Boosting the absorption of curcumin
Historians from 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
had 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,
which we originally discovered through the study of traditional cures and folk knowledge of indigenous people.
There's a plant in South Asia called adhatoda. Adu means "goat"
and thoda means "not touch" because it's so bitter even the goats won't eat it.
But 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.
That sounds kind of gross to me. I mean, why would they do that?
Because they're smart.
Back in 1928, scientists discovered what the people evidently already knew,
which was 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 an active compound called curcumin,
about 5% of black pepper by weight is this compound called piperine.
Curcumin is responsible for the yellow color of turmeric,
and piperine for the pungent flavor of pepper,
and it's a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism.
One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances
is by 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 you give people a bunch of turmeric curcumin,
within an hour you can see a little bump in the level in their blood stream.
The reason we don't see more is that our liver is actively trying to get rid of it.
But what if you suppress that process
by taking just a quarter teaspoon worth of black pepper?
Then you see curcumin levels like this in the bloodstream.
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 as the whole food, turmeric root,
fresh, or dried and powdered as turmeric,
because natural oils found in turmeric root and turmeric powder can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin 7 to 8 fold.
When eaten with fat, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby in part kind of bypassing the liver.
And how is it prepared in India? With fat and black pepper.