Better together: Consuming turmeric and black pepper together enhances the bioavailability of curcumin
03/29/2019 // Zoey Sky // Views

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a superfood that contains curcumin, an active compound with various health benefits. While it is commonly used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, the curcumin in turmeric has one weakness: its low bioavailability.

This means the body can only absorb a very small amount of curcumin after consumption. Thankfully, combining turmeric and black pepper can significantly boost the bioavailability of curcumin by a whopping 200 percent.

Turmeric and black pepper, the potent superfood duo

Black pepper (Piper nigrum), an aromatic spice with many benefits, contains the major bioactive element piperine. On its own, black pepper may help improve digestion and prevent cancer. Black pepper's pungent flavor and health benefits come from the natural compound piperine.

In a 1998 study published in the journal Planta Medica, researchers at St. John’s Medical College in India discovered that two grams (g) of curcumin combined with 20 milligrams (mg) of piperine resulted in a whopping 2,000 percent increase in bioavailability in human volunteers. In rat models, the absorption of curcumin also increased by 154 percent.

There are two theories on how this works:

  1. Piperine allows curcumin to pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.
  2. Piperine can help slow down the breakdown of curcumin by the liver, which increases its blood levels.

The findings show that even a low dose of curcumin or turmeric can have a greater effect when combined with piperine compared to a larger dose of curcumin or turmeric would alone.


The health benefits of turmeric and black pepper

If you wish to reap the health benefits of both spices, combine a pinch of black pepper (1/20th of a teaspoon) and turmeric.

It can help address and prevent cancer.

Studies show that turmeric and black pepper may help inhibit the growth of cancerous stem cells in breast tumors. Research also suggests that turmeric also has anti-cancer effects on colon cancer cells, leukemia cells, and gastric cancer cells.

Additionally, scientists have discovered that the spice extracts of black pepper and turmeric can be used to protect healthy tissue in individuals undergoing radiation therapy.

It helps heal wounds.

Turmeric's natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties make it ideal for cleaning and healing wounds. In a 2013 study, which was published in the journal Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs, researchers found that curcumin can control severe burn pain and improve burn wound healing. Black pepper boosts the wound-healing ability of turmeric by improving the absorption of the latter.

It promotes weight loss.

In a 2010 study published in the journal Annual Review of Nutrition, findings revealed that curcumin can interact with liver cells, pancreatic cells, fats cells, muscle cells, and macrophages (immune cells). This interaction can allow turmeric and black pepper to address various factors linked to obesity, such as hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, inflammation, and insulin resistance.

Add black pepper, ginger, and turmeric to a glass of water then drink the mixture every morning to boost your metabolism.

It protects liver health.

Turmeric is beneficial for liver detoxification because the spice can improve cholesterol elimination by boosting bile production. Curcumin also has protective effects against some toxins that may negatively affect the liver, like galactosamine, household chemicals, peroxide, and tobacco smoke.

Combining turmeric and black pepper helps boost the absorption of glutathione, the compound responsible for liver protection on a cellular level.

Adding turmeric and black pepper to your diet

Consuming turmeric root or powder with black pepper can boost your overall health, but adding both to healthy fats like coconut oil can enhance absorption even more. A golden turmeric paste made with coconut oil can be used for curries, salad dressings, and smoothies.

Curry powder has both black pepper and turmeric, so use the mixture for savory dishes. Turmeric alone can be used in eggs, soup, and some rice dishes.

Alternatively, you can take a black pepper and turmeric supplement. If you take turmeric and black pepper supplements, start with small doses of a quarter-teaspoon to a half-teaspoon, then gradually increase the dose to one teaspoon two to three times daily for several weeks. (Related: Turmeric-Tomato-Black Pepper Soup to Fight Inflammation.)

Before you consume turmeric and black pepper, consult a healthcare professional to determine any possible side effects that may affect your condition. Turmeric may cause side effects like an allergic reaction, which is often experienced as a mild rash. Pregnant women who take high doses of turmeric may experience diarrhea, hyperactive gallbladder contractions, increased bleeding, increased menstrual flow, low blood pressure, nausea, and uterine contractions.

Don't take turmeric supplements if you have a bleeding disorder or if you take antiplatelet medications. The spice can also interfere with anti-coagulants like aspirin, clopidogrel, and warfarin. Limit your turmeric intake if you have gallbladder stones, and don't consume turmeric on an empty stomach or when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Combine turmeric and black pepper to boost your digestion and promote weight loss.

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