Black pepper occurs in the wild from North Karnataka to Kanyakumari. It is cultivated in Assam, Maharashtra and Kerala.

Many centuries back, black pepper came to be considered as the “King of Spices”. It is because of this that the spice wars were fought, kingdoms were toppled and colonies established. In medieval Europe, this spice was more expensive than gold. Many explorers came to India mainly in search of pepper.


Pepper is a climbing perennial herb, rooting at the nodes. The leaves are simple and heart shaped. The flowers are minute and occur in spikes. The fruits are round with single seeds. The plant flowers during the rainy season and fruits appear during autumn. The rooted or unrooted cuttings of healthy vines are used for propagation.

When the pepper spikes are fully mature they become yellowish and are ready for harvesting. The whole spikes are removed and the berries are separated. The berries are then dried in the sun for a few days. When completely dry, the outer skin of the berries becomes black and gets shrivelled. These dried berries are ready for use as a spice or in medicine.

Pepper has excellent medicinal properties. The fruits are acrid, bitter, anthelmintic, carminative, stimulant, stomachic and digestive. Pepper is used for treating asthma, cough, fever, dysentery, dyspepsia, etc.



Pepper is mainly used as a spice. The dried, unripe berries are used as a spice, flavoring agent and preservative for meat. Pepper oil is used for flavoring sausages, certain beverages and liquor.

In India pepper is widely cultivated in Kerala. It is grown on the Indian Coral tree, mango tree and the jackfruit tree.

Pepper is one of the threatened medicinal plants. Currently black pepper falls under the ‘vulnerable’ category in the IUCN redlist. The plant has become vulnerable because it has been over exploited for both its commercial value as a spice and also its medicinal value. The plant needs immediate attention in order to be saved from extinction.

N. Sandhya
C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC)

Source: Eco News, 2002, Vol.8, Issue.3.

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