Curcumin, extracted from turmeric, has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and to reduce beta-amyloid and plaque burden in lab studies. Beta-amyloid is a component of the amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
A number of animal and laboratory studies have reported anti-cancer (colon, skin, breast) properties of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.
High cholesterol levels.
Studies suggest that turmeric may lower levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) and total cholesterol in the blood.
Laboratory and animal studies show anti-inflammatory activity of turmeric and its constituent curcumin, which may be beneficial in people with osteoarthritis.
So, where does black pepper come in?
Doses used in studies have were between 450 milligrams of curcumin capsules to 3 grams of turmeric root daily, divided into several doses and taken by mouth.
However, studies have also indicated that curcumin has a poor bioavailability (absorption) when consumed orally due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall.
Piperine, extracted from pepper, is a bioavailability (absorption) enhancer that allows substances to remain in cells for longer periods of time.
In 1998 researchers at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India combined piperine with curcumin to test the bioavailability (absorption) of curcumin in rats and healthy human volunteers.
In rats the bioavailability was increased by 154%.
In the human volunteers, curcumin taken with 20 mg of piperine increased the bioavailability (absorption)of curcumin by 2000%.
The researchers concluded that piperine enhances the serum (blood) concentration, extent of absorption and bioavailability of curcumin in both rats and humans with no adverse effects.
This means that a low dose of curcumin (or turmeric for that matter) could have a greater effect in terms of health benefits when combined with piperine than a large dose of curcumin or turmeric would.
The average dietary intake of turmeric in the Indian population ranges between 2 to 2.5 grams. Pepper was the one of the first crops that was cultivated in India and is consumed together with turmeric.
Of note, rates for colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers in India are one of the lowest in the world.
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):353-6.