Long pepper and sometimes called Indian Long Pepper is known by its botanical name Piper longum. It is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, and its fruit is dried and used as a spice or seasoning. Distinguished from its close relative, Piper nigrum, Long Pepper is a hotter variety.
Long Pepper contains two main alkaloids:
Piperlongumine has been recently been shown in 2011 that it may have anti-cancer properties by selectively killing some types of cancer cells and ignoring normal cells. 1
The study was published online on 13th July 2011 in Nature, and researchers at the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) discovered that Piperlongumine blocks the response to oxidative stress selectively in cancer cells but spares normal cells.
The researchers tested Piperlongumine against cancer cells and normal cells engineered to develop cancer. The researchers injected mice with human bladder, breast, lung, or melanoma cancer cells. They then administered Piperlongumine to the mice and discovered that it inhibited tumor growth in the cancerous mice but showed no toxicity in normal mice.
A second test was conducted with mice that developed breast cancer spontaneously. The results showed that , Piperlongumine blocked both tumor growth and metastasis.
What the researchers realized is that Piperlongumine increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) and apoptotic cell death in both cancer cells but no effect on normal cells. Essentially Piperlongumine induces apoptosis selectively in cancerous cells.
The researchers stated that:
“The novelty of this compound was that it was able to recognize cancer cells from normal cells.” 2
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