Numerous studies have already shown the health benefits of turmeric (Curcuma longa). Once you realize the health benefits of turmeric, you will include it in your diet. Nevertheless, before consuming turmeric, you need to understand its health properties.

Like ginger root, turmeric represents a rhizome, which belongs to Zingiberacaea family. It has been used for many years as a yellow die, curry (spice) and medicine.

CURCUMIN AND CURCUMINOIDS

Curcumin is a yellow pigment in turmeric. Namely, turmeric contains three curcuminoids: curcumin, bis-desmethoxycurcumin and desmethoxycurcumin. All components of turmeric have not been identified yet. New curcuminoids have been still identified. It is estimated that turmeric contains more than a hundred of chemical compounds, which are mainly found in the essential oil of turmeric.

The main issue with turmeric is the low bioavailability of curcumin. Curcumin is the main active component of turmeric. According to numerous clinical and animal studies, the curcumin concentrations in the urine, the blood plasma and the peripheral tissues, are relatively reduced.

WHAT DOES BIO-AVAILABILITY MEAN?

Merck Manual defines bioavailability as a rate or extent at which the active metabolite or drug enters the systemic circulation, thus evaluating the action site. In general, bioavailability shows how much an ingested substance is absorbed by the human body. It means that low-bioavailability substances are not effective for the healing processes.

STUDIES HAVE CONFIRMED THE LOW BIO-AVAILABILITY OF TURMERIC

Numerous studies have confirmed that the levels of blood serum are low when the curcumin is taken orally. Great amount of the orally taken curcumin is metabolized before it enters the bloodstream. Greater absorption will not be reached if the dose is increased.

The main factors, which affect the bioavailability of turmeric, are the method of preparation and the way of administration. By adding particular Adjuvants, the bioavailability of curcumin will be improved.

LOW CONCENTRATIONS OF SERUM

A 1978-study, carried out by Whalstrom and Blennow, found out that the orally taken curcumin was slowly absorbed in the gut. In fact, when 1 kg of curcumin was orally given to rats, a small amount of it was found in the blood plasma. Nearly 75 % of the oral curcumin was excreted though feces.

Another 1980-study found out that there was no trace of curcumin in the blood plasma, when 400 mg of curcumin was orally given to rats. After 15 minutes – 24 hours of administration, a small amount of curcumin was found in their portal blood.

Similar study was conducted on patients, who had colorectal cancer. Namely, 36 mg – 180 mg of curcumin extract were administered to the patients for four months. After a month, there was no trace of curcumin in their blood plasma or urine. However, there was a trace of curcumin sulfate in the feces.

TISSUE DISTRIBUTION

Another study by Ravindranath found out that unchanged molecules were found in the kidney and liver, after rats were administered 400 mg of curcumin. After half an hour, 90 % of curcumin was present in the small intestine and the stomach, whereas after 24 hours, it was reduced to only 1 %.

METABOLITES

Metabolites represent the final products of metabolism. In fact, metabolism consists of gradual series of vital chemical transformations inside the cells of the human beings. Therefore, the word ‘metabolites’ refers to tiny molecules.

Primary metabolites are essential for life-maintenance and normal growth or development, whereas secondary metabolites indirectly enhance the activity of primary metabolites and improve other ecological functions. Naturally, metabolites are formed when the inherent biological processes break down and get rid of compounds.

Research has shown that the curcumin metabolites, not curcumin, are found in serum or blood plasma after oral consumption. In addition, numerous studies have found out that curcumin metabolites are less potent and active than curcumin.

Orally administered curcumin is transformed into metabolites in the liver and the intestine. These metabolites are curcumin sulfates, curcumin glucuronides, or reduced tetrahydrocurcumin (THC) or hexahydro curcumin (HHC).

SHORT HALF-LIFE

Half-time refers to the time when an ingested substance or drug losses half of its strength. Half-life medications have to be taken a few times a day in order to regulate the effective concentrations of blood serum. On the other hand, longer half-life medications regulate the levels of blood serum for a long time and do not have to be taken several times a day.

Studies have confirmed the rapid excretion of curcumin from the body or its short half-life. The short half-life of curcumin lowers the therapeutic effect of turmeric in the body.

