Why Does Black Pepper Make Me Cough? Experts Explain

Have you ever taken a bite of food seasoned with black pepper and immediately started coughing?

You’re not alone. Many people experience this reaction to black pepper, but why does it happen?

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind why black pepper can make you cough and what other effects it can have on your body.

From respiratory problems to allergies, we’ll cover it all.

So, grab a glass of water and let’s dive in!

Why Does Black Pepper Make Me Cough?

Black pepper contains an alkaloid called piperine, which acts as an irritant if it gets into the nose. When you inhale black pepper, it stimulates the nerve endings inside the mucous membrane of your nose, causing you to sneeze or cough.

This reaction is similar to what happens when you inhale other irritants like dust or pollen. The body’s natural response is to try and expel the irritant by coughing or sneezing.

So, if you find yourself coughing after eating black pepper, it’s simply your body’s way of trying to get rid of the irritant.

The Science Behind Black Pepper

Scientists have also looked into the potential health benefits of black pepper. One study found that piperine, the compound responsible for the spice’s pungency, may enhance the body’s absorption of curcumin and resveratrol. These two compounds are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, it’s important to note that the research on this topic is still limited, and more human studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Additionally, consuming excessive amounts of black pepper can cause gastric mucosal injury and accumulation of harmful toxins in the body. Inhaling black pepper can also trigger sneezing, coughing, and skin redness. Too much black pepper can cause diarrhea and stomach irritation as well. The piperine in black pepper may negatively affect male fertility and inhibit uterine contractions during labor.

On the other hand, due to the expectorant properties present in black pepper, it can provide relief from sinus, cough, and nasal infections. Freshly ground black pepper combined with honey is considered highly effective for mucus infections and bad throat resulting from cold and cough.

How Black Pepper Affects The Respiratory System

Black pepper can have both positive and negative effects on the respiratory system. On one hand, black pepper has expectorant properties which can help to relieve sinus, cough, and nasal infections. When combined with honey, it can be highly effective for mucus infections and bad throat resulting from cold and cough. Black pepper also contains vitamin C, which promotes immunity naturally and acts as an antibiotic.

However, inhaling black pepper can also have negative effects on the respiratory system. When piperine in black pepper gets into the nose, it stimulates the nerve endings inside the mucous membrane of the nose, causing irritation and leading to coughing or sneezing. This reaction is similar to what happens when you inhale other irritants like dust or pollen.

In addition, inhaling particulate chili pepper products like chili powder can physically irritate the respiratory system and cause coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose. It can also lead to physical obstruction of airways and even death by asphyxia due to lack of oxygen.

Therefore, while black pepper can have positive effects on the respiratory system when consumed in moderation, inhaling it or other particulate chili pepper products should be done with caution to avoid negative effects on the respiratory system.

Black Pepper Allergies And Sensitivities

While coughing after consuming black pepper is a common reaction, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms due to an allergy or sensitivity to the spice.

Black pepper allergies are rare, but they can occur. An IgE antibody allergy test can determine if an individual is allergic to black pepper. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include rashes, hives, itching in the mouth, watery eyes, swelling, lightheadedness, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, coughing due to inhalation, asthma, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis. It’s important to note that those allergic to black pepper may also be allergic to white and green peppercorns since they come from the same fruit but are just from different stages of growth and processing.

Additionally, some individuals may have a sensitivity to black pepper that causes symptoms such as coughing or throat irritation. This sensitivity is not an allergy and does not involve the immune system. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person and can depend on the amount of black pepper ingested.

It’s important to note that black pepper allergies and sensitivities are unrelated to members of the Capsicum family such as paprika, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, and red pepper. Non-flavorant vegetables of the Solanaceae (potato) family may also be called ‘peppers’, including the green pepper.

If you suspect you have a black pepper allergy or sensitivity, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Avoiding black pepper and related spices is the best way to prevent symptoms.

Other Effects Of Black Pepper On The Body

Aside from its potential to cause coughing, black pepper has various effects on the body. For instance, it is highly rich in manganese, iron, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, fiber, copper, magnesium, carbohydrate, protein and vitamins such as riboflavin, K, B6 and C. Black pepper also contains piperine, which has been shown to have a variety of health benefits.

One of these benefits is its ability to decrease blood sugar levels. However, this can also be problematic for those taking diabetes medications as it may result in blood sugar levels dropping too low. Therefore, it is important to monitor blood sugar closely if taking black pepper and adjust medication doses accordingly.

Black pepper also has carminative properties that can help break down fat and prevent the formation of intestinal gas. Additionally, the aroma of black pepper is attributed to the presence of monoterpenes like pinene, limonene, mercene, sabinene and terpenene. Piperine has also been found to have potential in treating skin disorders that cause pigmentation of skin.

However, excessive consumption of black pepper may cause gastric mucosal injury and accumulation of harmful toxins in the body. Inhaling black pepper may also trigger sneezing, coughing and skin redness. Furthermore, excessive intake of black pepper may cause diarrhea and stomach irritation. The piperine in black pepper may also negatively affect male fertility and inhibit uterine contractions during labor.

Tips For Reducing Coughing From Black Pepper

While black pepper can be a delicious addition to many dishes, it can also cause coughing and sneezing. If you want to enjoy the flavor of black pepper without the irritation, here are some tips to reduce coughing:

1. Crush the peppercorns: Crushing the peppercorns before using them can help release their flavor and aroma without causing as much irritation.

2. Use less black pepper: Using less black pepper in your dishes can also help reduce the amount of irritation you experience.

3. Drink water: Drinking water before and after eating black pepper can help soothe your throat and reduce coughing.

4. Mix with honey: As mentioned earlier, honey is a natural cough suppressant and can help alleviate the irritation caused by black pepper. Mixing black pepper with honey in tea or other beverages can help reduce coughing.

5. Try other spices: If you find that black pepper consistently causes coughing, try using other spices like cumin or coriander instead.

Remember, if you suspect that you may have an allergy to black pepper, it’s important to seek professional help for a proper diagnosis.