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Why You Should Always Eat Pepper With Your Turmeric

Why You Should Always Eat Pepper With Your Turmeric

Historians from all around the world have produced evidence to show that apparently all primitive peoples used herbs-often in a sophisticated way. “Quinine from Cinchona bark was used to treat the symptoms of malaria long before the disease was identified, and the raw ingredients of a common aspirin tablet have been a popular painkiller for far longer than we have had access to tablet-making machinery. Indeed, today many pharmacological classes of drugs include a natural product prototype that we originally discovered through the study of traditional cures and folk knowledge of indigenous people.”

There’s a plant in South Asia called Adhatoda from adu meaning “goat,” and thoda meaning “not touch” because it’s so bitter even the goats won’t eat it. However, it has compounds that help open one’s airways and as such, Adhatoda tea has been used traditionally to treat asthma, where the leaves are steeped with black peppercorns. Leaves steeped with black peppercorns? That sounds gross to me—why would they do that? Because they’re smart. Back in 1928, scientists discovered what the people evidently already knew, that adding pepper increased the anti-asthmatic properties of the leaves. Black pepper alone didn’t work: it was the combination. And now we know why.

Just like approximately 5% of the spice turmeric is composed of an active compound called curcumin, about 5% of black pepper by weight is comprised of this compound called piperine. Curcumin is responsible for the yellow color of turmeric and piperine for the pungent flavor of pepper. Piperine is a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism. One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is making them water soluble so they can be more easily excreted. But this black pepper molecule inhibits that process.

And it doesn’t take much. If people are given a bunch of turmeric curcumin, within an hour there’s a little bump in the level in their blood stream. We don’t see a large increase because our liver is actively trying to get rid of it. But what if the process is suppressed by taking just a quarter teaspoon’s worth of black pepper? Then you see curcumin levels skyrocket. The same amount of curcumin consumed, but the bioavailability shoots up 2000%. Even just a little pinch of pepper—1/20th of a teaspoon—can significantly boost levels. And guess what a common ingredient in curry powder is besides turmeric? Black pepper.

Another way to boost the absorption of curcumin is to consume it in the whole food, turmeric root (fresh or dried as a powder) because natural oils found in turmeric root and turmeric powder can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin seven to eight fold. When eaten with fat, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby in part bypassing the liver.

How is it prepared in India? With fat and black pepper. Amazing how they could figure that out without double blind trials. (Though maybe it just tastes good, and it’s merely coincidence?) Their traditional knowledge certainly failed them with ghee, however, which is practically pure butter fat, which may explain their relatively high rates of heart disease despite all their turmeric.

Why would we care about boosting curcumin levels? Learn why in my videos Which Spices Fight Inflammation? and Spicing Up DNA Protection.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Related:
How to Enhance Mineral Absorption
Eating Green to Prevent Cancer
Combating Common Diseases With Plants

Read more: Health, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Healthy Aging, Men's Health, Natural Remedies, Videos, Women's Health, , , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

89 comments

+ add your own
4:36AM PDT on Sep 16, 2014

thanks

9:48PM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Thanks

7:20AM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

Interesting article.

11:09AM PDT on Jul 31, 2014

Thank you :)

8:29PM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

Turmeric is a colourful and vibrant spice, but many things have to be used in moderation, including nutmeg.

7:54AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Useful information. Thanks.

9:52AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Turmeric, black pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, garlic, ginger are all part of our everyday life. Nothing in excess. All in moderation.
Yet no one lasts for ever
Feed your mind the nutrients as much as your body
Meththa!

6:38AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Thanks

1:13PM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

Fmb.

11:42AM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

ty

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Will try some of these. The seaweed bath sounds good.

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