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BACKGROUND

Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) is a widely used spice in human diets for culinary and food applications. Black pepper and its extract are also used as an ingredient for nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics in many countries. Black pepper is native to Western Ghats of South India though grown and cultivated in more than 26 countries. Harvesting of pepper at the appropriate maturity stage is essential to produce high quality pepper. The pepper spikes are hand-picked when one or two of the berries on the spike begin to turn yellow/orange and the berries are firm. After harvest the pepper berries are removed from the stems either manually or mechanically using a mechanical thresher. The pepper berries are then blanched in hot water for about 10 minutes which causes them to turn dark brown or black in about an hour after blanching.  Blanching accelerates the drying and browning of the berries. Blanching also minimises microbial contamination and thus gives a more hygienic product. After blanching, the pepper berries are either sun dried or in mechanical dryers until they are black and wrinkled and have final moisture content of 8-10% for safe storage of pepper.

The phytochemical studies have demonstrated the components of Piper nigrum L. as: Piperine, Piperamine, Sarmentosine, Sarmentine, Trichostachine,etc. Among these, piperine [1-[5-[1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl]-1-oxo-2,4, pentadienyl]piperidine] is the major bioactive compound present in the fruits of P. nigrum L. Piperine was first discovered by Hans Christian Orsted in 1819. Piper-ine consists of a methylenedioxyphenyl ring, side chain with conjugated double bonds and a basic piperidine moiety attached to the side chain through a carbonylamide linkage. Traditionally black pepper is known for a variety of different remedies due to the presence of biologically active compound piperine. On an industrial scale, pepper is comminuted into flakes or ground into coarse powder and then extracted repeatedly using food grade chemicals and then further purified by multistep chromatographic techniques followed by crystallisation.

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