Health Benefits of Black Pepper and Turmeric

Filed by author in Turmeric Benefits 37 Comments

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you would already know that turmeric or curcuma longa has been used as a spice for centuries in Asian cuisine and is widely cultivated in India. Curcumin and other curcuminoids (key which are chemical compounds in turmeric) offer numerous health benefits since they are powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial agents. It is a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric supplements are available as capsules, tincture or liquid extracts.  Before I discuss how turmeric and black pepper combo is awesome, let me talk a bit about black pepper too.

About Black Pepper

Peppercorns which are got from the piper nigrum evergreen vine give us black, green and white peppercorns. To make black pepper, the peppercorns must be plucked just before ripening, left to ferment and then dried until they shrivel and turn black. Most of the world’s supply of black pepper comes from India. Apart from being used to season food, black pepper is also used for medicinal purposes. 

Health Benefits Of Black Pepper And Turmeric

Health benefits of any food or herb is based on its key active ingredients. Piperine is the key chemical in black pepper. It is similar to capsaicin a chemical in chili and offers many health benefits. Curcumin which is a polyphenol plays the same role in turmeric. Both these compounds have been studied to examine the potential health benefits they can offer individually or together.   Here are some of their benefits:

Black pepper enhances bioavailability of Turmeric: One important question which must be popping in your mind right now would be why among so many spices are we talking about black pepper? The answer is really interesting too. One problem with curcumin is its low levels of bioavailability. Most of the curcumin that is ingested gets metabolized before it can get absorbed. Piperine is said to help make curcumin more bioavailable. This could be because it could inhibit certain intestinal digestive enzymes. This increases the amount of any drug or supplement that can be absorbed by the body. They also do not get degraded quickly. Hence, there are studies to test if co-administering curcumin with piperine could improve the bioavailability of the former. These studies have been conducted on humans and laboratory animals. One study found that when even 2g of curcumin was ingested, its serum levels were very low. However, when 20mg piperine was added to curcumin the bioavailability increased by 2000%. The bioavailability, serum levels and levels of absorption of curcumin all improved dramatically.  Thus, if one tales turmeric, most of it is unutilized unless supplemented by addons such as black pepper.

Help in reducing pain: Piperine in black pepper can trigger TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1) in the body. This triggering can reduce pain. Piperine is also used as an analgesic cream that can be applied topically on the skin to relieve pain. Some studies have focused on using piperine as a new way to kill chronic pain – especially neuropathic pain which is untreatable. black pepper and turmeric

Anti-inflammatory: Curcumin has been studied for its anti-inflammatory capabilities especially in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory conditions. Laboratory studies were conducted on the way curcumin can be used as an anti-arthritic agent. An animal model of rheumatoid arthritis was used and 3 curcuminoids were studied. The curcuminoids were administered before and not after inflammation set in. It was found that oil-depleted turmeric fraction was not as effective as a commercial composition that contained 94% combination of the 3 curcuminoids in combating inflammatory conditions. 
Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually used to treat all inflammatory conditions.

However, long term use can cause serious side effects. Hence, safer alternatives like curcumin are being studied for their potential anti-inflammatory benefits that can be used long term without any side effects. Curcumin is able to inhibit the activity of cytokines and enzymes such as COX-1 and COX-2. It has been recommended as a treatment for chronic neurodegenerative diseases in combination with lower doses of NSAIDs.

Cancer benefits: Dietary polyphenols like piperine and curcumin have been studied for their effect on prevention of breast cancer. Mammosphere formation, which is a marker of breast stem cells were studied. Early progenitor cells, normal stem cells and healthy breast epithelial cells were examined after control, piperine and curcumin treatment was administered. Turmeric and black pepper compounds both inhibited mammosphere formation. They also did not cause any toxicity, therefore showing that they could be possible cancer preventive agents.

Current breast cancer treatments are often ineffective and very often even after chemotherapy and other treatment, the cancer cells reappear. According to new studies, this could be because cancer stem cells still remain and could cause tumors to recur after a period. Hence, new research is trying to find possible ways to target stem cells. Studies have found that turmeric and black pepper combined could target breast stem cells. In a University of Michigan study, cancer cells were injected with a potent solution of piperine and curcumin that was at least 20 times stronger that what is normally consumed through food.

