Diet & Nutrition

5 Powerful Science-Backed Reasons to Combine Turmeric and Black Pepper

You may have heard of the benefits of taking turmeric, but did you know that your body doesn't absorb it very well? Your body usually breaks it down and expels it before you have a chance to get the full benefits because it doesn't break down and merge seamlessly in your bloodstream.

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However, black pepper may be the key to getting the most out of spice. We'll explore what turmeric is along with its key active ingredients, what black pepper is with its key ingredients and a few science-backed benefits of combining turmeric and black pepper. You'll get a good understanding of why you want to include both spices in your everyday diet.


What Is Turmeric?

Key Active Compounds in Turmeric

What Is Black Pepper?

Key Active Compounds in Black Pepper

5 Science-Backed Reasons to Combine Turmeric and Black Pepper

The Best Ratio of Turmeric to Black Pepper

The Best Ratio of Curcumin to Piperine

Final Thoughts on Turmeric and Black Pepper

What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a popular spice that people hold in very high regard for its numerous health and culinary benefits. (1) It's favoured in Chinese and ayurvedic medicinal practices, and it grows wild in India and Southeast Asia. It's related to the common ginger plant. Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its instantly recognisable yellow hue. It's also widely used in the cosmetics industry, medical industry as well as in the culinary industry as a natural spice and dye.

Key Active Compounds in Turmeric

Turmeric has a few key active ingredients that make this a powerful supplement that supports your body and mind.

1. Curcumin

Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by plants, and this is what gives turmeric its signature yellow colour. It has several powerful properties including anti-aging and anti-inflammatory. (2) It can also combat memory issues and diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. (3) Studies also show that it has promising anti-cancer benefits, as well as good indicators for improving your eye and organ health. (4)(5)(6)

2. Essential Oils

Did you know that turmeric has over 34 different essential oils present in its makeup? (7) These essential oils help to boost turmeric's anti-aging properties along with its anti-inflammatory properties. (8) They include turmerone, atlantone, zingiberene and germacrone. (9) These oils enhance turmeric's natural benefits, and can also make it a more powerful agent for fighting inflammation and disease.

3. Flavonoids

Turmeric also contains high levels of plant compounds or flavonoids. (10) These occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine and chocolate. Several science-backed studies show that flavonoids have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cell signalling properties. (11) (12) (13) These properties can help turmeric absorb into the body better, and they can also help enhance turmeric's natural health benefits.

What Is Black Pepper?

Black pepper is a flowering vine that produces one of the most widely used spices in the world. It grows in the hot and humid climate of South India, and it's prized for both its medicinal uses as well as its pungent and spicy taste and aroma. It's common in traditional medicine as well as cooking. This spice has a long history as a powerful folk medicine, as a spice for various dishes and in the pharmaceutical industry. Studies have proved that black pepper can help with a variety of physical and mental problems.

Key Active Compounds in Black Pepper

Black Pepper has several key ingredients that help to increase its potency as well as its overall effectiveness.

1. Piperine

Piperine is an alkaloid found in black pepper. This is the main component that gives black pepper its spicy taste and strong smell. It has several notable properties including antioxidant, antibacterial and nutrient absorption. (14) (15) (16) Additionally, piperine has proven to have powerful anti-cancer properties that can reduce or destroy cancer cells, as well as positive effects on depression and other neurodegenerative diseases. (17) (18) (19)

2. Fibre

Black pepper contains a moderate amount of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is the part of the plant that your body can't break down and absorb, and it helps to keep your digestive tract regular. (20) It also gives your body more time to pull nutrients from it as it moves through your system. It has several important roles including preventing diarrhoea, normalising blood sugar levels and enhancing your bone health. (21) (22) (23)

3. Vitamin K

One tablespoon of black pepper contains 13% of your recommended daily vitamin K intake. Vitamin K performs several important functions in your body, and it's essential that you get a good amount each day. Vitamin K helps your blood form clots, and it also helps to prevent overdoses of certain blood-thinning medications. (24) It can also help your digestive system absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.

5 Science-Backed Reasons to Combine Turmeric and Black Pepper

There are several good reasons why you would want to combine turmeric and black pepper together. We'll go over several different reasons, so you get a good understanding of why you want to combine these two things before you ingest them.

