HERBS AND SPICES FOR HEALTHY EATING - Turmeric and Black Pepper
Curcumin is one of our most popular supplements for pain and inflammation. What is it and how does it work?
Turmeric is a spice from the root stalk of a tropical plant in the ginger family. It’s golden in color and is commonly used in curries. It has been used in India for thousands of years as both a spice and a medicinal herb. By the way, the difference between an herb and a spice is this: the leaf part of the plants are generally herbs and the other parts, such as buds, bark, berries, seeds and roots, are generally dried and are the spices. Curcumin is the active component of turmeric and is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
Scientists have studied turmeric extensively and the results back what the culinary and medicinal culture in India already knew.
One caveat… Most studies are with large doses of curcumin only, so to enjoy the health benefits based on that scientific research, capsules would be necessary.
How does it work? As with any nutrients from food, you need to be able to digest and absorb it. Curcumin is not easily absorbed and needs a catalyst. With cooking, combining turmeric with black pepper makes it more bioavailable Why black pepper? Black pepper is about 5% piperine, the active component that helps the absorbability of curcumin, the active component of turmeric (which is also about 5%). Piperine provides pungent flavor. It also inhibits the drug metabolism process of water soluble substances so that they are more slowly excreted. This means that in the case of turmeric, a tiny amount of black pepper (1/4 tsp) added to a high dose of curcumin boosts its bioavailability by as much as 2000%! Even a pinch is enough to boost levels.
The piperine in black pepper not only enhances curcumin’s effectiveness, it has its own anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and disease fighting qualities. In addition, it triggers your stomach to increase the secretion of hydrochloric acid to help with protein digestion – no wonder a steak is so good with pepper!
Research is also showing promising results for metabolism boosting, nervous system benefits, and increasing the bioavailability of other beneficial compounds in your food. It is known to help prevent gas.
Another way to boost curcumin’s absorbability is to use the whole food turmeric root (fresh or dried as a powder) because the natural oils in the root and powder can enhance the bioavailabilty by seven to eight-fold. The blend referred to in the previous blog, therefore, has great absorbability since it’s made with the whole root AND includes black pepper. Many supplement brands also include piperine. The AOR brand we carry at Ford’s has a proprietary formula that’s even more bio available. Also, curcumin is fat soluble, so it’s best to take the capsule with a meal that includes a healthy fat or use the spice on dishes that include fats, such as olive or avocado oil. In fact, when eaten with fat, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream, partly bypassing the liver.
What does it do?
Curcumin can be anti-inflammatory. How? It fights inflammation at the molecular level by blocking a molecule that enters the nuclei of your cells to turn on an inflammation gene. This is important because although short-term inflammation is beneficial, such as when an injury is healing, scientists now know that low grade, long term inflammation can lead to many chronic diseases.
Curcumin can be an anti-oxidant. How? It has been found to neutralize free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons cause by oxidative stress.
Curcumin also boosts the body’s own resources for anti-oxidant activity – enzymes our immune systems produce. Therefore, Curcumin packs double anti-oxidant activity, making it a very powerful anti-oxidant. This is important because oxidative damage plays a part in aging and many diseases.
There are studies, as well, showing Curcumin to have benefits in brain function, heart disease, arthritis, and perhaps even cancer-fighting.
Since inflammation and oxidative stress play a part in just about all chronic diseases, as well as aging, it’s important to add anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant substances wherever you can, both in your diet and in supplement form. While the supplement will give more immediate and long term relief for specific issues, using turmeric as a spice or tea is part of an overall anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant diet. There are teas made with it (try a Turmeric latte from a local company – Bue-Tea-Ful – which can be found at the Moncton market and many retailers around the area- https://www.bueteaful.com/golden-milk-turmeric-latte.html). The spice blend we carry can be mixed with water for a cool drink or put into hot water for a tea- or broth-like drink. In cooking, add it to curries, soups, pilafs, rice dishes, vegetables, chicken, lentil dishes and more. Use Curcumin in the blend for the best effectiveness - In India, turmeric is generally prepared with black pepper and fat!
References regarding black peppercorns and Turmeric
A note about AOR Curcumin at Ford’s –
In supplement form, there must be something to make the curcumin bioavailable, but it may not always be black pepper. From AOR’s website regarding Curcumin Ultra, our most widely recommended and used Curcumin supplement:
Curcumin, the active compound from turmeric root, is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. It is unfortunately also known for its poor absorption. Curcumin Ultra utilizes the newest innovations in curcumin research, combining a proprietary form of curcumin called CurQfen® with a blend of beneficial water-soluble polysaccharides from raw turmeric extract known as Turmacin®. The result is a curcumin product with the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability on the market. Curcumin Ultra is both fast-acting and long-lasting, for rapid relief of pain and inflammation that lasts for up to 24 hours.
Anyone suffering from joint pain or arthritis, back pain, or any type of acute or chronic pain and inflammation will benefit greatly from this product. Curcumin Ultra is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and can therefore also be used by those who simply want to support their overall health and prevent disease.