Boosting the Bioavailability of Curcumin

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’s
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. Amazing how they could figure that
out without double blind trials, though maybe it just tasted
good and was a coincidence? Their traditional knowledge certainly
failed them with ghee, though, which is practically pure butter fat, which may explain their relatively high rates
of heart disease despite all their turmeric.