Turmeric is a hot topic in the wellness world currently. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, people are incorporating the spice into their lives in the form of golden lattes and face masks. You may see the substance “Curcumin” thrown into various articles related to turmeric, though.
So what is this? Are Turmeric and Curcumin the same?
In short— no. But you can’t have turmeric without curcumin. Curcumin is the substance found within turmeric that gives the spice, which comes from crushing the Tumeric plant’s root, it’s beneficial qualities (1). Curcumin accounts for around 2-6% of the turmeric root.
You may be thinking, “Great! I’ll take curcumin instead!”. I applaud you for trying to go straight to the source of the benefits— sadly, that method would be less effective. Curcumin has poor bioavailability, how well a substance absorbs into our bloodstream. This fact means that due to curcumin’s poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and quick digestion (1), our bodies eliminate it. By taking pure curcumin, you’re going to miss out on the effects you’re seeking!
Increasing the effects from Curcumin
Studies suggest that taking powdered turmeric isn’t having the effects on our bodies that we are hoping. The good news is that there is a common household spice that can help with that: black pepper. Black pepper contains a substance called piperine. Piperine aids the body in efficiently absorbing substances (2). Combining curcumin and black pepper allows both to enter into our digestive system and absorb into our bloodstream (3).
Don’t be discouraged, the natural oils in the turmeric root make curcumin a bit more bioavailable. Your turmeric regimen and golden lattes have not been futile. Black pepper makes curcumin that much more effective— and it doesn’t take much! Studies suggest that as little as 1/4th of a teaspoon will give you 2000% more bioavailability than using turmeric alone (4).
Ancient cultures like that of India have prepared their meals according to this knowledge for centuries. Curry powder is often found to have turmeric and black pepper. Could this be because they realized the effects of combining the two? It’s highly possible since using herbs for their health benefits has been a long-held tradition in many cultures.
What this all boils down to is, the next time you reach to make a morning anti-inflammatory turmeric latte, make sure to throw a dash of black pepper in there. You may even like the taste of the spice that the pepper gives it!