Why Turmeric and Black Pepper Is a Powerful Combination
Written by Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD on July 4, 2018
Turmeric, also known as the golden spice, is a tall plant that grows in Asia and Central America.
It gives curry its yellow color and has been used in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years to treat various health conditions.
Studies support its use and show that it can benefit your health.
But coupling turmeric with black pepper may enhance its effects.
This article reviews the potential health benefits of combining turmeric and black pepper.
Key Active Ingredients
In recent years, research has confirmed that turmeric has medicinal properties (1Trusted Source).
And while most people think of it as nothing but a seasoning, black pepper can benefit health as well.
Both turmeric and black pepper have key active ingredients that contribute to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and disease-fighting qualities.
Curcumin in Turmeric
The key compounds in turmeric are called curcuminoids. Curcumin itself is the most active ingredient and appears to be the most important.
As a polyphenol, curcumin has several advantages to health. It’s a strong antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
However, one of the greatest downfalls of curcumin is that it’s not well absorbed in the body (1Trusted Source).
Piperine in Black Pepper
Black pepper contains the bioactive compound piperine, which is an alkaloid like capsaicin, the active component found in chili powder and cayenne pepper (3Trusted Source).
Piperine has been shown to help relieve nausea, headaches and poor digestion and also has anti-inflammatory properties (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Still, its most significant benefit may be its ability to boost the absorption of curcumin (2Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Curcumin in turmeric and piperine in black pepper have been shown to improve health due to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and disease-fighting qualities.
Piperine Enhances the Absorption of Curcumin
Unfortunately, the curcumin in turmeric is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, you could be missing out on its advantages to health.
However, adding black pepper can help. Research supports that combining the piperine in black pepper with the curcumin in turmeric enhances curcumin absorption by up to 2,000% (2Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
One study showed that adding 20 mg of piperine to 2 grams of curcumin increased its absorption significantly (8Trusted Source).
There are currently two theories on how this works.
First, piperine makes it easier for curcumin to pass through the intestinal wall and into your bloodstream (9Trusted Source).
Second, it may slow down the breakdown of curcumin by the liver, increasing its blood levels. (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
As a result, combining curcumin with piperine increases its potential health benefits.
The piperine found in black pepper enhances curcumin absorption, making it more readily available to be used by your body.
The Combination Boosts Health Benefits
While curcumin and piperine each have their own health benefits, they’re even better together.
Fights Inflammation and Helps Reduce Pain
Turmeric’s curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
In fact, it’s so potent that some studies have shown it to match the power of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the negative side effects (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Studies also demonstrate that turmeric may play a role in preventing and treating arthritis, a disease characterized by joint inflammation and pain (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are often praised for reducing pain and temporary discomfort.
Piperine has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties as well. It helps desensitize a specific pain receptor in your body, which can further reduce feelings of discomfort (18Trusted Source, 19, 20Trusted Source).
When combined, curcumin and piperine are a powerful inflammation-fighting duo that can help reduce discomfort and pain.
May Help Prevent Cancer
Curcumin shows promise in not only treating but even preventing cancer (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Test-tube studies suggest that it can decrease cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level. It could also contribute to the death of cancerous cells (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26).
Piperine seems to play a role in the death of certain cancer cells as well, which can decrease your risk of tumor formation, while other research indicates it, too, might inhibit the growth of cancerous cells (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
One study showed that curcumin and piperine, both separately and in combination, interrupted the self-renewal process of breast stem cells. This is important, as this process is where breast cancer originates (29Trusted Source).
Further studies point to curcumin and piperine having protective effects against additional cancers, including prostate, pancreatic, colorectal and more (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 30).
Aids in Digestion
Indian medicine has relied on turmeric to help with digestion for thousands of years. Modern studies support its use, showing that it can help reduce gut spasms and flatulence (31).
Piperine has been shown to enhance the activity of digestive enzymes in the gut, which helps your body process food more quickly and easily (32Trusted Source).
Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of both turmeric and piperine may aid in reducing gut inflammation, which can help with digestion.
When combined, curcumin and piperine tend to have a greater effect on inflammation, digestion, reducing pain and fighting cancer.
Safety and Dosage
Curcumin and piperine are generally considered safe (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
There are no official recommendations for consumption of either, and the maximum tolerable intake has not been identified.
Certain people may experience side effects like nausea, headache and skin rashes after taking curcumin in large doses. It’s thus important to follow the dosage recommendations on the supplement packaging (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has set the acceptable dietary intake for curcumin as 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg/kg) of body weight per day, or approximately 245 mg for a 175-pound (80-kg) person (37).
In Indian culture, turmeric and black pepper are commonly consumed in tea, often combined with olive oil, coconut oil, honey and ginger.
Because curcumin is fat-soluble, consuming it with fat may increase absorption.
However, to fully reap the medicinal benefits of curcumin, it’s best consumed in supplement form combined with piperine.
Turmeric and black pepper are considered safe, and no serious side effects have been reported. While they can be added to food and drinks, supplements typically provide the greater benefit.
The Bottom Line
Turmeric and black pepper each have health benefits, due to the compounds curcumin and piperine.
As piperine enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%, combining the spices magnifies their effects.
They may reduce inflammation and improve digestion, particularly in supplement form.
If you’re looking to fully enjoy the advantages of turmeric and black pepper, consider mixing these spices for best results.
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