Numerous studies have confirmed the amazing medical benefits of turmeric, so experts recommend its daily addition to our diet. Turmeric is a rhizome, a member of the Zingiberaceae family along with ginger, and has been commonly used in the traditional Chinese (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine.
Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), is the yellow pigment found in the spice turmeric, one of the three curcuminoids in it, the other two being desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin. Yet, scientists believe that there are more than a hundred chemical compounds in turmeric which are primarily located in its essential oil.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Researchers have found a number of different mechanisms of action for curcumin, and part of the answer as to why curcumin appears to be such potent medicine is because it can:
- Modulate about 700 of your genes
- Positively modulate more than 160 different physiological pathways3
- Make your cells’ membranes more orderly
- Affect signaling molecules.
For example, curcumin has been shown to directly interact with:
- Inflammatory molecules
- Cell survival proteins
- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV1) integrase and protease
- DNA and RNA
- Various carrier proteins and metal ions
As a result of these (and potentially other) effects, curcumin has the ability to benefit your health in a variety of ways, and prevent a number of different diseases. According to a study published in the Natural Product Report in 2011, curcumin can be therapeutic for:
- Lung and liver diseases
- Neurological diseases
- Metabolic diseases
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Inflammatory diseases”
He furthermore explains:
“ Studies that now number in the hundreds have shown that curcumin and other bioactive compounds in turmeric can:
- Support healthy cholesterol levels
- Prevent low-density lipoprotein oxidation
- Inhibit platelet aggregation
- Suppress thrombosis and myocardial infarction
- Suppress symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes
- Suppress symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Suppress symptoms of multiple sclerosis
- Protect against radiation-induced damage and heavy metal toxicity
- Inhibit HIV replication
- Reduce systemic inflammation in obese individuals10
- Enhance wound healing
- Protect against liver damage
- Increase bile secretion
- Protect against cataracts
- Protect against pulmonary toxicity and fibrosis”
Yet, despite its countless health benefits, the low bioavailability of curcumin is a great issue. Merck Manual explains:
“Bioavailability refers to the extent of and rate at which the active moiety (drug or metabolite) enters systemic circulation, thereby accessing the site of action.”
Studies have shown that when it is orally administered, the majority gets metabolized before it reaches the bloodstream. Also, its bioavailability and serum levels are mainly affected by the route and method of preparation, but it can be improved by adding specific adjuvants.
The low serum concentrations of curcumin have been found in numerous studies, such as:
— A 1978 rat study by Wahlstrom and Blennow found oral curcumin was poorly absorbed in the gut, and 75% of the orally administered curcumin was excreted via the feces.
— A 1980 study by Ravindranath et al. found when rats were orally administered 400 mg of curcumin, no trace of curcumin was found in the heart blood.
— Yang et al conducted another study which showed that the oral administration of 10 mg/kg of curcumin led to only 0.36 µg/ml of curcumin in the blood serum.
— Sharma et al. conducted a study on people with colorectal cancer, and after they received Curcuma extract which contained 36–180 mg curcumin orally, there were no traces of curcumin nor its metabolites in the plasma, blood, and urine.
When it comes to the distribution of curcumin in the tissues, Ravindranath et al found that the oral administration of 400 mg of curcumin to rats led to only traces of the unchanged molecule in the liver and kidney.
Metabolites are the intermediate and final products of the process of metabolism. Primary metabolites are essential for the normal growth and maintenance of life, while secondary metabolites indirectly support primary metabolite activity and serve other important ecological functions.
After oral consumption, studies have shown that the curcumin metabolites are detected in plasma and serum, and are less active and potent than curcumin itself.
Moreover, studies have confirmed the rapid systemic excretion of curcumin from the body and its short half-time. Half-life is the time needed for a drug or other ingested substance to lose half its strength.
This is the reason why some medications need to be taken several times daily, while others have longer half-lives maintain effective blood serum levels for much longer periods of time and can be taken less frequently.
