The spice Turmeric is definitely having a moment in popular culture and has become mainstream. From its origins as a staple in Ayurvedic medicine (and Chinese medicine), it has soared in popularity over the recent years, and more people are becoming aware of its many health benefits. One of the best supplements to pair Turmeric with is Black Pepper Extract.
The primary ingredient in Turmeric is a compound called Curcumin which comprises 80% of the spice. Curcumin is the compound that is responsible for all of the anti-inflammatory benefits associated with Turmeric. While Turmeric is generally found in foods and beverages, Curcumin is the compound that you will find on supplement labels. Most Curcumin supplements will be standardized to a smaller component of Curcumin, the curcuminoids.
Black Pepper Extract is a bioavailability enhancer, and it increases absorption of vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, amino acids, and antioxidants. The active ingredient in black pepper is piperine. The best kind of Black Pepper Extract is a standardized extract trademarked under BioPerine®. BioPerine® has been clinically studied in trials and has a great deal of scientific evidence to support its use. On average, BioPerine® can enhance the absorption and bioavailability of supplements by 30%, but BioPerine® can specifically enhance the absorption of Curcumin by 2,000%!
Black Pepper Extract increases absorption of supplements through two ways. First, Black Pepper Extract slows down the intestinal transit time; it keeps the materials in the intestines longer so that it stays in contact with the cells in the intestines and prolongs the absorption. The other way that it increases absorption is through inhibiting enzymes that are part of the detoxification process in the liver, so it is not processed as quickly.
The synergistic effect between Curcumin and Black Pepper Extract is well known, and many Curcumin supplement products will also have Black Pepper Extract as an ingredient. Turmeric and Black Pepper are spices that are often used in Indian cuisine together.
Curcumin needs enhancers to help the body absorb it because it is fat-soluble. Due to being fat-soluble, the body has difficulty absorbing it because of the water content in the intestinal tract. Perhaps the ancient practitioners of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine were aware of this, and they chose to create recipes that combined Black Pepper and Turmeric.
Curcumin is a wonderful ally against inflammation and aging. It inhibits a protein that causes the release of inflammatory compounds in the body, and it can reduce pro-inflammatory enzymes. Beyond its ability to act as an anti-inflammatory, Curcumin supports a healthy brain during the aging process because it reduces the concentration of beta-amyloid protein. Beta-amyloid protein builds beta-amyloid plaques which are found in high amounts in the brains of people who are suffering from neurodegeneration. These plaques are often found in brain regions that involve memory. Taking a Curcumin supplement can reduce their formation and support a healthy brain during aging.
Curcumin’s benefits to the brain don’t stop at reducing inflammation and beta-amyloid protein; Curcumin also enhances the synthesis of DHA, an Omega 3 fatty acid, directly in the liver and brain. The brain is comprised of a large amount of DHA, and DHA is necessary for healthy brain function and cognitive processing. Boosting the diet with fish can provide extra Omega 3 fatty acids as well as taking a fish oil supplement.
Curcumin can be a good alternative for those who choose not to consume fish or cannot tolerate fish oil supplement. Curcumin’s effects on DHA synthesis do not seem to be conditional upon taking a bioavailability enhancer--but with so many benefits associated with both Black Pepper Extract on its own, and in conjunction with Curcumin, taking a well-balanced supplement with both Curcumin and Black Pepper Extract will provide so many exceptional benefits that it is one supplement you won’t want to be without!