Fact Check: Black Pepper Essential Oil Does NOT Cure Arthritis Or Rheumatism

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Black Pepper Essential Oil Does NOT Cure Arthritis Or Rheumatism No Known Cure

Can black pepper oil cure arthritis and rheumatism, as a post on Facebook implied? No, that's not true: There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, a spokesperson for the Thurston Arthritis Research Center told Lead Stories. Similarly, there is no known cure for the autoimmune disorder rheumatism. The Arthritis Foundation told Lead Stories that black pepper oil should not be considered a cure for either condition. A registered dietician confirmed to Lead Stories that this claim is false.

The claim appeared in a post on Facebook on May 14, 2023, (archived here) that claimed an unspecified oil can cure arthritis and rheumatism. The first comment, from the poster, linked to an article that specified that black pepper oil was meant. The caption read:

The oil that removes uric acid from the blood, heals anxiety, chronic arthritis, rheumatism, and stops cravings for cigarettes and alcohol.

Details in the first comment⬇️

Here is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-05-16 at 6.32.11 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu May 16 19:01:37 2024 UTC)

"Currently, there is no cure for osteoarthritis," Nicholas Beresic, a spokesperson for the Thurston Arthritis Research Center (archived here) at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told Lead Stories in an email received on May 16, 2024. Beresic referred us to a list of evidence-based treatments for osteoarthritis on the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance website (archived here), which also notes that there is no known cure for the condition.

A spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation (archived here) confirmed in an email received on May 16, 2024, that because there are no known cures for arthritis, "black pepper oil should not be considered a cure."

Melissa Prest (archived here), a Chicago-based registered dietician nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (archived here), a trade organization, also confirmed to Lead Stories that this claim is false.

"There are different types of arthritis, some from wear and tear on your body and others from an autoimmune disorder. While people may be able to improve symptoms through diet and lifestyle management, there is no known cure for arthritis," Prest wrote to Lead Stories in an email received on May 16, 2024.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and "involves the wearing away of the cartilage that caps the bones" in joints, according to the Mayo Clinic (archived here). Rheumatism is a disease "in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints."

Treatment goals for arthritis and other rheumatic diseases typically involve limiting pain and inflammation to preserve joint function, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine (archived here). The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center (archived here) further notes that treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis include medications, reduction of joint stress, physical and occupational therapy, and surgical intervention.

Though the post itself doesn't mention black pepper or black pepper oil specifically, it refers users to a link in the comments section that led to an article with the same title as the meme (archived here), which identifies the oil as being made from black pepper. The article read, in part:

The essential oil of black pepper, extracted through pepper grain distillation, provides a myriad of benefits ... anti-arthritic, circulatory stimulant, analgesic ... and anti-inflammatory, black pepper oil is rich in nutrients, known for its tonic, invigorating, and mentally stimulating qualities.

Black pepper is made from fruits of the Piper nigrum plant (archived here); piperine is a compound found in black pepper.

A 2009 article published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy (archived here) found that piperine orally administered to rats -- not humans -- reduced pain response and arthritic symptoms, as well as inflammation in the ankle joints. Similarly, the study concluded piperine was shown to have "anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, and antiarthritic effects in an arthritis animal model."

Findings from a 2012 study published in the Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants (archived here) suggested that black pepper essential oil "possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive" (pain-blocking) properties.

In 2015, researchers reviewed existing scientific literature on the topic published in the Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry (archived here). They concluded that some piperine species demonstrate anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential for certain conditions.

However, these studies do not prove that black pepper essential oil can cure arthritic conditions. Instead, the research suggests that the piperine compound may hold treatment opportunities and "should be further studied with regard to use either as a pharmaceutical or as a dietary supplement for the treatment of arthritis."

The "Dr. Barbara O'Neill Group" Facebook group that shared the post above is not affiliated with the naturopath, who is barred from practicing in New South Wales, Australia. It was created on December 13, 2023, according to its "About" section and is said to be located in New York City. Like the post described above, most posts in the Facebook group are also direct copies of content posted to the website All Recipes Healthy Food.

Neither the Facebook post nor the recipe on the linked website provided credible evidence that black pepper oil can cure arthritis or rheumatism, as the post suggested.

Other Lead Stories fact checks related to health topics can be read here.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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