Breast stem cell markers were studied. The self-renewal process of breast stem cells that is the hallmark of initiating cancer was interrupted. This is considered a significant development. Further both compounds did not affect normal breast tissue. Sometimes women who are susceptible to breast cancer maybe advised to take medications like tamoxifen. However, these can be toxic. Natural compounds, which offer similar benefits and are non-toxic, could be a safe alternative therapy. Another benefit is that piperine and curcumin target self-renewal of all stem cells and not just those that are estrogen sensitive like tamoxifen. This theory offers hope to all women who develop breast cancer not just the estrogen driven kind.

Controlling Obesity: Turmeric and black pepper could be combined to fight high cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes. Diet induced bodily changes to blood glucose, body weight, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and triglyceride could be affected by CPQ. CPQ is an acronym for the combination of curcumin, piperine and quercetin (got from onion skin). Presence of flavonoids in CPQ is possibly responsible for many of the reactions like decrease in glucose transport. These studies were conducted on laboratory rats.

Other benefits:

When combined together, turmeric and black pepper could help relieve gastric mucosal damage caused by peptic ulcers. This is due to the capacity of curcumin to prevent growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria which causes peptic ulcers and the protective capability of piperine. Both also have antioxidant benefits. Hence, they can benefit in improving memory loss and protect people from cognitive impairment from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.  Curcumin has anti-amyloid ability that can reduce amyloid pathway in Alzheimer’s. Both low and high doses of curcumin fed to laboratory mice seemed to reduce age-related memory loss. 

Dosage

The dosage of turmeric varies depending on the medical condition. As with most herbal supplemensts turmeric has no specific dosage guidelines. The usually dosage is 400-600mg thrice daily of standardized curcumin powder.  For dyspepsia it is 500mg four times a day and for osteoarthritis it is 500mg twice daily. As I keep saying again and again, I am not in favor of turmeric supplements and support using turmeric in your diet. Use supplements only in cases when you cannot do so.

Black pepper too can be easily added in your diet in curries, salads and dressing.

Precautions

Black pepper must not be consumed in excess of 1 tsp a day when certain medications like digoxin or phenytoin are being taken. The rate at which these medications are cleared by the liver could slow down when black pepper is consumed in excess.   Turmeric supplements must not be consumed in excess and for long periods. This could cause indigestion, dizziness, nausea or diarrhea. Those who are pregnant and breastfeeding are advised to avoid all types of herbal supplements. Diabetic patients, those due for surgery and those with gallbladder problems must also stop using turmeric supplements.

While both turmeric and black pepper are considered very safe and have been used since thousands of years, if you suffer from some specific medical problems and are not sure about using them, please consult your doctor.  

Tags: , ,

  • NoLiesPlease

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom regarding turmeric and black pepper. I have experienced great benefit from both!

    • KeshavK

      You are welcome!

  • Kate Smith

    Can you advise me on how much pepper I should use to make the tumeric more bioavailable? I’ve been taking capsules for a year to help with RA and it has allowed me to give up prescription meds and OTC NSAIDs as well. I just need a little more effectiveness. Thanks for any advice you can give.

    • KeshavK

      Kate, unfortunately there is no prescribed quantity. But one great way is to start using black pepper in your diet as a spice. That should really help and also ensure there is no side effect. Hope this helps.

  • Kelly

    great article!

  • Robbie Robbins

    Could I just take two or three peppercorns with my turmeric pill, or does the pepper need to be crushed?

    • KeshavK

      Robbie, you do not even need to take it with the milk at all. Just include black pepper in your regular diet (lunch / dinner / salads etc.) and that should do the trick. Also, it is also better to include turmeric as spice and not take as supplement. As long term overdose of supplements may case side effects. You can include turmeric in almost any dish you are already preparing, try it, its wonderful!

  • karel

    can you tell me if itching from curcumin might be transient as im taking it for post herpetic neuralgia.

