Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a perennial, climbing shrub native to the forests of Malabar and Travancore, whence it was introduced to other tropical countries, such as Sumatra, the Philippines, West Indies, and the Malay Peninsula. It has been used as a spice and as a stomachic remedy by the natives of the afore-named and other countries since the date of the discovery of the remedy, and probably from all time preceding. Pepper was mentioned by Theophrastus (633), who described two kinds. Dioscorides (194) and Pliny (514) both give it a place in their writings. As early as 64 A. D. it was mentioned as occurring on the Malabar Coast. The Romans at Alexandria, A. D. 176, levied on it a duty. The Arabian authors of the Middle Ages, twelfth and fourteenth centuries, described it fairly. In the European countries of the Middle Ages pepper was considered the most important of all spices, being the foundation of much of the wealth of Venice and Genoa during their greatest commercial activity. It has been used as a medium of exchange when money was scarce, and when Rome was besieged by the Goths the ransom included three thousand pounds of pepper. In fact the value placed upon pepper in the records of the past is in itself an indication of its importance to the people who used it.
The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.