Turmeric and Black Pepper: A Powerful Combination?

Mother Nature graced us with wonderful plants whose active compounds have the potential to improve our health and wellbeing. Some of those plants are turmeric and black pepper.

Both plants are powerful individually, but their combination hits the jackpot. What makes a combination of black pepper and turmeric so powerful? Scroll down to find out.

Curcumin in turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant from the ginger family, native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The tall, flowering plant gives turmeric the spice. It is known as Indian saffron or golden spice. Turmeric is one of the most potent plants in the world.

Turmeric root is used for both culinary and medicinal properties. Turmeric powder gives curry its vibrant yellow color. Health benefits of this spice stem from curcuminoids. Just like cannabinoids provide health effects to hemp or cannabis plant. The most significant curcuminoid in turmeric is curcumin, the main active ingredient of this spice.

Curcumin, a polyphenol, can target multiple signaling molecules while exhibiting its effects on the cellular level. The health benefits of curcumin are numerous. The compound can benefit inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, pain, and also aids management of inflammatory and degenerative eye conditions. Curcumin also exhibits favorable effects on kidneys. Most health benefits of curcumin stem from its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.

The powerful effects of turmeric (and its main compound, curcumin) made it popular in many cultures. Uses of this compound in numerous. For example: 

  • India – served in curries

  • Japan – served in tea

  • Thailand – used in cosmetics

  • China – used as a colorant

  • Korea – served in drinks

  • Malaysia – used as an antiseptic 

  • Pakistan – used as an anti-inflammatory agent

  • United States – used in mustard, cheese, butter, chips, etc.

Curcumin comes in multiple forms today. You can obtain it by adding turmeric to food. Other options include a dietary supplement in the form of tincture, turmeric capsules, and tablets. Curcumin is also present in some ointments and energy drinks. Turmeric extract is everywhere today, but make sure you opt for reliable and healthy choices.

Piperine in black pepper

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is native to present-day South India. Today, it is present in tropical regions and used worldwide. Black pepper powder is more than a kitchen staple. It is known as the king of spices.

For thousands of years, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine have been using black pepper for medicinal properties. Black pepper owes its health benefits to its main active ingredient – piperine. Piperine is an alkaloid like capsaicin, the active compound present in cayenne pepper.

One of the most notable effects of black pepper extract, i.e., piperine, is enhancing the absorption of nutrients. Dietary piperine favorably stimulates the digestive enzymes of the pancreas. As a result, this compound enhances the digestive capacity and significantly decreases the gastrointestinal food transit time. Moreover, piperine is an antioxidant and protects us against oxidative stress and damage by inhibiting free radicals.

The most far-reaching attribute of piperine is the inhibitory effect on enzymatic drug bio transforming reactions in the liver. Piperine can enhance the bioavailability of several therapeutic drugs and phytochemicals.

The bioavailability of piperine is down to increased absorption resulting from its influence on the intestinal brush border’s ultrastructure. Besides therapeutic drugs, piperine can also increase the absorption of ingredients in dietary supplements. If you’ve ever wondered why most supplements contain piperine in formulas, now you know why. 

Piperine enhances the absorption of curcumin

Despite a wide range of health benefits, one of the major problems of curcumin is its poor availability. Weak turmeric absorption is not news, actually. A study from the Molecular Pharmaceutics found that poor availability of curcumin is due to:

  • Poor absorption 

  • Rapid metabolism

  • Fast systemic elimination 

The same study explained it’s possible to improve the absorption of curcumin. One of the best ways to do it is to use adjuvant like piperine. The main active compound in black pepper interferes with glucuronidation. Glucuronidation is a process that makes substances more water-soluble.

This allows for their subsequent elimination from the body through urine and feces. By interfering with glucuronidation, piperine can improve the absorption of curcumin and make its effects last longer. That’s why it’s not unusual to see piperine on the label of a curcumin supplement.

That’s not the only study that confirmed piperine could enhance the absorption of curcumin. A growing body of evidence confirms this notion. What’s more, piperine can enhance turmeric root extract absorption, i.e., curcumin, by up to 2,000%.

