This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - Pepper is hot, pungent, and aromatic, and along with other ordinary constituents of small berries, contains the above-named Piperine, a resin, and a volatile oil. Piperine, C17H19NO3, occurs, when pure, in white, crystalline, rhomboidal prisms, which are odorless and almost tasteless. In cold water it is insoluble, in boiling water it is scarcely soluble; but in alcohol and acetic acid it dissolves readily and, in a somewhat less degree, also in ether. It is volatile, and fuses at 212° F.
The resin, which exists in large quantities, is soft and acrid, solid at 32° F., extremely pungent, soluble in alcohol and ether. With fatty bodies it unites readily.
The volatile oil, C10H16, when pure, is colorless, and has the taste and odor of pepper. Sp. gr., 0.9932.
Physiological Action. - Pulverized pepper, allowed to remain in contact with the skin, induces redness and pain. Taken into the mouth, or if the corns be chewed, it excites sensations of intense burning; and, if absorbed by the nostrils, burning and severe sneezing. Swallowed in moderate quantities, as a condiment, it stimulates the stomach, exciting a sense of warmth, and slightly accelerating the pulse. Digestion is assisted - this is often seen when substances which alone do not admit of being readily assimilated have been associated with pepper as medicine - diaphoresis is promoted, and the mucous surfaces become excited. Taken in excess, pepper induces intestinal inflammation, with violent burning pain in the epigastric region, accompanied by great thirst. In several cases that have been recorded, the immoderate use of pepper has been followed even by rigors, convulsions, and delirium; in one instance vomiting ensued. Upon the whole, when used legitimately, pepper may be described as a warm carminative stimulant, capable of producing systemic excitement, and of directly acting upon the mucous membrane of the alimentary canal. The action is not diffusible, but local; and hence, in assisting feeble digestion, it checks tendency to flatulence, or, if flatus be present, the escape of it is promoted. This last effect comes of the local action of pepper upon the rectum. The urethra is likewise subject to its operation.
Therapeutic Action. - Pepper is of very old celebrity, and whether or not cared for as a condiment, was certainly employed as a medicine in remote ages. The ancient Greek physicians recommended it with warm water, for the relief of "cold fit." In dyspepsia it has been found useful as a gastric stimulant; it is given also to check vomiting, to abate nausea, and to stop singultus. In cases of relaxed uvula it may be advantageously resorted to for use in the form of a gargle; or it may be employed as a masticatory, which method of securing the action is useful also in cases of paralysis of the tongue, and affections of the mouth and throat which demand the employment of a powerful local remedy. As a febrifuge, pepper has been found serviceable by the French and German physicians; and in our own country it has long- been a popular medicine in in-termittents, being administered in spirit-and-water when the paroxysms are about to commence.
In the form of confection, pepper is well adapted to weak and leuco-phlegmatic habits, but the use of it in this way requires patience and perseverance; and there is always the objection that it is liable to accumulate in the colon, so that a laxative is required for the discharge of it. Sir Benjamin Brodie says that the accumulation of the confection-paste in the colon has sometimes caused the disappearance of severe haemorrhoids, the local effect being energetic in the extreme. The direct intent of the confectio is for diseases connected with the rectum, such as fistula and ulcers, with haemorrhoids, of course, the affected parts being gently stimulated.
The alkaloid, piperine, is said to possess febrifugal properties that allow of its comparison with the alkaloids of the cinchonas. But while in no way superior as a drug, the cost alone would render it unpopular.
Preparations and Dose. - Piper, gr. ij. - x. (.13 - .65); Oleo-resina Piperis, gr. ss. - ij. (.03 - .13).