Pepper, Pepper, Puke

Now is the high season in Sweden for the wonderfuly named “Vinterkräksjuka” or winter vomiting disease.

And I have noticed that as soon as a person on Facebook (or, indeed, in real life) mentions that they have a family member with the WVD, somebody will suggest that they immediately swallow 10 whole peppercorns, and continue doing this every day as a means of “protection”.

Now, as a sceptic, I am sceptical. It seems unlikey to me that this works, because if it did then somebody would isolate the active ingredient and market it as a medicine.

And all “evidence” I have seen on the web in favour of this is purely anecdotal, which is to say, worse than useless.

Also, a search for “winter vomiting peppercorn” gives NO mention of this being used as a preventative in the English-speaking world.

Stories such as, “I have done this every day for twenty years and have never been sick” abound, but since a percentage of the population is anyway immune to the calicivirus that causes the WVD, this means nothing.

So my question is: does anybody have any actual evidence one way or the other? And actual EVIDENCE, not just “my mum used to swear by it” or “they always do this in my kid’s school” or “I always do it and never get sick”?

And question 2: is this believed only in Sweden or in other countries too? And if so, then why?

Or is it, as I suspect, just a rumour started by pepper importers..?

/ paddy

24 thoughts on “Pepper, Pepper, Puke

  1. I try and do it when I’ve been in contact with people who has it, mostly just “to be sure”. Have no idea if it actually works, but in any case I like the placebo relief it gives me. Altough, in my family it’s white pepper corns that have been the magical pills.

  2. Tell you the truth, I even doubted the existence of winter vomiting disease when it first appeared in the vernacular. There are so many diseases making their rounds that seem to be everything from tabloid inventions to old wives’ tales, but I’ve come to believe in this one, for the pretty good reason that I now know a few people who were actually infected and suffered accordingly.

    That peppercorns would be a remedy I’ve never even heard of, though. And I can’t regard it as anything but a total myth, on a par with crystal healing and prayers to God. It sounds like something straight out of those immensely popular, so called (ironically, I hope) alternative medicine (that last would be the ironical part) shops that are so prevalent in Sweden these days.

    By the way, just for fun I once accepted to be treated for free against my recurring cough (I’ve had bronchitis since the age of 8) by an acupuncturist. Laughing my way through the needlerubbish, I came out the other end coughing worse than ever. Well, it might have been the weather! Or even the cigarettes.

    All the best,

  3. Once source says this. (How trustworthy that source is, don’t ask me.)

    Piperin kommer från svartpeppar anläggningen. Det är en alkaloid som finns i svart peppar. Det förbättrar biotillgängligheten (hur mycket av en drog / substans kan absorberas och användas av delar av kroppen som den var avsedd för) av näringsämnen, såsom beta-karoten, circumen, selen och pyroxidine B6 och aminosyror. Piperin kan fungera som en anti-inflammatorisk, mag-, och smärtlindring neurotransmittorer. Det kan underlätta astmatiska symtom, stöd serotonin brist (hjärnans kemiska samband med sinnesstämning). Det kan också lindra magsår.

    (Not a translation: Piperin is an alkaloid which helps the body to absorb nutrients better, which should help the organism to fight diseases by being stronger. Piperin is anti-inflammatory, reduces stomach problems, pain, asthma, ulcer, et c.)

    • Wiki has some interesting stuff to say about piperine.

      I haven’t checked out the sources and I’m not a biochemist so I can’t vouch for the veracity of this, but it seems at least part of what Rolf posted is true. Question is if that really helps against WPS, I sort of doubt it. I mean, in that case it would work just as well for every disease out there, and we ought to be eating a lot more pepper.

  4. I’ve never heard before about winter vomiting disease, but whole this thing with peppercorns is something like eating garlic in my country (they belive it will protect you from flu and few similar diseases). IMO these are some natural methods came from times there were no medicines and truth is garlic (so i think also peppercorn) has some antibacterial and antiviral activities :)

  5. I live in Sweden and either I or the kids get stomach flu every year – and yet I have never ever heard of this’eat ten peppercorns remedy’!

    Thanks for the tip? :-) I think it must be this year’s new fad…

  6. I live in Denmark. Have never heard of peppercorn as a remedy.
    A virus is a virus, it takes a week to get over it, no less no more. Once you’ve got it. Only good hygiene and isolation of the sick can prevent it from spreading. People should much rather spend more time washing hands properly instead of eating peppercorn or what have you.

    • I agree with the simple remedy of washing your hands. I see loads of people not doing this in, for example, public rest rooms and small wonder they get various viruses. I mean, you grab your hamburger with your hands, if you smoke you constantly touch your lips with your fingers when taking a drag, and so forth, and so on. No need to become a case of bacteriophobia, but just washing one’s hands properly now and then is such a simple measure and actually quite effective.

      All the best,

      • The strange thing about “rest rooms” (at least concerning the men’s room – I have next to no experience at all about the women’s room) is that so many men leave the door handle wet when leaving. I’ve always wondered why. I mean, if they washed their hands before leaving, they would have dried them somehow. So I wonder, what is that wetness? Do I really want to know?


  7. I was born and raised in Sweden and have lived here all my life and this is the first time I hear about this. I’m in Gothenburg; could it be an East Coast/Stockholm thing?

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