuberculosis. Click through our slideshow for clever ways to use it around the house—from the garden to the bedroom.
Pepper has long been added to homemade laundry detergents to help brighten and retain colors. In fact, an issue of Good Housekeeping from 1892 suggests adding it to wash water to help keep black stockings vibrant. (It's believed that the abrasiveness of the pepper removes soap buildup on materials, making the color look less dull.) Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of ground black pepper straight into the washing machine, and watch your darks come back to life.
If you've got a deer helping himself to all of your plants, pepper can help send him packing. Sprinkle it around the plants you want to protect; the taste and smell will keep many animals away. Black pepper can also kill mosquito larvae when mixed into standing water, like puddles or small water features.
The inhalation of black pepper essential oils has been shown to help reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms in people trying to quit smoking. Researchers believe that breathing in black pepper mimics the sensations of smoking in the chest, which makes it a powerful replacement for nicotine cigarettes.
It’s still unclear exactly why, but some research has purported that pepper may increase sex drive and help with erectile dysfunction. Scientists hypothesize that this might be due to its high concentration of zinc, which has been linked to increased testosterone. Use it in your cooking to get this added perk.
Piperine, the main compound in black pepper, can decrease the swelling, stiffness, and pain associated with arthritis. Its anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties are especially potent on inflammatory arthritis. When applied topically in a balm or oil, pepper can also create a comforting warming sensation that helps reduce irritation.
Little black peppercorns are full of brain-boosting properties. Their antioxidants help protect the brain and fight damage due to aging. Piperine has also been shown to improve cognitive function and help reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. So sprinkle generously at every meal.
Skip the cayenne and add black pepper to your detox juice instead. Black pepper stimulates digestion, increases circulation, and helps to balance glucose levels. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which lowers the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. Plus, the piperine in the pepper has been proven to increase energy.