Turmeric is increasing in popularity for its health benefits, having been used in Ayurvedic medicine over 5,000 years ago!
Black pepper in its own right, also, has an abundant amount of health benefits. It is a great source of manganese, which helps the body form connective tissues, bones and sex hormones. However, there is also another beneficial function of black pepper, when you combine it with turmeric, which we will now look at.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, a bright yellow chemical, which gives turmeric its vibrant colour. Curcumin has been identified as being beneficial for its anti-inflammatory properties.
When you ingest turmeric with black pepper, you are increasing the amount of the curcumin you can absorb and your body can use.
Vegetable curry with turmeric
Curcumin has been associated with numerous health benefits including anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, protecting healthy cells from free radicals which can cause damage.
The reason that black pepper enables this increase in our body using curcumin, is due to piperine a compound found in black pepper, which slows our liver from metabolising the curcumin too quickly and removing it through urine.
By slowing this process our body is able to utilise more of the curcumin and its beneficial effects!
Curcumin is quickly metabolised and removed from the body by the liver and the intestinal wall, due to its poor bioavailability.
The bioavailability of a food is the amount of a nutrient which is available and readily absorbed by the body to use for metabolic purposes in the body, from the food that we ingest.
Some nutrients have a high bioavailability and can be digested, absorbed and metabolised by the body with ease, however, when it has a poor or low bioavailability (certain vitamins and minerals) the process of digestion, absorption and metabolism can vary and this can also be impacted by other vitamins and minerals that we consume these can either inhibit or facilitate these processes.
To facilitate our body to increase the bioavailability of curcumin it has been found that adding black pepper enables this increase in bioavailability.
A 6 month randomised, double-blinded and placebo controlled (high standard for testing) study, on subjects diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, found that those who were not taking the placebo and had 3 capsules twice a day of curcumin, had a lower atherogenic risk, and an improvement in their metabolic profile (Chuengsamarn et al., 2014).
The compound, piperine, found in black pepper is what gives black pepper its taste.
Piperine has been shown to increase the bioavailability of nutrients in both food and supplements. This includes selenium, the B vitamins, and beta-carotene.
Piperine has also been found to support and enhance the liver’s detoxification process (Murray et al., 2005).
The way that piperine enables the increase of bioavailability of nutrients and in this case curcumin, is that it inhibits the rate of metabolism of curcumin by increasing the time it resides in the intestines to increase intestinal absorption, and inhibits some of the enzymes (which are drug detoxifying enzymes) in the intestines that would usually break down and metabolise the curcumin (Ajazuddin, 2014).
This process of inhibiting enzymes is beneficial in the case for increasing the bioavailability of curcumin and another compound called EGCG (a polyphenol found in green tea which has been linked to certain health benefits). However, this can also negatively implicate the process in which our body excretes excess drugs through urine, halting the process, leading to elevated levels of the drugs in our system. This excretion of drugs helps to protect us from toxic chemical substances.
A study found that when participants took a 2g capsule of curcumin alone, it was found at undetectable or very low levels in the serum levels in the blood (Shoba et al., 1998).
When it was accompanied with 20mg of piperine, a higher concentration of serum levels was found from 0.25 to 1-hour post administration, the researchers found an increase in bioavailability of 2000%. It was found that piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin with no adverse effects (Shoba et al., 1998).
It was also found that when curcumin and piperine are administered together, the intestinal absorption rate increased, and stayed significantly longer in the body tissue than when curcumin was administered alone (Suresh and Srinivasan, 2010).
Although there is limited information on how much black pepper is required to aid bioavailability, it is advised that we eat between 1 to 3g of powdered turmeric a day.
5% of turmeric is composed of curcumin, and 5% (varies between 4.6%-9.7%) of black pepper (by weight) is composed of piperine. Sources state that even just 1/20th of black pepper can increase the bioavailability, and just 20mg of piperine is effective in enhancing bioavailability.
The curcumin is also fat-soluble, which means that it needs fat to be dissolved and then absorbed directly into the bloodstream, where it does not need to be metabolised by the liver.
Lucy Bee Turmeric Latte with black pepper
In meals where turmeric is used, there is usually a fat and black pepper in the meal, which aids the bioavailability and absorption of the turmeric. This is why in our turmeric latte, we include both black pepper and Lucy Bee Coconut Oil.
