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What does turmeric and black pepper do to the body?

Turmeric and black pepper are two spices that have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. More recently, science has confirmed some of the health benefits these spices can provide.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It has been used as a medicinal herb for nearly 4000 years. The main active compound in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that gives turmeric its vibrant color and provides many of its health benefits.

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Here are some of the evidence-based health benefits of turmeric:

  • Natural anti-inflammatory – Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory properties that match or even exceed some anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Antioxidant – Curcumin neutralizes free radicals and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
  • Improves brain function – Curcumin increases BDNF, a brain hormone that improves brain function and lowers risk of brain diseases.
  • Lowers heart disease risk – Curcumin improves endothelial function and lowers cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Cancer fighter – Curcumin seems to block tumor growth and development at the molecular level.
  • Anti-aging – Curcumin extends lifespan in animal studies by improving function and reducing oxidative stress.

In addition to these benefits, turmeric may also improve symptoms of depression, arthritis, diabetes and many other conditions.

What is Black Pepper?

Black pepper is a flowering vine that is cultivated for its fruit. Dried and ground black peppercorns are one of the most commonly used spices worldwide. Black pepper has been used in cooking for thousands of years. It adds a peppery flavor to dishes and provides many health benefits.

Health Benefits of Black Pepper

Here are some of the main health benefits of black pepper:

  • High in antioxidants – Black pepper contains various antioxidant compounds that protect the body from oxidative damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory – The compound piperine in black pepper has proven anti-inflammatory abilities.
  • Improves digestion – Black pepper increases hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach to support better digestion.
  • Antimicrobial properties – Black pepper extracts have antibacterial effects against certain bacteria.
  • Neuroprotective – Piperine has been shown to improve memory function in animal studies.
  • Supports weight loss – By improving metabolism, black pepper may help support weight loss.

How Does Black Pepper Enhance the Benefits of Turmeric?

Curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric, is not easily absorbed on its own. However, pairing turmeric with black pepper can significantly increase absorption (1).

Black pepper contains a compound called piperine that provides potent bioavailability enhancing effects. Piperine helps curcumin pass through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream where it can provide its beneficial effects (2).

In fact, one study showed that combining 20 mg piperine with 2 grams curcumin increased bioavailability by 2000% (3)! Because of this, combining turmeric and black pepper is an excellent way to maximize the health benefits.

Scientific Research on Turmeric and Black Pepper

In addition to enhancing curcumin absorption, some research shows that turmeric and black pepper together provide additional health benefits:

  • May support healthy cholesterol levels – Rats fed turmeric, black pepper, and cholesterol had decreased LDL and total cholesterol levels (4).
  • Increases antioxidant status – The combination of turmeric and black pepper increases antioxidant enzymes and decreases oxidative stress (5).
  • Suppresses tumor cell proliferation – Turmeric and black pepper combined inhibited the growth of tumor cells in animals (6).

Overall, the research is promising. However, larger scale human studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of combining turmeric and black pepper.

Recommended Ratio of Turmeric to Black Pepper

To maximize the absorption of curcumin, you want to consume turmeric with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper for every 1 teaspoon of turmeric you use. Here is a simple recipe to try:

Golden Milk Recipe


  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)


  1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan
  2. Whisk well to combine
  3. Heat over medium heat until warmed throughout, but not boiling (about 5 minutes)
  4. Pour into mug and enjoy!

This delicious golden milk provides anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and bioavailability enhancing benefits. The coconut oil also helps increase absorption of the fat-soluble curcumin.

Potential Side Effects

Turmeric and black pepper are generally very safe and do not cause significant side effects in most people. However, there are some potential precautions:

  • Blood thinning medications – Can increase risk of bleeding and bruising when combined with turmeric.
  • Pregnancy – High doses of turmeric should be avoided.
  • Gallbladder issues – Turmeric can cause gallbladder contractions in some individuals.
  • Iron deficiency – Large amounts of black pepper may inhibit iron absorption.

Overall, adding small amounts of turmeric and black pepper to the diet is very safe for most people. Those on blood thinners or with iron deficiency should limit intake and consult their doctor.


Combining turmeric and black pepper is an extremely beneficial and delicious way to maximize the health benefits. Turmeric provides powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, while black pepper enhances the bioavailability and absorption. Some exciting research also shows that turmeric and black pepper together may provide additional health benefits. Adding this powerhouse combo to your diet is simple, affordable, and can make a big difference in your overall health and wellbeing.