Turmeric is quickly rising as one of the most popular supplements in the country. The reason is that turmeric promotes health benefits that can improve the quality of life of the people taking it. However, not everyone who uses turmeric to live a healthier life is fully aware that there are ways to bolster the effectiveness of the spice. Black pepper is a very useful tool that can make your turmeric more effective at producing the benefits for which the root is lauded. But you might be curious as to what kinds of benefits black pepper brings to your turmeric intake.
With this article, we hope to shed some light on why turmeric with black pepper can be more beneficial than turmeric on its own.
Why Black Pepper is Useful
Throughout history, major exploration and even wars have been fought over spices like black pepper. Today, black pepper is something found in virtually every home in the country. It is a common seasoning used in cuisine, and some people enjoy sprinkling some onto their meals to add a little extra flavor. However, many people do not know that black pepper has a special compound with several beneficial effects.
Black pepper contains a compound called piperine that is responsible for pepper's sharp flavor and powerful scent. While piperine is the reason for black pepper's sensory traits, it also has medicinal uses that have turned it into a useful supplement. Piperine is a type of antioxidant geared toward reducing the chances of developing certain neurological and cardiovascular illnesses. It also doubles as a booster to nutrient bioavailability, meaning you absorb more of the positive nutrients in whatever it accompanies.
Black pepper, and more so the piperine found within, is an invaluable tool for bolstering one's physical health. However, on its own, its potential is limited since its major strength lies in how it interacts with other substances and supplements. Think of it as a multiplier for the effects you get from other supplements.
Why Turmeric is Useful
Like black pepper, turmeric has been found to provide a wide array of nutritional and medicinal benefits for the human body. However, you might not be aware that it is not turmeric as a whole responsible for its beneficial traits but the curcumin within it.
Curcumin is the medicinally active chemical found within turmeric. There has been confusion in the past about whether turmeric and curcumin are the same thing, but the reality is that they are not. Natural turmeric contains very little curcumin compared to supplements explicitly designed to maximize curcumin content. On average, turmeric only contains around 3.14% curcumin by weight.
Like the piperine from black pepper, curcumin is a bioactive compound that produces beneficial effects. Curcumin provides benefits including an anti-inflammatory effect, increasing the body's concentration of antioxidants, and can even help prevent certain diseases and conditions that can be debilitating.
However, the bioavailability of curcumin is quite low, meaning it is extremely difficult for the human body to absorb the compound and reap the benefits curcumin has to offer. Fortunately, this low bioactivity can be enhanced to make it much easier to absorb into the bloodstream. So the question is, what can enhance the bioactivity of another substance? If you've made it this far, you already know.
Curcumin and Piperine Make a Good Team
The low bioactivity of curcumin in turmeric, combined with the bioactivity enhancing traits of piperine, is a match made in heaven. Research has found that adding black pepper to turmeric yields a spike in curcumin absorption of about 2,000%. This spike means that the health benefits afforded by curcumin will be much easier to enjoy since your body will have easier access to the compounds responsible for them.
The studies found that the addition of 20mg of piperine for a 2g serving of curcumin caused a spike in the absorption rate of curcumin into the bloodstream. The science behind this interaction is still being evaluated, but there are two major theories. The first theory is that the piperine eases the passage of curcumin through the intestinal wall to the bloodstream. The second theory is that the piperine slows the rate at which the liver breaks down the curcumin and affords it the time needed to build up in your system.
Regardless of which theory is correct, the statistics back the fact that piperine makes it that much easier for us to enjoy the health benefits of curcumin. However, you might still need some clarity on what sort of benefits this combination can provide. Knowing what piperine and curcumin are capable of individually does not necessarily illustrate what they can do when combined.
What Turmeric and Pepper Do Together
Curcumin produces several health benefits in and of itself that can protect against certain health issues. There is even evidence that it can offer slight protection against major diseases. However, when combined with black pepper to introduce piperine, these effects are amplified, and the supplement value increases. This is why most turmeric supplements you find on the market today are primarily extracted curcumin with piperine added.
One of the primary uses of curcumin is its natural anti-inflammatory properties that rival some artificially created pharmaceuticals, albeit without the side effects the latter might present. There have been studies conducted on curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties that have shown it can prevent and lightly treat arthritis. Since some types of arthritis result from joint inflammation, an anti-inflammatory like curcumin can have success in reducing the symptoms.
However, piperine is also an anti-inflammatory in and of itself. This means that, in addition to making curcumin easier to absorb and making it easier to reap the anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin, piperine comes to the fight fully-loaded against inflammatory diseases.
Some research has even discovered that piperine can dull a pain receptor and reduce discomfort from arthritic conditions. Two separate substances bringing the same relief to the table only serves to double up on the relief you can enjoy by taking them in together.