To get the best flavour from your pepper, you should buy whole peppercorns, and grind them up yourself. This means that you will just be receiving peppercorns, and not pepper with other spices, which can happen when you purchase pre-ground pepper.
You should store pepper in a cool, dark and dry place. It is also best if you add pepper towards the end of cooking, as the oils in the pepper lose their flavour and aroma if heated for too long.
You can get turmeric in powdered form or fresh. When fresh it should be kept in the refrigerator, where it can last for a month. You can also slice it and store it in an airtight container for 3 months.
If using powder, you should store it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place, where it will last for up to a year.
If you suffer with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones, you should avoid over consuming black pepper as it contains low amounts of oxalates (these prevent the absorption of calcium) (Murray et al., 2005).
As black pepper slows down the rate that the liver clears drugs, it is advised not to consume over 1tsp. a day with certain medications - please consult your health advisor if you are considering consuming over 1tsp. a day and on medication including digoxin or phenytoin (Turmeric for Health, 2016).
Unless advised or discussed with your health professional, there is no need to take turmeric capsules. You can use the powered or fresh turmeric within meals and drinks.
Long term ingestion of turmeric capsules may lead to nausea, diarrhoea, stomach ulcers, and other problems.
Research has shown that turmeric may slow blood clotting, so if you’re taking medication for blood thinning you should talk to your health advisor as well, before considering taking turmeric supplements.
It is also recommended that pregnant women do not take turmeric supplements as it can stimulate the uterus which can cause menstrual flow, but is safe to use when seasoning foods.
Both turmeric and black pepper have been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Black pepper is indigenous to Kerala, and in Ayurvedic medicine it was known as an important healing spice. It was combined with long pepper and ginger, forming a herbal blend called trikatu, an important ingredient in Ayurvedic formulas.
Black pepper was highly prized within trading and expensive to buy - it was even found stuffed in Ramessess II nostrils as part of the mummification process.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric was believed to balance the three doshas, and was taken both internally and externally to help with a variety of ailments (Gallant, 2016).
Turmeric has an abundance of beneficial health effects that you can research and read up on, especially with more research being conducted on just how powerful it is.
Just be warned when it gets onto your hands it can stain them yellow!!
I even put it on my fried egg (cooked in Lucy Bee Coconut Oil) in the morning, with some black pepper, delicious!
Ajazuddin. Alexander, A. Qureshi, A. Kumari, L. Vaishnav, P. Sharma, M. Saraf, S. and Saraf, S. (2014). Role of herbal bioactives as a potential bioavailability enhancer for active pharmaceutical ingredients. Fitoterapia, 97, pp. 1-14.
Chuengsamarn, S. Rattanamongkolgul, S. Phonrat, B. Tungtrongchitr, R. and Jirawatnotai, S. (2014). Reduction of atherogenic risk in patients with type 2 diabetes by curcuminoid extract: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 25(2), pp. 144-150.
Gallant, L. (2016). Turmeric: “The Golden Goddess”. California College of Ayurveda, available: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/turmeric#Turmeric_and_Ayurveda
Murray, M. T. Pizzorno, J. E. and Pizzorno, L. (2005). Black Peppercorn, Turmeric. The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods, pp. 502-523.
Shoba, G, Joy, D. Joseph, T. Majeed, M. Rajendran, R. and Srinivas, P. S. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Medica, 64(4), pp. 353-356.
Suresh, D. and Srinivasan, K. (2010). Tissue distribution & elimination of capsaicin, piperine & curcumin following oral intake in rats. Indian J Med Res, 131 pp. 682–691
Turmeric for health, http://www.turmericforhealth.com/turmeric-benefits/health-benefits-of-black-pepper-and-turmeric
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
Members of the Lucy Bee team are not medically trained and can only offer their best advice. Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Please note you should always refer your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.
Daisy has a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, which is Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course. She is Lucy's sister and is the Lucy Bee voice on all aspects of nutrition and its effect on the body. In addition to this, Daisy is shadowing a nutritionist in Harley Street and working for an NHS funded project, The Diabetes Prevention Programme.