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January 2014

Black Pepper and Rosemary Studied For Mental Energy in Young Adults

Black pepper and rosemary taken by mouth in capsule form may lack effect on improving attention, motivation, and fatigue in low-energy young adults, a study reports.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is native to India and other southeastern Asian countries. Black pepper, white pepper, green pepper, pink pepper, and red pepper are all differently preserved berries or seeds of the Piper nigrum plant. Although black pepper has been used as a spice for millennia, it has also traditionally been used in India to treat diarrhea. In the Ayurvedic tradition, a preparation called Trikatu (black pepper, long pepper, and ginger) is prescribed routinely for a variety of diseases.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a common evergreen shrub grown in many parts of the world. The fresh and dried leaves are used as a food preservative and in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as a flavoring agent. Historically, rosemary has been used medicinally to treat renal colic and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). It has also been used to relieve symptoms caused by lung or breathing (respiratory) disorders and to stimulate the growth of hair. Today, extracts of rosemary are often used in aromatherapy to treat anxiety-related conditions and to increase alertness.

In the current study, researchers set out to determine whether a single dose of black pepper or rosemary may enhance attention, motivation for mental tasks, or feelings of mental fatigue. They recruited 40 young adults who reported feelings of low energy. The subjects consumed capsules of either two grams of black pepper, 1.7 grams of rosemary, or placebo containing 3.1 grams of rice flour. The research team measured attention span with a 16-minute task, and assessed energy and fatigue using the Profile of Mood States.

The results showed a lack of significant effect of black pepper or rosemary in capsule form on the measured outcomes.

The authors concluded that capsules containing black pepper or rosemary may lack effect on mental fatigue, attention, and motivation. More research is needed to better understand and confirm these findings.

A significant number of complementary and alternative therapies have been evaluated for possible benefits in enhancing mental performance. There is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of caffeine for this purpose.

For more information about black pepper or rosemary, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.


  1. Lindheimer JB, Loy BD, O'Connor PJ. Short-term effects of black pepper (Piper nigrum) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis and Rosmarinus eriocalyx) on sustained attention and on energy and fatigue mood states in young adults with low energy. J Med Food. 2013 Aug;16(8):765-71. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.0216. Epub 2013 Aug 1. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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