Can Curcumin Be Absorbed Without Black Pepper?

on February 20, 2022

Have you ever been out to eat and your waiter leans over your salad and asks; Would you like pepper? You hesitate and then say - yes, please. He turns the wooden shaker and grinds black specs all over your salad. Those black specs are called piperine or black pepper. Piperine is responsible for the heat that hits your palate and enhances your experience of the salad. In the kitchen it is just pepper and you may like it enough to put on a variety of foods. Throughout the world it is known as “The King of Spices” due to its pungent aroma. But did you know that piperine or black pepper actually is an important aspect of many supplements? 


Is There A Difference Between Piperine And Black Pepper?

Black pepper is many times referred to as piperine. Piperine is a phytonutrient and is the active component of black pepper. Piperine, from the Piperaceae family, is the beneficial plant compound that is easy for your body to digest and it is also the ingredient found in many nutritional supplements.


Why Is Piperine In Your Supplements?

You might relate to black pepper on your salad, but why put it in your supplements you may wonder. It is not for flavor, but for enhanced bioavailability. This is important. Many supplements may tout ingredients but if they are not in the most bioavailable form, they are not as easily absorbed into your system and therefore the benefits may not be optimum.


Curcumin and Piperine

Let’s discuss curcumin. Curcumin is the major biologically active polyphenolic compound of turmeric and gives the spice its yellow color. Recently it has been shown that the biological activity of curcumin reduces the severity of COVID-19. You might have seen this in the news or maybe you have received an influx of companies pushing curcumin as a “cure”. Some are saying that curcumin is in the top 5 substances to improve COVID outcomes. If any of this is clinically proven to be true, don’t you want your curcumin to work? 

A recent study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology measured the differences in mortality between a group of 70 patients; a control group and an intervention group. The control and intervention groups received conventional COVID-19 treatment.

In addition, those in the intervention group received curcumin with piperine, twice a day, and those in the control group received probiotics twice a day. The researchers found patients who had mild, moderate and severe symptoms in the intervention group showed early symptomatic recovery and less deterioration.

Studies have found that curcumin has low bioavailability when taken orally. This is attributed to the body’s limited ability to absorb curcumin as well as rapid metabolism and elimination. However, researchers have found there are different compounds, such as piperine, that when taken with curcumin, can raise bioavailability and therefore enhance the multiple health benefits attributed to curcumin. 

Curcumin is just one ingredient where piperine helps enhance bioavailability. Curcumin needs a partner to help it do it’s job! But there are others that need help too!


How Does Piperine Work?

There are many mechanisms that enhance the process of absorbing nutrients. One that may be easier to explain is thermogenesis. (Think of heat!) Thermogenesis is a metabolic process that generates energy at the cellular level in the body. Piperine in the black pepper extract enhances the thermogenesis and in turn, affects the absorption of components in the intestine. If you put too much pepper on your salad it may be a little hot…


Is Bioperine® The Same As Black Pepper?

You may also see the word Bioperine® on a supplement fact box. Bioperine® is a trade name of a specific brand of black pepper extract. BioPerine® has been used as a bioavailability enhancer for over 20 years and was found to enhance the nutrients by 30%. 


Immune Boost And Bioavailability

An example of increased absorption with curcumin and black pepper can be seen on the label of the Xendurance product, Immune Boost. In the supplement facts you will see “Curcumin (from Tumeric Root Extract) at 100 mg. Also on the label is black pepper extract at 5 mg. The black pepper or piperine was added to help the bioavailability of the curcumin. Without it, the science says curcumin is not as effective.

So next time you are out for dinner, and the decision comes around to grind the pepper or not, you know why the healthier option is to say yes! Keep grinding!