The underlying mechanisms through which piperine enhances absorption and bioavailability of curcumin require more research. Some theories exist, though. One theory suggests piperine makes it easier for curcumin to pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

The second theory is that piperine slows down the breakdown of curcumin by your liver. As a result, it increases blood levels of curcumin and enhances its effects. Seems familiar? That’s the process of glucuronidation we mentioned above. 

New theories may also develop. More studies are necessary to learn about these mechanisms. One thing is certain – the combination of turmeric and black pepper is powerful. Piperine in black pepper can enhance the health benefits of curcumin from turmeric significantly. 

How does the combination boost health?

Curcumin is powerful as it is, but its potential reaches a whole new level in the presence of piperine. These two compounds are a perfect match. Their health benefits are significant, and we’re going to go through them below. 

Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects

Inflammation is a process through which the body fights against infection, injury, or a disease. This natural process is part of the immune system’s defenses and a fundamental part of healing. Sometimes inflammation can be long-term or chronic. In these cases, chronic inflammation can harm the body and increase the risk of various health problems and autoimmune conditions. 

Both compounds, curcumin, and piperine have anti-inflammatory properties. Evidence has shown curcumin is a highly pleiotropic molecule. Pleiotropic means a compound produces multiple effects. That’s why curcumin is capable of interacting with numerous molecular targets involved in inflammation.

The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin could benefit the management of inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, and certain types of cancer. The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin are stronger than those of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but without side effects. Not only can it inhibit inflammation, but also tumor proliferation. 

Piperine is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. In fact, it also has antiarthritic properties. Just like curcumin, it can aid the management of arthritis, i.e., joint inflammation. The main symptom of arthritis is pain in the affected joint. The pain can limit a person’s flexibility, range of motion, and quality of life. Studies show curcumin can also help alleviate pathological pain, which tends to be severe. 

A combination of piperine and curcumin works to alleviate inflammation and relieve pain. Don’t forget that pain is often a result of inflammation and the conditions it causes. Turmeric formula works much better to tackle inflammation when piperine is involved. 

Weight loss

Excess weight is a major threat to health and wellbeing. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, hormonal imbalances, and other problems. It’s easy to say you need to slim down, but tricky to achieve it.

The key to successful weight loss lies in a combination of exercise and a well-balanced diet. However, adding other things into the mix can help. One of those things could be curcumin and piperine. 

Evidence shows that curcumin can significantly decrease body mass index (BMI), weight, waist circumference, leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells. The main function of this hormone is to decrease appetite. Levels of leptin are lower when you’re thin and higher when you’re overweight. Weight loss effects of this compound are also due to antioxidant effects on lipid peroxidation.

Piperine can also reduce fat and lower lipid (fat) levels. More precisely, piperine can lower serum triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol concentration. The compound has the potential to elevate HDL (good) cholesterol levels. 

Curcumin and piperine promote weight loss individually, but their combination is even more potent. The combined action of curcumin and piperine may increase body fat loss and suppress high-fat diet-induced inflammation. Compounds in this spice mix working together can enhance caloric restriction effects to prevent metabolic syndrome, too.

Cancer prevention

Cancer is a severe disease that develops when abnormal cells start multiplying uncontrollably. Many plant compounds show promising effects on the management and prevention of cancer. Curcumin and piperine are among them. 

A growing body of evidence confirms that curcumin has the potential to prevent cancer. Studies confirm curcumin can reduce cancer growth, development, and spread of cancer on a molecular level. It can also work great in combination with therapeutic agents for cancers such as pancreatic cancer

Besides curcumin, piperine can also fight cancer. Potential mechanisms of action include inducing apoptosis (cell death), inhibiting proliferation, migration, invasion of tumors, and sensitizing tumors to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

The combined action of curcumin and piperine can exhibit anti-cancer activity in colorectal cancer. Moreover, curcumin and piperine, separately and in combination, can inhibit breast cells’ self-renewal without causing toxicity to differentiated cells. This activity is significant because that’s where breast cancer originates. These compounds could be potential cancer preventative agents.

Post-workout recovery

Regular workouts are essential for general health and wellbeing, strong immune system, weight loss, and management, among other things. Recovery is just as important as the exercises and workouts we do. Without proper recovery, our muscles and tissues don’t get much-needed rest. That’s why it can be difficult for some people to notice desired results despite an active lifestyle. 

