Three Ways to Improve Absorption of Turmeric or Curcumin

turmeric and black pepperTurmeric’s ability to support the body has been well-researched; however, this spice by itself is difficult for the body to absorb. This bright yellow spice is also called curcumin, and it contains a prized antioxidant. Research is verifying curcumin’s ability to reduce: inflammation, depression, pain and diabetes.

At Natural Eye Care, we often recommend curcumin or turmeric as a dietary supplement for patients who have, or are at high risk for an eye condition related to inflammation. For example, macular degeneration
and glaucoma appear to have an inflammation component. Curcumin supports glutathione synthesis, which is an important antioxidant for vision.

Research has shown that taking straight turmeric by itself has almost no effect on the levels of curcumin in the blood1. Based on the research, as well as ancient cooking techniques, we offer these three important tips for increasing bioavailability of curcumin. You should do all three of these things to your turmeric whenever possible.

Take Turmeric with Black Pepper

Indian curry includes turmeric and black pepper. Modern research has shown that these two tasty spices, taken together, increased turmeric absorption2. Even a small amount of black pepper helps. If you do not eat large amounts of authentic Indian curries, you can add these spices to your cooking. Alternatively, capsules with curcumin and black pepper are available (BioPerine® is a patented thermogenic activator derived from black pepper, so the label might say “Curcumin with Bioperine®”).

Heat It

Turmeric is more easily absorbed if it is heated. This is not practical with capsules, but it’s a natural for cooking. Add a good amount to sautés and other suitable dishes. Sprinkle it on grains while they are cooking. And finally:

Take it with an Oil or Fat

Turmeric is fat-soluble, so take it with a healthy fat like olive oil, coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter). The oil makes the curcumin bypass the liver and go into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system.

These three tips sound like the basis of a delicious Indian meal! Indian cooking has all these elements. The spices are often heated in oil. Science now backs up the health effects of this cooking tradition.

  1. “Curcumin uptake and metabolism” by Manfred Metzler et. al. 20 SEP 2012. BioFactors Special Issue: CURCUMIN. Volume 39, Issue 1, pages 14–20, January/February 2013 DOI: 10.1002/biof.1042
  2. “Why Pepper Boosts Turmeric Blood Levels” by Michael Greger M.D. on February 5th, 2015. http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/02/05/why-pepper-boosts-turmeric-blood-levels/
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Three Ways to Improve Absorption of Turmeric or Curcumin
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Turmeric (curcumin) is valuable for reducing inflammation, but it is difficult to absorb. Heating, adding fat and taking with black pepper increase absorption.
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About Marc_Grossman

Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist, is a holistic eye doctor and co-author of a number of books on natural vision care. Since 1980 Dr. Grossman has been helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is dedicated to providing information to those with conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches with which to tackle difficult eye problems.