3 EASY KITCHEN STRATEGIES TO INCREASE BIO-AVAILABILITY OF TURMERIC

1. USE BLACK PEPPER WITH TURMERIC

Black pepper is a strong medicine and turmeric adjuvant. Some benefits of black pepper include:

• It helps to treat Vitiligo
• It relieves dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s disease
• It reduces cognitive malfunction and memory impairment
• It reduces the risk of liver ailments, cardiovascular issues and cancer
• It relieves nasal congestion, asthma and sinusitis.

HOW DOES BLACK PEPPER IMPROVE THE BIO-AVAILABILITY OF TURMERIC?

Piperine is a powerful inhibitor of the drug metabolism. The liver eliminates foreign substances from the body by making them water-soluble, which means that they are excreted more easily. However, black pepper inhibits this process.

HOW MUCH BLACK PEPPER YOU CAN USE?

If people take great amounts of curcumin, its levels will be slightly increased within an hour. The levels of curcumin are not extremely increased, because the liver tries to eliminate it from the body. However, if we take ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, the levels of curcumin will increase significantly. Even though we use the same amount of curcumin, black pepper significantly increases the bioavailability of curcumin.

SIDE EFFECTS OF BLACK PEPPER

Piperine found in black pepper may increase curcumin levels, which in turn improves bioavailability of turmeric. Piperine, the active ingredient of black pepper, causes the heat and spiciness of black pepper.

CHEMISTRY OF BLACK PEPPER

The content of essential oil gives a sharp aroma to black pepper. Namely, black pepper contains nearly 1.2 – 3.5 % of essential oil. The main components of black peer are b-3-carene, b-caryophyllene, sabinene, b-pinene, a-pinene and d-limonene. Moreover, the essential oil in black pepper contains sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes.

In addition, black pepper contains piperine, its main active compound, pungent pseudoalkaloids (acid-amides), piperamine, piperoleines and piperyline. According to the pharmacological studies, piperine has antipyretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and depressant properties on the central nervous system.

2. USE A HEALTHY FAT WITH TURMERIC

As turmeric is fat-soluble, it means that it needs to be combined with fat in order to be absorbed completely by the body.

If it is not dissolved properly, it takes more time to enter the gut, where the immune system thrives. In fact, 80 % of the immune system is found in the digestive system, so if you want to improve your overall health, you should maintain your gut healthy.

Another way to improve curcumin absorption is to use it in the turmeric root (dried or fresh in turmeric powder and turmeric root may improve curcumin bioavailability 7 – 8 fold. If it is combined with fat, curcumin can be absorbed in the bloodstream through the lymphatic system, thus partly passing by the liver.

3. HEAT IMPROVES BIO-AVAILABILITY OF TURMERIC

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, cannot be easily absorbed by the body. According to Dr. Sukumar, the bioavailability of turmeric can be improved by adding it in sauté. You do not have to use a lot of turmeric; ¼ teaspoon is enough. When you heat oil and add turmeric to it, the bioavailability of turmeric is improved.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the recommended dose of turmeric is:

• Cut root: 1.5 – 3 grams of turmeric a day
• Dried root: 1 – 3 grams of turmeric a day

TURMERIC RECIPES

1. GOLDEN / TURMERIC PASTE

You should not use flax oil, as it gets toxic when it is heated. You can use coconut oil or ghee oil instead of flax oil.

– You will need:

• A glass jar
• Stirrer
• Water pan
• 125 milliliters (1/2 a cup) of organic turmeric powder
• 250 milliliters (1 cup ) of water
• 7.5 milliliters (1 ½ teaspoon) of ground black pepper
• 70 milliliters of cold-pressed olive oil or coconut oil

– Preparation method:

• In a pan, add water and turmeric and stir them for 7 – 10 minutes, until you get a thick paste.
• Add the oil and the black pepper and stir them.
• Pour it in a glass jar and store the jar in the fridge.

2. TURMERIC GOLDEN MILK

– You will need:

• ½ cup of water
• ¼ cup of turmeric
• A glass container
• 2 cups of soy milk or almond milk
• Olive oil

– Preparation method:

• In a pan, pour water and stir it on low heat.
• Then, add the turmeric and stir it for 7 – 9 minutes, until you get a thick paste.
• Pour the paste in the glass container and refrigerate it.
• To prepare turmeric golden milk, in a pan, put ½ teaspoon of the turmeric paste and add 2 cups of soy milk. Stir it.
• Add olive oil and cook it for 4 – 5 minutes on low heat.