Turmeric and black pepper are two spices with a long history of use in Asia and Central America. Turmeric is often called the 'golden spice', while black pepper is the most common spice globally.
Black pepper is a key spice in virtually all dishes, but you most likely haven't been using it for its health benefits. On the other hand, turmeric doesn't have a strong taste, but it's often added to dishes for the spice's anti-inflammatory properties.In fact, turmeric has been around for millennia and has become ingrained in Southeast Asian cuisine. The Indian subcontinent also saw high usage of the spice.
This article will showcase the many health benefits of combining turmeric and black pepper, whether in spice or supplement form and look at how these two ingredients increase absorption by the body.
The Usefulness of Using Turmeric and Black Pepper for Various Health Conditions
The potential health benefits of turmeric includepreventing heart disease, improving gut health, reducing pain & inflammation, and strengthening an individual's overall health. Its powerful anti-inflammatory properties have been well-documented in the past.
Compared to turmeric, black pepper can benefit brain health, improve blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels, and may have cancer-fighting properties.
Taking them individually is excellent as they both reduce inflammation, but taking them together is most beneficial. But before we get into that, we need to understand the primary ingredients in both turmeric and black pepper.
What Key Ingredient is Found in Turmeric and Black Pepper?
Turmeric can be added to your meals, as it is with so many curries and other delicious Indian foods. But if you’re not keen on the golden yellow spice’s edible tastes, you can still benefit from a supplement.
You’re not going to find a brand that’s FDA-approved. This is because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate and approve supplements. It focuses on traditional medication instead.
However, you can find a known manufacturer with a good reputation. From there, look for the dosage you want. The recommended dosage is between 150-250 mg if it’s Curcumin and 1000-1500 mg if you’re using turmeric root powder.
Although the reputation of black pepper is primarily that of it being a spice and nothing but, the truth is fairly different. Black pepper has certain proven and purported health benefits due to its main active ingredient - Piperine.
Turmeric is both a potent spice and a valuable source of antioxidants. Its active ingredient is curcumin. Let's take a look at both of these.
Turmeric - Curcumin
The curcumin content of a teaspoon of ground turmeric equates to around 200 milligrams. This might not sound like a lot, but its medicinal benefits come into full effect after absorption.
Curcumin is a polyphenol, a micronutrient responsible for turmeric's anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties.
Now, when it comes to body absorption - it isn't great. This is arguably the most significant drawback to turmeric. Its poor bioavailability means that not all curcumin will be absorbed by the body, which isn't quite ideal.
Curcumin absorption is better when using a turmeric supplement containing a healthy amount of curcumin.
Black Pepper - Piperine
Black pepper's active ingredient, piperine, gives the black pepper its 'spiciness'. Piperine is an alkaloid and functions similarly to capsaicin, the active ingredient found in cayenne pepper and chili powder.
There are many health benefits of using black pepper (and, by extension, piperine), such as relieving headaches, nausea, and poor digestion but what many people don't know is that piperine increases curcumin absorption by the body.
Why Does Black Pepper Improve the Health Benefits of Turmeric?
When you combine turmeric and black pepper, you get all the benefits of both and the improvement in Curcumin absorption. Now, why is this important?
Well, Curcumin itself doesn't get absorbed in its entirety by the body, which negates some of its health benefits.
The reasons for this are the inability of the intestinal wall to let the compound pass into the bloodstream and the liver's exceptional speed at which it breaks down the Curcumin.
Research has shown that black pepper supplements (or the spice itself) can increase Curcumin absorption by almost 2,000%! Another study reinforced this claim by showing that just 20mg of piperine, added to 2g of Curcumin, massively improves Curcumin body absorption.
What are the Health Benefits of Using Turmeric and Black Pepper Together
Thanks to this combination, turmeric and black pepper benefits get enhanced and expanded. Here are just a couple of them.
May Help with Cancer Prevention
Although there is still a lack of research on Curcumin cancer treatment, other evidence has shown that it's a pretty potent ingredient when it comes to preventing cancer.
Taking Curcumin can influence the development, growth, and spread of the cancer cells on a molecular level, but it's also capable of killing them.
In extension, piperine also seems to have this ability, so combining turmeric with black pepper is ideal for inhibiting cancer cell growth.
As far as what types of cancers this combination can prevent, researchers have seen it have an effect on pancreatic, prostate, breast, colorectal, and a few other forms.
Reduces Pain and Fights Inflammation
Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, can be used to treat chronic inflammation and other chronic diseases. Surprisingly, research has shown that its potency matches that of commercial anti-inflammatory drugs with virtually zero side effects.
Additionally, Curcumin displays certain anti-arthritic properties meaning it may have the capabilities to treat and prevent arthritis; a common joint disease characterized by pain and inflammation.
The benefits of black pepper also include anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties, whereas piperine acts as a pain receptor desensitizer. Combining black pepper and turmeric enhances these effects.
Improves the Functioning of the Digestive Tract
Drug metabolism can be quick or drawn out, depending on the medicine used. Most drugs are taken with a glass of water, leading the drug into the stomach, where the body begins its metabolization process.
However, they have no effect on the digestive tract and can, at times, cause digestive issues in sensitive individuals. Luckily, the black pepper-turmeric combination improves gut flora and enhances digestive enzyme activity in the stomach.
This activity helps the body process food more efficiently, while also increasing the absorption of Curcumin. Lastly, turmeric helps reduce the occurrence of flatulence and gut spasms.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Using Turmeric and Black Pepper?
Curcumin and piperine are entirely safe to consume and won't cause any side effects in most individuals. Sensitive individuals may experience some forms of side effects, including headaches, skin rash, or nausea, but this only happens with larger doses.
Overall, the chances of a person taking too much turmeric or black pepper in powder form are next to zero as the 'maximum tolerable intake' level has not yet been identified.
However, the issue is more common with dietary supplements. If you're taking supplements (a piperine or Curcumin supplement), make sure to read the instructions on the supplements packaging recommendations. Do not take more than what is allowed.
It's also worth noting that black pepper extract is also a viable option for ingestion, but it needs to be taken in moderation. The best absorption levels occur when an individual takes turmeric or piperine dietary supplements.
What is a Safe Dosage for Taking Turmeric with Black Pepper?
As far as black pepper recipes are concerned, most will not require a large amount of black pepper. And even if they do, it's still not enough to exceed the recommended daily dosage. However, when it comes to turmeric, there are specific guidelines on how much is too much.
The WHO/FAO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has determined that the allowed daily intake of Curcumin should not exceed 3mg/kg of body weight. This equates to around 245mg for an 80kg person.
If you have certain medical conditions that influence or prevent you from taking turmeric, contact your healthcare provider for additional information on the topic.
After all, your health goals are important and shouldn't impact your life drastically.
Lastly, Turmeric should be avoided if you're using blood thinners since it also acts as an anti-coagulant, potentially messing with the effects of blood thinners.
Turmeric and black pepper have been used for millennia as solutions to various medical issues and as spices in many Asian and Indian foods. Turmeric initially starts its life as a plant, Curcuma Longa, and eventually gets turned into powder.
This wondrous journey to your shelf can only be made better by using it in your everyday life, especially in combination with some black pepper.
Thanks to the incredible synergy between Curcumin and piperine, the plethora of benefits cannot be ignored.