Piperine, a kind of natural alkaloid found in peppers, has been reported to exhibit anti-oxidative and anti-tumor activities, both in vitro and in vivo. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an important cytokine that activates the signal transduction, promotes tumor cell metastasis, and induces malignancy, including in gastric cancer. However, the effects of piperine on IL-6 expression in gastric cancer cells have not yet been well defined. In this study, we investigated the effects of piperine on the IL-6 expression, and examined the underlying signaling pathways via RT-PCR, promoter studies and Western blotting in human gastric cancer TMK-1 cells. Our results showed that piperine inhibited interleukin-1β (IL-1β)-induced IL-6 expression in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, piperine also inhibited IL-6 promoter activity. Experiments with mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors and dominant negative mutant p38 MAPK indicated that p38 MAPK was essential for IL-6 expression in the TMK-1 cells. Additionally, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) was also involved in the IL-1β-induced IL-6 expression in gastric cancer cells. Piperine inhibited IL-1β-induced p38 MAPK and STAT3 activation and, in turn, blocked the IL-1β-induced IL-6 expression. Furthermore, gastric cancer cells pretreated with IL-1β showed markedly enhanced invasiveness, which was partially abrogated by treatment with IL-6 siRNA, piperine, and inhibitors of p38 MAPK and STAT3. These results suggest that piperine may exert at least part of its anti-cancer effect by controlling IL-6 expression through the suppression of p38 MAPK and STAT3.