Black pepper and turmeric individually boast impressive health benefits. But it’s when these two everyday spices are mixed together that the magic really happens.
Here we examine the health benefits of black pepper and turmeric, as well as recommended daily amounts and potential side effects. We also consider whether there are alternatives for these two kitchen spices for those who aren’t fond of their flavours. We even look at ways to incorporate them into your beauty regimes.
- Black pepper benefits
- Turmeric benefits
- How curcumin works
- Turmeric and black pepper benefits
- Turmeric without black pepper
- Time scale
- Side effects
Black pepper is well known and widely used in food preparation for its powerful, spicy kick. But did you know that it contains something called piperine? This bioactive compound is so powerful it can help your body increase nutrient absorption, control blood sugar and support heart health?1 Studies on black pepper (piper nigrum) have shown that it may also have gastrointestinal benefits.2
Turmeric is an ancient spice that’s been used for thousands of years. First used in Aruveda (traditional Indian medicine), turmeric has numerous health benefits. Its most notable role is probably as an agent for joint health.3 But there’s also suggestion it may reduce cholesterol and support good digestive health.1
As the main active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin can benefit your body in a number of ways.
Curcumin has helped people with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (enlarged prostate) by improving their urine stream and giving them a better quality of life.4 While further research found that this compound can hinder the development of BPH and reduce the effect of certain compounds that lead to prostate enlargement.5,6
Handpicked content: Can this spice support your prostate health?
There’s also been some evidence to suggest that curcumin could work to improve mood, boosting the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.7,8,9
- Black pepper contains piperine, a powerful compound with many wellness benefits
- Turmeric has been used as a healing remedy in ancient medicine for thousands of years
- Between the two ingredients, they offer a broad range of assistance to wellness, from supporting joint and heart health to various psychological health benefits
The key active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Whilst curcumin boasts an undeniably impressive array of health benefits, it’s not all good news. Curcumin has poor bioavailability. This means it isn’t readily absorbed by the body and needs a helping hand to work its magic.
That’s where black pepper comes in.
Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which inhibits the production of glucuronidation. In turn, this breaks down curcumin, allowing your body to take the highly beneficial nutrients from it.10 When curcumin and black pepper are combined, the piperine in black pepper helps increase curcumin’s bioavailability by an incredible 2000%.11
It’s the impressive impact of this combination that’s led people to find ways to incorporate the ultimate spice rack duo into their everyday routine. This has led to the rise of turmeric and black pepper recipes, drinks recipes, turmeric and black pepper capsules and even beauty regimes.
- Curcumin has poor bioavailability and needs an agent to help absorption
- Piperine in black pepper can help increase bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%
- Turmeric and black pepper benefits are optimised when the spices are combined
Turmeric needs a helping hand to enable it to be absorbed by the body and to unleash its full wellness potential. Whilst piperine in black pepper is turmeric’s most common bioavailabilty enhancer, alternative methods include combining turmeric with a source of fat. The fat helps improve the solubility of the curcumin in the spice, helping absorption.
Taking turmeric with full fat dairy, almond or coconut milk, nuts, avocado and fish could help increase the rate of absorption into the blood stream.12 Or you could simply add a splash of oil to turmeric dishes to help absorption.13
Not everyone enjoys the rich spicy heat of black pepper or turmeric. So, if you prefer your cuisine a little more subtle, fear not. Turmeric and black pepper tablets, capsules and liquid supplements are available to help you enjoy the health benefits without the heat of the raw spices.
The additional benefit of taking turmeric with black pepper supplements, in particular high strength turmeric with black pepper, is knowing that you’ll be taking a measured, concentrated dose. This could help provide more effective and reliable results.
- Turmeric and curcumin have poor bioavailability when taken alone
- A bioavailability enhancer is needed to help release the full wellness potential of turmeric
- Black pepper is the most commonly used bioavailability enhancer but cooking with fats can also have a similar effect
- Alternatively, you can take turmeric and black pepper supplements
Rather than an instantaneous quick fix, you should start to notice the benefits of turmeric and black pepper over a period of weeks and months. But the exact timing will depend on your body mass and the specific changes you’re hoping to see.
Importantly, before taking turmeric and black pepper capsules to help with a specific condition, you should always consult a medical practitioner.
Taken in moderation, turmeric and black pepper rarely cause harmful side effects in healthy people.
But don’t be tempted to adopt a turmeric with black pepper for breakfast-lunch-and-dinner diet – no matter how appealing the potential health benefits appear.
Despite the good safety record of curcumin, when taken in higher doses (500-12,000 mg), there are reports of mild side-effects. For example, nausea, headache, rash and yellow stool.14
Side effects from piperine in black pepper are rare, but studies on rats suggest that it could slow blood clotting.11 As a result, it should be avoided by those with blood disorders or anyone about to undergo surgery.
If in doubt, it’s always best to seek advice from a medical practitioner before starting any herbal remedy. This is particularly relevant for pregnant women or people with underlying health conditions.
Curcumin in turmeric has a good safety record, with trials on healthy subjects supporting its safety and efficacy. The JECFA (The Joint United Nations and World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives) and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) suggest it’s safe to take up to 3 mg/kg body weight as the Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) of curcumin.11
Children under 12 and pregnant women should not take turmeric, as safety for these groups isn’t proven.
People with bleeding disorders or about to undergo surgery should avoid black pepper.
- There are few side effects of taking turmeric and/or black pepper for healthy people
- However, certain groups should limit intake or avoid higher doses of turmeric and black pepper
- If in doubt, seek medical advice
Three easy ways to use turmeric and black pepper at home
The easiest way to increase your intake of black pepper and turmeric is to make a habit of including them in your routines. Here are three ideas to give you some inspiration of how you could do this.
Turmeric and black pepper food recipes
If you’re a fan of a spicy curry, you’re in luck as many curry recipes use a combination of black pepper and turmeric to give curry a lovely rich depth of flavour.
Turmeric and black pepper also works well added to scrambled eggs for a protein-rich breakfast. You can also try it sprinkled on roasted vegetables, especially roast potatoes, as well as added to soups and as flavouring in rice dishes.
Why not try this carrot, ginger and turmeric soup recipe? Remember to add a sprinkle of black pepper to help release the full potential of the curcumin.
Turmeric and black pepper drinks recipes
Sometimes called golden milk, thanks to the yellow colour from the curcumin, turmeric and black pepper tea is a warming, smooth drink that’s bursting with goodness. We can highly recommend this quick and easy turmeric latte recipe.
You might also enjoy adding a dash of turmeric to your favourite smoothie to give it a healthy kick.
Beauty recipe or regime
Turmeric has been used for years in Indian beauty routines thanks to its antioxidant, cleansing and soothing properties. Discover how to make a soothing and moisturising facial mask using turmeric.
There’s even suggestion that turmeric can help reduce dandruff and help teeth sparkle.
Read these 6 top uses for turmeric for more ways to add turmeric to your daily routine.
- Turmeric and black pepper can be used in regular meals and drinks
- You’re probably familiar with using turmeric in curries, but did you know a turmeric latte makes a warming drink?
- Used in skincare turmeric can have skin calming effects
Conclusion: What does turmeric and black pepper do?
Black pepper and turmeric are powerful spices, naturally rich in wide-ranging wellness value. Combined together, they offer a host of health and wellbeing benefits with few side effects. Black pepper and turmeric can be enjoyed in food recipes to give a spicy twist to your favourite meals and drinks. Or you can also include them as part of beauty treatments and in supplement form.
Medical advice should always be sought before commencing any herbal remedy, particularly for anyone with an underlying health condition.
Last updated: 8 September 2022