Studies show that a combination of curcumin and piperine can attenuate muscle damage by limiting muscle function loss. For example, the recovery in sprint means power output was faster when subjects consumed curcumin and piperine compared to placebo.

With these two compounds, you could do more in the gym and get better results from your workouts. 

Improved digestion

The body needs a wide range of nutrients to function correctly. The digestive system’s primary role is to break nutrients into parts that are small enough for the body to absorb.

That way, these nutrients can boost energy levels, support growth, encourage cell repair, among other things. Healthy digestion is also vital for the immune system’s defenses, weight management, and overall wellbeing. 

Unfortunately, an unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, and other factors can impair digestive health. A person can also develop various diseases affecting the digestive system. All these things harm your quality of life.

Turmeric and black pepper can help improve digestive health. Consumption of turmeric supplements, abundant in curcumin, can decrease gut spasms and flatulence. On the other hand, piperine can amplify the activity of digestive enzymes in the gut. As a result, it helps the body process food faster and more easily.

Therefore, the combined activity of these two compounds can improve digestive health and attenuate inflammation that may occur with the consumption of certain, usually unhealthy, foods. 

Safety and dosage

Piperine and curcumin are safe for general consumption. That’s why they are common ingredients in dietary supplements available over the counter. At this point, there is no specific guideline regarding the recommended or maximum daily dosage for curcumin and piperine.

More studies are necessary to determine the precise doses. Keep in mind that dosages may vary depending on the purpose of consumption. Supplements for different conditions may contain different dosages of these compounds.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) determined that curcumin’s acceptable dietary intake should be 1.4mg per pound (3mg/kg) of body weight per day. In other words, a person who weighs about 175lbs (80kg) would need to take 245mg of curcumin a day.

Although safe, these compounds may induce certain adverse reactions, but they are rare. The side effects may include:

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Skin rash 

  • Constipation 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Vomiting

  • Yellow stool

  • Stomachache 

The risk of side effects increases with the intake of excessively high doses. To avoid adverse reactions and discomfort they bring, you should stick to healthy, moderate dosages. If you use supplements, the best thing to do is to follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions. Of course, you need to be wise. Only buy products whose manufacturer is reliable and reputable. 

Suppose you’re taking medications for a health condition; you need to be careful. Curcumin may interact with antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, anticoagulants, cardiac drugs, diabetes medications that lower blood pressure. Consult your doctor first to see whether it’s safe for you to take turmeric supplements or not. 

Besides supplementation, you can also consume piperine and curcumin in other ways. For example, people in Indian culture used to consume turmeric spice and curcumin in tea. Often they combined them with coconut oil, olive oil, ginger, and honey. You may want to try sprinkling a little bit of organic turmeric powder in coconut milk for a delicious and warm vibe this winter.

Adding turmeric to beverages can be quite delicious. For example, you can make a turmeric latte. It’s both delicious and healthy. Moreover, you can also prepare turmeric with almond milk to boost your antioxidant levels, improve brain function, and more. This spice is also easy to combine with meat. For example, you can add both turmeric and black pepper to meat patties.

If you plan to add these compounds into your diet, make sure to opt for organic turmeric. That way, you’ll get the maximum effects. 

Combining curcumin with healthy fats is practical. Why? You see, curcumin is fat-soluble. Consuming curcumin with fat such as ghee can enhance the absorption of this powerful compound. That way, the body can obtain more benefits from it. However, the maximum effects come from the potent combination of black pepper and turmeric, which we discussed throughout this post.

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Conclusion

Both turmeric and black pepper are powerful plants individually, but even more so when you combine them. Black pepper contains piperine, whereas turmeric owes its effects to curcumin. Piperine enhances the absorption of curcumin and makes the compound even more powerful.

This post elaborated all their powerful effects and delivered other useful things you ought to know about this subject. Feel free to add both compounds into your daily lifestyle. But if you’re taking medications for some health condition, make sure to consult your doctor before you start taking turmeric curcumin complex. Also, stick to the recommended dose. Strive to consume more turmeric and black pepper in meals too.

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