1. Piperine (In Black Pepper) Increases Curcumin (In Turmeric) Absorption by 2000%

Although the curcumin found in turmeric has several powerful health benefits, it isn't able to absorb into your bloodstream very well. Your body will start to phase it out of your system before you can get the full benefits of this supplement if you try to ingest it on its own. This is where black pepper comes in. Black pepper is easily absorbed by your body, and it creates a buffer that stops your body from breaking down the curcumin as quickly as it does. (25) It also helps your body absorb more of the curcumin and turmeric, and studies show that it can actually increase the absorption levels by 2,000%. (26) There are two main theories about how this works.

  1. Piperine has sedative and muscle relaxant properties, and this extends to your intestinal muscles. (27) As it causes your muscles to relax, they start to allow the larger curcumin molecules to pass through into your body. Once it gets past the intestinal wall, your body can take longer to absorb the nutrients.
  2. Your liver is the organ that works hard to rid your body of any toxins or leftover residue from the food you eat or the various processes that go on in your body. Unfortunately, it may start this process far too quickly with curcumin. Piperine slows this process down, and it gives your body more time to absorb the curcumin. (28)

2. This Combination Rivals Pharmaceutical Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Although both turmeric and black pepper have powerful properties on their own, combining them may actually enhance these properties, so they're on par with common anti-inflammatory drugs. This allows you to get all of the benefits of the drugs without having to worry about the side effects.

The piperine in black pepper can reduce the amount of pain and inflammation that comes with arthritis. However, the curcumin found in turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. (29) So, when you combine these two supplements, you could potentially get an arthritis treatment that is as effective as traditional over the counter medications.

3. This Combination Provides Another Option in the Battle Against Cancer

Combining turmeric and black pepper has several anti-cancer properties. Studies showed that this combination interrupted the self-renewal and growth process of breast cancer cells. (30) Additionally, curcumin and piperine work to kill cancer cells for various types of cancer including colorectal, breast, prostate, pancreatic and leukemia. (31)

Other studies showed that combining turmeric and black pepper extracts can help to protect your healthy tissue and cells from damage due to radiation and other cancer treatments. (32) In turn, this can reduce your healing time and complication risk.

4. The Combination Rivals Diabetic Pharmaceuticals

In 2009, Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications published a study that found that curcumin can be up to 400 times more potent than the leading diabetes drug metformin when it comes to activating the AMPK enzyme. (33) Other research showed that when you combine turmeric and black pepper extracts, they work in tandem as antiglycation agents. (34) This means that the combination of these two supplements can help you improve your overall glucose control.

5. Combining Turmeric and Black Pepper Promotes Liver Health

Your liver plays a vital role in your body. (35) It helps to filter out all of the toxins, and it stimulates your cells to produce more enzymes. Tumeric is an excellent supplement for liver detoxification. It increases the overall bile production and lowers cholesterol levels so your liver can work at a peak function. (36)

Piperine increases the absorption level of nutrients in your body, and this includes your liver. When you combine the two, it helps turmeric increase the absorption levels of glutathione while shielding the liver from toxin damage. (37) Glutathione adds another layer of protection because it protects your liver at a cellular level.

The Best Ratio of Turmeric to Black Pepper

Black pepper is what activates turmeric, but there is a lot of conflicting information available on what the best ratio of turmeric to black pepper is. It depends heavily on what your motivation is for taking the supplements in the first place. However, a good rule of thumb is generally 1/4 of a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper to 1 teaspoon of Tumeric powder. This works out to roughly 1:4 for a ratio. This ratio will vary depending on the freshness of your ingredients and what you want to use them for. However, the 1:4 ratio is a good starting point and baseline.

The Best Ratio of Curcumin to Piperine

This ratio is slightly more complex because only a certain percentage of turmeric and black pepper contains curcumin and piperine. To add to the complexity, the ratio differs from spice to spice and what benefits you're trying to get from it.

For example, the average curcumin content in turmeric ranges between 4% and 7%, and the piperine content in black pepper ranges between 2% and 7%. (38) (39) However, a good baseline ratio of curcumin to piperine is 100:1. This works out to around 1.5 teaspoons of black pepper powder to half of a cup of Tumeric. You may want to start smaller and work your way up to larger doses.

Final Thoughts on Turmeric and Black Pepper

By now, you should have a good understanding of turmeric and black pepper. Our overview of what they are and their important active ingredients along with our science-backed benefits should give you all of the knowledge you need to decide if these supplements are a good choice for your lifestyle.

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Editor's note: Originally published on September 15, 2018. Updated on May 13, 2022.

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