    • KeshavK

      Hi Karel, I am sorry but I do not have much info on this. I would suggest if you can consult a doc. as this may be from various possible reasons.

      Sorry, was not of much help here.

  • Jurien Dekter

    Will chilli sauce instead of black pepper have the same benefit? Such as Tabasco.

    • KeshavK

      If it has Piperine then it would. But I am not sure if a chili sauce would have it.

  • Bob Gander

    I personally don’t care for the taste of turmeric, but I eat it daily as a medicine. Here’s what I do. I buy the ground spices turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and mustard powder, and also natural cocoa powder at the grocery store. I also get whole natural flax seeds at the grocery store (found in the area where they sell flour) and I grind up 2 tablespoons of them daily in a coffee grinder. I take 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds, 2 tablespoons of turmeric, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 1 tablespoon of black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder, and then I put them in a bowl and add just enough water to mix them into a thick paste. I then swallow spoonfuls of the paste, chasing it with a big glass of water until the paste has all been eaten up. I’ve been doing this for years. My joints no longer hurt. I am no longer constipated. I also eat raw apricot seeds. I grind up 2 or 3 of them in a coffee grinder and add enough water to make them into a paste, and then just swallow spoonfuls of them, chased down by water. And good old baking soda. I try to drink about 1/2 teaspoon in a glass of water every other day. The key to fighting cancer is prevention. Try to prevent it if you can.

    • KeshavK

      great! Thanks for sharing ..

    • fostr313

      Your turmeric mixture sounds quite interesting, and I will have to check it out. When you say you eat apricot seeds, do you mean the apricot kernels? I know there is a Chinese herbal mixture that uses very small amounts of apricot kernel that is beneficial, however, the general wisdom is that apricot kernel is unsafe to take by mouth or as an injection. It contains a toxic chemical known as amygdalin. In the body this chemical is converted to cyanide which can cause serious side effects, including death. I would suggest caution with apricot.

      • Joseph

        you can’t eat enough amygdalin to cause bad side effects unless you are shoveling it in your mouth in huge doses.

  • xx2u

    Why does nobody mention FRESH turmeric? Its the natural choice. It looks like a darker version of ginger. Non-organic it should be $5-10/lb and organic quite a bit more but who cares? You eat so little. Always try fresh first. I wonder if anyone grows turmeric? It takes a long time to get something edible. About 10 months apparently.

    • Ankur Sethi

      The raw stuff is really amazing, powder just doesn’t compare.

      • Rohnda Garrett

        Can’t find the fresh were i live so I use powder Turmeric

    • Steve Chiverton

      Ginseng takes around a decade to fully grow and ripen and so is a non-bit of a non-starter. Others however are extremely good growers (some need greenhousing for a while to get them going if you live in a colder climate but they are all perfectly feasible.) As with most vegetation it’s getting the first crop that’as the tricky one.

    • Barbara Lowell

      I have been growing turmeric for several years now and add about 1″ of a rhizome into my green juice. It is an odd rooty taste not as appealing with ginger, but with either apple and/or pineapple, ginger and lemon juiced in, it is quite delightful, esp if you have a green star juicer, it makes juice as smooth as wine. I use fresh ground pepper a lot … that being said I still notice recently some of my finger joints are hurting when I wake up.

      • xx2u

        I doubt if anything will give you relief if the instigator of your joint problems isn’t drastically reduced or eliminated. Focus on protein (the lower the better usually) and sugar, even fructose from fruits. Obviously cooked oils are out. Try mono or instinctive eating. Then by eating one food per meal you’re better able to judge reactions of your body to it. Joint problems can occur quickly but often take days to subside so we need to be patient.

  • Tonga

    HI, I was taking 10 mg per day of piperine for the last week, but now I need to be sedated in 5 days for an endoscopy/colonscopy. How long before a procedure should I stop using piperine? I’m concerned obviously because piperine inhibits the major drug-metabolizing enzyme CYP3A4. I was hoping if that it wouldn’t affect the sedation potency. I wonder if a full 5 days off piperine (piperine free) before the endoscopy and colonoscopy is enough and will CYP3A4 will be uninhibited by then?