This is not the only way that curcumin and piperine can be beneficial to your overall health. There has been some research into how curcumin interacts with cancer cells, showing a degree of promise. Though the studies are in their infancy, the test-tube tests have shown that curcumin can decrease the growth of cancer cells and even prevent them from spreading. Some research even suggests that curcumin can kill the cells flat out.
More research was done with piperine that found that the substance also plays a role in the death of particular cancer cells and decreases the risk of tumors forming. So naturally, given the relationship between piperine and curcumin, tests were conducted with both substances combined.
The simultaneous tests revealed that they could interrupt the self-renewal process of stem cells in the breast. These cells serve as the birthplace for breast cancer cells, so substances that can interrupt the process can significantly reduce the risk of cancerous cells forming in the breast at all. In addition, early studies have shown that curcumin and piperine have the potential to fight off prostate, pancreatic, and colorectal cancer, among others.
As always, remember that test tube trials are not necessarily reflective of the effect on the body. The vast majority of treatments that are effective in test tubes go on to fail in rodent studies or, if they're successful in rats, fail in humans. This is why you so often see news reports of promising compounds that "disappear"; they simply do not pan out in practice.
Not every benefit from curcumin and piperine is as large-scale as what we have discussed so far. Other benefits are far simpler but equally appreciated. Curcumin has been a staple of Indian holistic medicine for years as a digestive aid. Modern studies have corroborated this practice as studies have found that the curcumin in turmeric reduces gut spasms and flatulence, both symptoms of digestive issues. On the other hand, piperine enhances the activity of digestive enzymes, allowing us to process food more rapidly with greater ease. Finally, the anti-inflammatory properties of both compounds can reduce gut inflammation and ease digestion overall.
When combined, curcumin and piperine complement one another by compounding their positive effects, making the former easier to use. However, there remains the question of how much should be taken.
What is the Correct Dosage for Turmeric and Pepper?
Most substances have limits to avoid side effects that might crop up. One of the best parts about turmeric and black pepper is that this is not really a problem. Both curcumin and piperine are considered safe for regular consumption and do not possess any traits that can induce side effects or illness by themselves. With that said, there are no official guidelines for consuming piperine or curcumin, and there is no official maximum tolerable intake.
There have been reports of people suffering from side effects, including nausea, headache, and even skin rashes after consuming large quantities of curcumin. This can be avoided by simply remaining true to the portion sizes listed on the package curcumin product you are using. While there is no official intake guide, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has put forth an intake suggestion of no more than 1.4mg per pound of bodyweight daily. This essentially translates to around 245mg of curcumin a day for an individual weighing in at 175 lbs.
When it comes to finding ways to introduce curcumin to your system, several avenues can be taken. First, since turmeric and black pepper are edible substances, you can simply start having meals that use them as ingredients. However, this comes with the drawback that raw turmeric is relatively light on the curcumin you are trying to get.
Ideally, when taking turmeric and black pepper for the medicinal benefits they have to offer, you should elect to use curcumin supplements that have piperine included. In addition to coming with a daily dosage marked on the bottle, it maximizes the amount of curcumin and piperine you are getting per dose rather than relying on the natural content of turmeric.
With only a 3.14% concentration of curcumin per weight of the turmeric serving, a full 3g serving of turmeric will only yield 0.0942 g of curcumin. This means you would need to eat 15 times the 3g serving of turmeric to get the recommended 1.4g of curcumin. That adds up to 45g of turmeric. That's a lot of turmeric! Too much to be pleasant to consume as part of a meal. In contrast, a curcumin supplement will provide the full dosage in a single capsule along with piperine to augment the bioavailability of the curcumin and ease absorption.
Keep in mind that if you can only locate the supplements that do not have any piperine included, a lesser avenue may be taken by simply adding pepper to your meals. But the best option will always be the specialized supplements since they are designed to maximize the level of the compounds that make turmeric and black pepper such valuable additions to your diet.
Curcumin can be an extremely beneficial addition to your nutritional intake, especially when combined with the piperine from black pepper. When these two substances join forces, they complement one another and give your body a welcome boost against inflammation, disease, and other health issues that plague the average American citizen.
Remember, though, that turmeric/curcumin and black pepper/piperine are not a cure for any disease. Instead, they can serve as a preventative measure and part of an overall healthy diet and supplement plan.
However, we implore you to reach out to your primary care physician before making any radical changes to your diet and lifestyle since allergies to both pepper and turmeric are very real. If you are a sufferer of such an allergy, you should keep your distance. But at the end of the day, turmeric and black pepper can be the first step in finding the healthy new you.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding turmeric, curcumin, piperine, or similar, feel free to reach out at any time.