There are two kinds of long pepper, one is Piper longum, which comes from the Indian subcontinent and the other is Piper retrofractum which grows in South East Asia, notably in Indonesia and Thailand and is sometimes referred to as Balinese pepper. Long pepper was known to the Romans and ancient Greeks and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since time immemorial.
Theophrastus described it as “elongated and black and has seeds like those of the poppy…”He goes on to say that it was used as an antidote, along with other pepper as an antidote “for poisoning by hemlock.” In the first century AD Dioscorides describes it as “a tree that grows in India. It produces fruit, which is at first oblong-like pods; this is the long pepper, the contents of which closely resemble millet.” He says that it was used to treat poisonous bites. Parsimonious Pliny also refers to long pepper, “Long pepper is very easily adulterated with Alexandrian mustard; its price is 15 denarii per pound, while that of white pepper is 7 and of black, 4.” It actually reached Europe before black pepper did, and it was used in mediaeval cooking.
   It is dried and only a little is needed to flavour a dish. When it is fresh and wet it has a sweet taste but the drying process makes it much more pungent. It grows on a vine and is believed to be native to the Himalayan regions of the Indian subcontinent. Now it is cultivated in Assam, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where it is called pippali.
  It has traditionally been used to cure STDs, menstrual pain, TB, leprosy, chronic stomach pain, sleeping disorders, a diuretic, for relaxation of the muscles, to relieve tension and alleviate anxiety, to strengthen the immune system, treat respiratory problems, reduce fevers, as an abortifacient, an emmenogogue, for piles, recurrent fevers, to aid digestion, to boost reproductive functions and so as an aphrodisiac.
   A paste made from the peppers may be applied externally to painful swellings, and when mixed with ghee and honey as a remedy for coughs and TB. Long peppers and Indian gooseberries are used together to treat anaemia. This is a remedy for respiratory problems etc: 3 long peppers boiled in 4 parts milk to 1 part water, for a few minutes, and then drunk. You should take this for 10 days adding one long pepper a day, then for a further 10 days decrease the number of peppers per day by one. This is supposed to also be good for the treatment of recurrent fevers, piles and digestive problems. An infusion is also given after childbirth to expel the placenta.
   Modern medical research has shown that the long pepper had antifertility activity in rats, and that it has antiamoebic properties. It is also an analgesic (has the ability to relieve pain), has anti-tumour properties, and regulates the immune system. Research on the properties of the long pepper is ongoing. However it has proven to be an effective anti-inflammatory and is a diuretic.
   Long pepper is one of the spice ingredients of Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan spice mixture) and berbere which is an Ethiopian spice mixture which contains dried red chillies, long pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom seeds. The following recipe is a Mediaeval one, and the proportions might not be quite right, so you will have to experiment.

 a little water
¼ pint white wine
2 tbsps sugar
4-6 long peppers

Stand the pears upright in a saucepan and add the liquids, vanilla pod and long peppers. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 20-30 mins or until the pears are tender.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


  1. Hi! Thanks for your information! In the remedy above that you give for respiratory problems above, does one also consume the peppers boiled with the milk?

  2. No you don't have to eat the peppers, just drink the pepper-infused milk. I hope that clarifies it for you. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. I discovered Pippali long pepper a few months ago and love the stuff. Has a bit of an anise taste, I would say.

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