Turmeric and curcumin have limited bioavailability. A simple solution to this that you can follow at home is to add black pepper to turmeric. It helps in increasing the absorption.
Readers frequently ask us whether it is OK to use cayenne pepper instead of black pepper to increase the absorption of turmeric. Let’s find out what research has to say.
Is it possible to increase turmeric’s absorption with cayenne pepper?
Based on the research available to date, the answer is No; you cannot increase the absorption of turmeric/curcumin with cayenne pepper. The reason for this is that cayenne pepper contains capsaicin while black pepper contains piperine. Capsaicin is not effective in increasing the bioavailability of curcumin when compared with piperine.
To increase the absorption of turmeric, we need piperine, not capsaicin. Piperine present in black pepper is highly effective in increasing turmeric’s absorption and hence can’t be replaced by cayenne pepper.
You cannot replace black pepper with cayenne pepper when taking turmeric. However, you still add cayenne pepper for additional benefits.
Here is an insight on the science behind turmeric’s absorption and why cayenne pepper may not be effective in increasing curcumin’s bioavailability.
1. Piperine in black pepper is essential for increasing turmeric’s absorption
Clinical studies suggest that most of the turmeric’s benefits can’t be obtained easily due to poor absorption and bioavailability of curcumin. Curcumin is one of the turmeric’s active components.
It is poorly soluble in water, and that limits its absorption in the body. Many strategies are being developed by scientists to increase the bioavailability of curcumin. (Read How to improve turmeric’s bioavailability?)
Black Pepper has been used by Ayurveda as a bioenhancer. Piperine in black pepper interferes in the activity of drug metabolizing enzymes and thus increases the absorption of drugs or other components taken with it.
Research suggests that piperine may increase curcumin’s bioavailability by 2000%.
2. Black pepper bioactives are better than that of cayenne pepper to boost curcumin’s absorption
Researchers from Central Food Technological Research Institute, India compared the bioavailability of curcumin, capsaicin, and piperine as well as their effect on drug metabolizing enzymes.
Piperine was found to be the most effective compound in increasing absorption of therapeutic components. Combination of curcumin and capsaicin did not have a significant effect on drug metabolism.
Further in 2010, a study by the same group also had similar conclusions: bioavailability of curcumin can be improved by piperine.
Interestingly a recently published study found that capsaicin is the strongest inhibitor of certain drug metabolizing enzymes group (cytochrome P450) when compared to curcumin and piperine.
However, it is important to note that this study was conducted on human enzymes while the earlier mentioned studies were conducted in animal models. It is quite likely that its metabolism and distribution can influence capsaicin’s action on drug metabolism.
Also, cayenne pepper’s pungency can inhibit its use as a natural bioenhancer.
Therefore one cannot use cayenne pepper instead of black pepper to increase turmeric’s absorption.
How to take turmeric for daily health benefits?
Including turmeric in the diet is the best way to take the herb. Please check our list of recommended organic turmeric brands. The Golden paste is an effective way to take turmeric as it contains healthy fats and black pepper to enhance absorption. You can Golden Paste from fresh turmeric roots as well.
Start with small doses such as 1/4-1/2 tsp and if you see no side effects then increase the dose gradually to 1 tsp 2-3 times a day over a few weeks.
It is best taken with food to avoid acid reflux. Avoid taking it at the same time when you take meds.
If opting for supplements, please consult a health practitioner prior. Read 8 Popular Turmeric Supplements Available In Market Today
A few precautions to be noted when taking turmeric:
• Opt for organic turmeric powder.
• Avoid taking turmeric supplements if experiencing bleeding disorders or taking antiplatelet medications. (Read Curcumin: Side effects & Precautions)
• Discontinue turmeric supplements two weeks before surgery.
• Limit or avoid turmeric powder if you have kidney stones or gout. Opt for supplements if needed. (Read Side Effects of Turmeric)
• Limit turmeric intake in case of gallbladder stones.
• Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach. (Read Precautions with Turmeric Use)
• Start with small doses of turmeric and increase gradually to minimise gastric side effects.
• Avoid turmeric supplements in pregnancy and lactation.
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin and capsaicin are not found to increase curcumin’s bioavailability.
Piperine present in black pepper is proven to increase curcumin’s bioavailability. Thus you should take black pepper, NOT cayenne pepper, to increase turmeric’s absorption.
However, you can still add cayenne pepper to turmeric-black pepper combination for additional health benefits.