Yet, there are highly effective ways to boost the bioavailability of this natural miracle:
1. Black Pepper
Black pepper has potent medicinal properties and is a powerful turmeric adjuvant. Black pepper lowers the risk of cancer, heart disease, liver disorders, treats Vitiligo, treats cognitive malfunction and memory loss, cures asthma, nasal congestion, and sinusitis, and helps in the case of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
According to Michael Greger, M.D. (Michael Greger, M.D., a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues:
“Piperine is a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism. One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is making them water-soluble so they can be more easily excreted. But this black pepper molecule inhibits that process.”
When it comes to the amounts of black pepper needed Dr.Michael Greger, MD, says:
“If people are given a bunch of turmeric curcumin, within an hour there’s a little bump in the level in their bloodstream. We don’t see a large increase because our liver is actively trying to get rid of it. But what if the process is suppressed by taking just a quarter teaspoon’s worth of black pepper?
Then you see curcumin levels skyrocket. The 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 beside turmeric? Black pepper.”
The bioavailability of turmeric is boosted by piperine, the active ingredient of turmeric.
“The sharp aroma of black pepper is due to its essential oil content. Black pepper contains approximately 1.2 to 3.5% essential oil. Its key chemical constituents include d-limonene (up to 20%), a-pinene, b-pinene, sabinene, b-caryophyllene, and δ-3-carene. It is an essential oil rich in monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes (e.g. b-caryophyllene).
As a herb: Black pepper contains 5-10% pungent acid-amides (pseudoalkaloids), with piperine as its main compound and several others including piperyline, piperoleines, and piperamine. Pharmacological studies show that piperine is analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and exhibits a depressant effect on the central nervous system.”
Studies have found that when piperine was co-administered with curcumin and given to human subjects, the bioavailability of curcumin increased by 2000%.
2. A Healthy Fat
Turmeric is fat-soluble, so when combines with fat, the body can absorb it better. Dr. Mercola explains:
“When it doesn’t dissolve properly, curcumin has a tough time getting into the gut, which is where most of the immune system lives. “80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health.”
Dr. Greiger adds:
“Another way to boost the absorption of curcumin is to consume it in the whole food, turmeric root (fresh or dried as a powder) because natural oils found in turmeric root and turmeric powder can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin seven to eightfold. When eaten with fat, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby in part bypassing the liver.”
Dr. Saraswati Sukumar explains that the bioavailability of turmeric can be boosted by heat as well:
“The potent ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which, despite its power, is not easily absorbed by the body without assistance. This is where the sauté pan and a little warm oil come into play.
I use it [turmeric] in every sauté, just a quarter teaspoon, a half teaspoon is enough. But you don’t have to use it sparingly – use it lavishly. The problem with the pill is that it is very insoluble in water. T
he better way to take it, I feel, is to use it in your cooking very extensively. If you have any sauté, just sprinkle it in. The moment you heat oil and add turmeric to it, it now becomes completely bio-available to you.”
Now that you know how to get the most out of the powerful turmeric, make sure you increase its intake and try some delicious and healthy turmeric recipes, such as golden milk and golden paste.
Here are some effective ways to boost your turmeric intake by Nutritious Life:
“1. Add it to a salad or salad dressing
To make a Green Salad with Shiitake Bacon, you toss chickpeas in turmeric with paprika and olive oil and crisp them up. But you can also just sprinkle it on most salads or whisk it into any basic salad dressing.
2. Make curry
You’ve seen the color of curry, right? Make a Chickpea and Cauliflower version, filled with vegetables, plant protein, and other antioxidant-rich spices.
3. Make a latte
Skip your afternoon coffee (just this once!) and make a delicious Turmeric Latte, with almond milk, coconut oil, and cinnamon.
4. Sprinkle it on vegetables before roasting
An easy way to enjoy root vegetables? Sprinkle favorites like sweet potatoes and squash with turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne (and any other warming spices) and toss them in coconut oil before roasting them.”