Blog written by: Dr Anju Balakrishnan
Pippali (long pepper) is the fruit of Piper longum which belongs to the Piperaceae family. It is a slender climber with ovate-cordate leaves with acute apex. Fruits are long and fleshy. It is red in colour when ripened and turns black when dried. It is called pippali because it maintains and nourishes the health of an individual. ‘Pleehamaye pippali", which means it is beneficial for all spleen-related disorders. The drug is very much beneficial for asthma, cough, indigestion etc.
The drug usually grows in temperate zones. In classics around 4 varieties of pippali have been mentioned, like Pippali, Gaja pippali (Piper Chaba), Simhali pippali (Piper retrofractum), which is from Sri Lanka, Vana pippali (Piper sylvaticum) found in Assam, Bengal etc. Presently in the market, 2 types of pippali are available. i.e., Big and small variety.
Classically the drug is classified under deepaniya (Drugs which improve digestive strength), shirovirechanopaga (Herbs beneficial in expelling dosha’s from head and neck), kasahara (Herbs beneficial in cough), Shula prashamana (Herbs useful in colicky pain) group of drugs, etc.
The drug is known as tikshna because of its potency and is also called ushna since it causes a burning sensation to the tongue.
The drug is very much beneficial in unripe form. Its properties vary according to its wet or dry state. In the wet state, the drug possesses madhura rasa (sweet taste), sheetha virya (cold potency), snigdha (unctuous), and guru (heavy) guna, hence by balances pitta dosha. But in the dry state, the drug possesses katu rasa (pungent taste), ushna virya (hot potency) and madhura vipaka (attains sweet taste after digestion). It is helpful in balancing vata and kapha doshas. The drug has vrushya (aphrodisiac) and rasayana (rejuvenating) action. The drug has yogavahi (which carries the quality) property, hence used in various formulations. Usually, the drugs having Katu rasa (pungent taste) are considered to be avrishya (anaphrodisiac), but pippali is an exception.
The drug contains major chemical constituents, including essential oil, caryophyllene, piperine, pipernonaline, beta-sitosterol, etc. Piperine has several health benefits. It is considered a type of antioxidant which helps lower the risk of many chronic illnesses. It helps in minimizing insulin resistance. It is even proven to decrease inflammation. It stabilizes blood sugar levels. Whereas Beta-sitosterol helps in regulating the cholesterol level in the body.
The drug is used in many disease conditions. It is very much beneficial in respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD etc. It relieves the common cold and cough. The drug is therapeutically used in kushta (skin diseases), prameha (diabetes), arshas (piles) etc. Overall it improves the digestive capacity. It is also mentioned as kshayapaha (i.e., relieves the conditions like tuberculosis, chronic lung disorders etc.)
The studies have proven anti-bacterial activity against E.coli. Antioxidant activity was also observed in a study where in-vitro antioxidant assay models were used.
There is a special treatment mentioned in Ayurvedic classics, which is called 'Vardhamana pippali rasayana', where the fruits of pippali are given by gradually increasing and decreasing the dose for a certain period of time. Here, the drug can be taken in the form of powder, paste or kashaya according to the palatability of the patient. This therapeutic procedure is very much beneficial in liver and spleen disorders.
Pippali is one of the drugs in many Ayurvedic medicines because of its therapeutic benefits.
The therapeutic benefit of the drug varies according to the anupana (vehicle) that is used for the Purpose. If taken along with jaggery, it is beneficial for indigestion and intestinal worms. If taken along with milk, then cures cough. Cures fever and cough if taken with honey.
Since the drug has hot potency, it cannot be used in larger doses and for a long duration since it can cause excess heat in the body. Caution should be taken if used in pitta prakruti person. It can be used in children, pregnant ladies and lactating mothers with utmost care.
Long pepper powder is beneficial during post covid recovery period. 1 tsp of pippali churna can be taken along with an equal quantity of honey. It helps in relieving chest tightness and breathing difficulties that are usually observed during this time.
If 1 tsp of pippali churna is taken along with an equal quantity of jaggery, it can cure loss of appetite and fatigue.
References state that pippali is being used since 5 BC. Yes, used for hundreds of years with hundreds of benefits.