    Any opinions or links to resources would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • KeshavK

      Hi, my advice will be to discuss it with your doctor. I would adhere to what he says at this point of time.

      Hope you get well soon!

      • Tonga

        Hi and thanks for the prompt reply.

        I will certainly discuss this with my doc.

        Although I would still like to know what the inhibition time frame is of piperine. Does piperine destroy the enzyme cyp3a4? or does it simply inhibit it allowing the enzyme to reactivate after 24 hours etc.

        I wonder if there is any literature on this.

        Regards,

      • Tonga

        I spoke to the clinic nurse and she a said 5 days is enough to allow the enzymes to try return back to normal. The company who made the piperine tabs said it should be out of my system in 2 days

        • KeshavK

          Great!

  • evalague

    At certain levels Tumeric is a hepatoxin, isn’t adding pepper like taking 2000X the dose? Isn’t that borderline dangerous?

    • KeshavK

      Hi, that’s why taking turmeric as a spice is much safer than taking them as supplements. In supplements one tends to take large dosages which may harm. As a spice the quantity is too small to cause harm and thus just benefits.

  • stewart

    Does eating cayenne pepper work with Turmeric in the same manner by any chance?

    • KeshavK

      Hi,

      I dont think so as what makes black pepper good is substance called piperine which is not in cayenne pepper.

  • Jan

    I’ve been putting ground black peppercorns on my dinner the last week but I’ve got reallyt sore eyes, puffy bloated face – does this mean I’m allergic to it – had it a few months ago and was fine and this is the only change to my diet. Wouldn’t care it does help to flatten the tummy. Would turmeric on its own flatten the tum help with weight loss or will I get a similar reaction to it. Have to stop black pepper till my face goes back to normal – would blackpepper do this? If so – anything I can do to stop this happening. So annoyed because it obviously spices up a very bland diet.

    • KeshavK

      Hi, sorry to know that you are facing issues. As such it is difficult to say what caused the reaction, maybe a doctor will be your best bet to know that. Regarding turmeric – it is considered to be absolutely safe, but everyone’s body is different. So I will suggest you try it in small quantities for a few days and see if there is anything unusual. You can include coconut or olive oil – fat also helps in absorption of turmeric. Yes, do not exceed the daily safe limit! Hope this helps.

  • Tony Samson

    My wife and I take our “power punch” drink in the morning. The mix I have created, which tastes very nice too, is 10 tablespoons of Turmeric. 1 of Ginger powder. 1 of Black Pepper and 1 of Cinnamon, All shook up to mix well. Take approx half teaspoon of this mix in a glass of almond milk.
    Place the mix in the glass, add a little milk to make a paste, continue to add milk and stir well, and then “down the hatch”. All the herbs are synergistic together, and what we have discovered, is that the addition of ginger powder, makes the drink very creamy, and overall, you can’t taste the black pepper, and the ginger and cinnamon takes away the bitter’ish taste of the turmeric. Enjoy your health. Best wishes. Tony

    • KeshavK

      This is awesome, can i include this on my recipe page!

  • KeshavK

    Great!

  • Tiger Moth

    Hi just happened across this website, this is all very interesting I’ve started trying to have ground turmeric daily and only just learned about the black pepper combination. I also read that you have to be careful if taking turmeric on an empty stomach as it thins the blood and so could lead to becoming light headed? I now have after breakfast a hot drink of fresh squeezed lemon, honey, some boiled ginger (if I have it) with ground turmeric (1/2 tea spoon), cloves (also good I gather) and now a couple of peppercorns (guessing on the amount) and it’s lovely (but sometimes I add the turmeric at end and down it!). I’m just wondering if once a day of 1/2 a tea spoon is enough for benefits?? I don’t have any specific conditions but assume it would be good for the tummy/intestines and I do get melasma on my forehead in the sun, which I read turmeric is good for(?) So would it be good to increase from 1/2 a tea spoon for prevention benefits? Any thoughts appreciated.. and does it make a difference whether organic or specially ground turmeric or is all ground turmeric basically the same? Thanks.

  • Tiger Moth

    Sounds great could you share your recipe?