Black pepper, (Piper nigrum), also called pepper, perennial climbing vine of the family Piperaceae and the hotly pungent spice made from its fruits. Black pepper is native to the Malabar Coast of India and is one of the earliest spices known. Widely used as a spice around the world, pepper also has a limited usage in medicine as a carminative (to relieve flatulence) and as a stimulant of gastric secretions.
In early historic times pepper was widely cultivated in the tropics of Southeast Asia, where it became highly regarded as a condiment. Pepper became an important article of overland trade between India and Europe and often served as a medium of exchange; tributes were levied in pepper in ancient Greece and Rome. In the Middle Ages the Venetians and the Genoese became the main distributors in Europe, and their virtual monopoly of the trade helped instigate the search for an eastern sea route. The plant is widely cultivated throughout Indonesia and has been introduced into tropical areas of Africa and of the Western Hemisphere.