Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used for thousands of years as a popular spice and natural healing herb in India and throughout Asia. In fact, it is believed that the high intake of Turmeric could be one of the reasons why many elderly citizens of India have been reported to be able to maintain healthy brain functioning at old age.
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The most important bioactive ingredient found in Turmeric is flavonoid Curcumin. Extensive research shows Curcumin can benefit multiple targets in our body and is believed to be one of natures’ most powerful antioxidants with many health benefits. Apart from helping our body to fight cell-damaging free radicals and increasing Glutathione levels Curcumin is also ideal for those who wish to have healthy digestive, immune and nervous system.
Curcumin also seem very beneficial for preventing and treating other conditions such as arthritis, depression cancer, or even Alzheimer’s. It is, therefore, very important to know how to increase the effectiveness of this amazing natural remedy.
Unfortunately, it was shown that Curcumin found in the standard ground Turmeric is poorly absorbed and usually fails to benefit the rest of the body outside the gut. In addition, even when isolated curcumin is ingested (in the form of extract), without some other important ingredients present in turmeric, its absorption is not much higher either because our liver removes most of it.
First of all, in order to boost the absorption of curcumin we should consume a whole fresh ground turmeric root because its natural oils (found in ground turmeric) enhance the bioavailability (absorption) of curcumin even up to eight fold!
Apart from that, as a result of taking turmeric with additional healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, ground flax, etc.), curcumin bypasses liver and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system.
But there is even better way to boost bioavailability of curcumin. It was discovered that adding small amount (approximately a quarter teaspoon) of black pepper increased the power and absorption of curcumin (the key active ingredient found in turmeric) by 2000%! And even much smaller amount of black pepper consumed with turmeric still significantly improved absorption.
However, even though piperine in black pepper appears to boost bioavailability of curcumin be careful to not overdose it. Like most hot spices, it also contains some harmful chemicals. For instance, safrole in black pepper irritates the delicate lining of the stomach. In some animal studies very high doses of black pepper triggered stomach cancer. For this reason it is safer to use it with turmeric sparingly and rather with meals and not between them. On the other hand, however, when turmeric is taken about 30 min before meals the absorption of its active ingredients (including curcumin) is improved as otherwise they have to compete for absorption with other ingredients found in foods.
I myself wouldn’t take black pepper because of the side effects mentioned above. Besides, I don’t think boosting curcumin absorption by 2000% is a good idea as too much of this active ingredient doesn’t seem to be safe. Second video (below) by Dr Greger deals with this problem. But if you decide to use black pepper with turmeric anyway, try to not overdose it.
If, like myself, you don’t like the taste of turmeric and prefer supplements, the best choice (when we take into consideration the mentioned above facts) seems to be the Curcumin 3 offered by HealthAid. First of all, it combines all the key factors which have shown to greatly increase concentration, absorption and effectiveness of Curcumin. Due to its unique synergistic formulation and holistic nature Curcumin 3 can be regarded as the most absorbable form of Turmeric. It is standardized in its purest and concentrated form, providing 95% of active Curcuminoids, especially its three main compounds – Curcumin, Demethoxycurcumin, and Bisdemethoxycurcumin. Furthermore, all of them are combined with the highest quality of Piperine extract (the active ingredient in black pepper) which according to one study was able to enhance bioavailability of curcumin by as much as 2000%! Consequently, because of the carefully designed holistic formulation and additional ingredients included in this formula, the Curcumin is not destroyed by the digestive enzymes and can be effectively absorbed into the blood stream and distributed all over the body, including brain.
Another good choice is Holistic Turmeric by Pukka Herbs because apart from curcumin it also contains wholistic turmeric and long pepper fruit which contains the same ingredient as black pepper.
Ingredients of Pukka’s Wholistic Turmeric: Turmeric root 50%, Turmeric root wholistic extract 40%, Long Pepper fruit 5%, Nutrigest Seagreens Arctic fresh seaweed, Ginger root, Spirulina, Vegetable cellulose capsule.
But, there is still another way to improve bioavailability of curcumin. Quercetin (the same substance which kills cancer cells and reduces symptoms of hay fever and allergies) is a flavonoid found in many plants as has been proved to be able to inhibit the enzyme that deactivates curcumin. For this reason it is a good idea to consume turmeric with foods that are high in quercetin such as red grapes, onions, apples, cranberries, blueberries, nettle leaf, red lettuce, raw kale, chicory greens, raw spinach, sweet peppers, snap beans or raw broccoli.
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Shoba G1, 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.