Black pepper

Chinese: 胡椒

Pinyin: Hú Jiāo

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit-spike

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestine

Scientific name: Piper nigrum

Other names: Hú jiāo

Use of black pepper (Hu Jiao) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Crush in fine powder before use

Dosage: 0.6 - 1.5g

Main actions according to TCM*: Warm the body core and dissipates cold, subdues upward Qi flow and eliminates phlegm

Primary conditions or symptoms for which black pepper may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Vomiting Abdominal pain Loss of appetite Epilepsy Phlegm

Key TCM concepts behind black pepper (Hu Jiao)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), black pepper are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Coldness with Qi and Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought (see our explanation on Yin and Yang) Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category black pepper are plants that are Hot in nature. This means that black pepper typically help people who have too much "cold" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition black pepper can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Black pepper also taste Pungent. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like black pepper tend to promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such black pepper are thought to target the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Use of black pepper (Hu Jiao) as food

Black pepper are also eaten as food.