Does Curcumin always need pepper?

Author: Emily Seddon   Date Posted:7 October 2016 

Why doesn't Curcumin always have black pepper added?

With many types of turmeric and curcumin on the market, it’s easy to be confused about what is different and what will help you the most. Luckily, we have the answer for you!

Turmeric is a juggernaut of the culinary and medicinal world. It is a part of that quintessential curry flavour. It’s pungent, aromatic and spicy without being hot. In traditional Indian curries, turmeric is most often cooked with ghee, or a source of fat.

It seems like they were really onto something here, but more about that in a moment.

The therapeutic value of turmeric is due to its active ingredients - curcuminoids such as curcumin which make up between 2-6% of turmeric. However, curcumin has a low solubility in water, and is not easily absorbed into our bloodstream. This is why it’s commonly combined with different ingredients to boost absorption.

Here, we will delve into two common differences.


Curcumin with black pepper

Black pepper contains piperine, which enhances the bioavailability of free, unbound curcumin that has been extracted from turmeric. It does this by inhibiting glucoronidation in the liver and intestine, which can alter the bioavailability of a large number of drugs.

Studies show that it enhances absorption into the bloodstream by 2000%, or 20-fold, when compared with curcumin alone.

So why aren’t all curcumin options combined with black pepper? While these numbers are impressive, another form of curcumin may amaze you even further…



Curcumin with a phospholipid

A phospholipid is an amphiphilic substance. This means it contains both hydrophilic (water-loving) and lipophilic (fat-loving) properties. Lecithin is an example of a phospholipid complex and naturally contains phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine.

These complexes increase gastro-intestinal absorption of many herbs and drugs, resulting in higher blood plasma concentration and lower elimination, therefore increasing bioavailability.

Specifically combining curcumin with a phospholipid complex has been shown to exhibit a higher level of absorption and bioavailability when compared to unbound curcumin.

Researchers suggest it may increase total curcuminoid absorption 29-fold – by 2900% - when compared with curcumin alone.

This takes us back to the traditional Indian preparation of curcumin – heating with ghee, butter or oil – in effect making capsules of fat that carry the curcumin, which are then able to get across the intestinal wall.


Which is better?

Although combining curcumin with black pepper was first identified as increasing bioavailability, emerging science has indicated that a phospholipid complex of curcumin provides a superior option for absorption and utilisation of curcumin in the human body (Prasad, Tyagi & Aggarwal 2014).

Using turmeric as a spice is still a great idea – in curries, in Golden Milk, with eggs, wherever you see fit! Keep in mind though that one tablet of our Curcumin Anti-inflammatory Pain Reliever (a phospholipid complex) is equal to approximately 18 teaspoons of Turmeric!

That’s a LOT of curry.

To get that strong anti-inflammatory benefit of curcumin, it may be best to top up your intake and take it in tablet form.


Written by Emily Seddon
Emily Seddon

Emily (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath with a love of science. Growing up with a hippy mum and dad, Emily grew used to thinking outside the box for her own health. She has since completed a degree in Health Science, majoring in Naturopathy, combining that passion for healthy living with scientific and traditional evidence to help others to live happy and healthy lives.

She loves using herbal and nutritional medicine to treat ailments and lives by the philosophy of “there is no such thing as too much tea.

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