Curcumin is an active constituent found in the turmeric root and is one of the most beneficial compounds, responsible in part for the health benefits of turmeric.1 When choosing a turmeric supplement, one would want to ensure that it is standardized to guarantee a certain amount of curcumin per capsule in order to obtain the health benefits of the root. The dilemma is that historically, curcumin has been poorly absorbed when taken as a supplement. This is where piperine comes into play. Piperine is the major biologically active substance found in black pepper. Although research has indeed shown that piperine can assist with the absorption of curcumin, is it really the most efficient and safest option?
The Downfalls of Piperine
At high doses, piperine may affect the concentrations of P-glycoprotein and CYP3A4 substrates in humans.2 CYP3A4, also known as Cytochrome P450, is an important enzyme in the body, mainly found in the liver and in the intestine. CYP3A4 helps the body to metabolize and remove toxins or drugs and in some cases activate or deactivate a drug. You may be familiar with the fact that people taking certain medications need to use caution when consuming grapefruit.3 This is because some substances, such as grapefruit, interfere with the action of CYP3A4. These substances will therefore either amplify or weaken the action of those drugs that are modified by CYP3A4. In the case of piperine, it is a CYP3A4 inhibitor.
However, based on safety data, 15 mg of piperine is a safe dose and is unlikely to be a concern for most* people.2 In fact, it can be beneficial, as we will explain below.
*Piperine may not be appropriate for people who take Midazolam, a sedative medication.4
The Benefits of Piperine
Piperine helps block the conversion of testosterone into estrogen, supporting BOTH healthy estrogen and testosterone levels in men. Also, piperine has been shown to increase the bioavailability of co-administered substances such as curcumin and chrysin. 5,6
Chrysin is a flavonoid found in plants such as passion flowers and has been shown to reduce the conversion of testosterone to estrogen by acting on the aromatase enzyme. Piperine also helps increase the bioavailability and the absorption of compounds, including therapeutic drugs and phytochemicals, by impacting intestinal brush-border ultrastructure. 7
Turmerones, Phospholipids and Curcumin
The essential oils of the turmeric root (turmerones) have been shown to greatly enhance the absorption and bioavailability of curcumin.8 Once absorbed, the curcumin then needs to be available for use by our cells. Turmerones are lipophilic and enhance curcumin’s transport into the intestinal cells. Phospholipids are added to further assist with the absorption and bioavailability of curcumin to our cells. Formulations are available with or without the phospholipids. What is of great importance is choosing the curcumin and turmerone complex known as BCM-95.
BCM-95 not only delivers more curcumin to the bloodstream, but it sticks around nearly twice as long, too.9
The Bottom Line
Scientists have discovered that it’s possible to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by reconstituting curcumin with the essential oils and other components of the turmeric root. When the curcumin-plus-turmeric is administered, the absorption of curcumin into the bloodstream is nearly seven-fold that of curcumin alone, and 6.3-fold greater than that of a curcumin-lecithin-piperine formula designed to enhance absorption.9
In order to get the most out of this valuable supplement, it is important to select one that has proven high-absorption characteristics. While piperine has shown itself to be valuable, the research shows that turmerones are superior not only for the absorption of curcumin but also to provide synergistic health benefits.
BCM-95 is a registered trademark of Dolcas-Biotech, LLC. U.S. Patent Nos. 7,883,728, 7,736,679 and 7,879,373.
About the author: Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N is a blogger & social media content specialist at Life Extension. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist residing in the South Florida area. Lapes believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease. You can see more of her blog posts by visiting http://blog.lifeextension.com and connect on social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!