Countless studies have demonstrated the medicinal benefits of this amazing herb which you can viewÂ here. Once you see the irrefutable proof that turmeric has a plethora of importantÂ health benefitsÂ you will be eager to work it into your everyday diet. However, before you begin consuming this potent food medicine, you need to understand how to fully unlock its powerful healing potential.
Turmeric, isÂ a rhizomeÂ (A type of horizontal, usually underground stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes; AKA as a rootstock.)Â Itâs related to ginger root (also a rhizome) both are classified as members of the Zingiberacaea family; it has been a stellar staple in the pharmacopeia of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for eons; Itâs been in continuous use for thousands of years as a medicine, spice (curry) and yellow dye.
Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is the yellow pigment found in the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa). Curcumin is one ofÂ three known curcuminoidsÂ present in turmeric, the other two being desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin.
Scientists have still not identified all theÂ constituents in turmeric. Researchers continue to discover new curcuminoids. Current estimations are that turmeric contains well over a hundred chemical compounds which are primarily located in the essential oil of this complex medicinal spice.
A major problem with Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is curcuminâs (CUR)Â low bioavailability. Curcumin is the key active constituent of Turmeric.Â A preponderance of animal and clinical studies reveal that the concentrations of CUR in blood plasma, urine, and peripheral tissues, if detectable at all, are extremely lowÂ regardless of dosage size.
What is Bioavailability?
According to theÂ Merck manual, âBioavailability refers to the extent to and rate at which the active moiety (drug or metabolite) enters systemic circulation, thereby accessing the site of action.â
Essentially, bioavailability is about how much of an ingested substance is actually absorbed by our bodies. It follows that substances with poor bioavailability will not be effective for healing purposes.
Research Confirms Turmericâs Low Bioavailability
Numerous curcumin studies confirm that very low blood serum levels are reached when curcumin is orally administered. The majority of orally ingested curcumin gets metabolized before it reaches the bloodstream.Â Increasing the dose does not result in greater absorption.
The route of administration and method of preparation are major factors affecting the bioavailability or serum levels of turmeric.
Turmericâs bioavailabity can be enhanced with the addition of specificÂ Adjuvants.
Low Serum Concentratiions
AÂ study on the fate of curcuminÂ in the rat (1978) by Whalstrom and Blennow showed oral curcumin was poorly absorbed in the gut. When 1g/kg of curcumin was orally administered to the rats only a negligible amount of curcumin was found in their blood plasma. About 75% of it was excreted via the feces.
A study inÂ 1980 by Ravindranath et al found when ratsÂ were orally administered 400 mg of curcumin, no trace of curcumin was found in the heart blood while only a small trace was found in the portal blood within 15 min to 24 hours of administration.
AnotherÂ recent study by Yang et alÂ found that when 10 mg/kg of curcumin was orally administered only 0.36 Â”g/ml of curcumin was found in the blood serum.
A pilot study conducted byÂ Sharma et al.Â on patients with colorectal cancer. The patients were given Curcuma extract which contained 36â180 mg curcumin in proprietary capsule for 4 months. After 29 days of oral curcumin: Neither curcumin nor its metabolites were detected in the plasma, blood and urine. Although traces of curcumin and curcumin sulfate were found in feces.
In another study:Â Absorption and tissue distribution of curcumin in rats. Ravindranath et al found after orally administering 400 mg of curcumin to rats: âonly traces of the unchanged molecule were found in the liver and kidney. At 30 min, 90% of the curcumin was found in the stomach and small intestine, but only 1% was present at 24 h. [hours].â
NOTE:Â Very few studies have been done on Curcumin and tissue distribution.
Metabolites are the intermediateÂ and final products of the process known as metabolism, which is from the Greek word for âchange.â Metabolism is a step-wise series of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. The term metabolites commonly refer to small molecules.
Primary metabolites are necessary for the normal growth and maintenance of life. Secondary metabolites support primary metabolite activity indirectly and serve other important ecological functions. Metabolites are a natural occurrence formed when as part of an inherent biological process that breaks down and eliminates various compounds.
Research indicates that metabolites of curcumin, instead of curcumin itself, are detected in plasma or serum followingÂ oral consumption.
The majority of studies have shown thatÂ these metabolites are actually less activeÂ or potent compared to curcumin itself.
Bottom Line: when curcumin is metabolized the potency of its metabolites are less potent than curcumin.
The intestine and liver, is where oral curcumin is conjugated (the formation of a water-soluble derivative of a chemical by its combination with another compound, such as glutathione, glucuronate, or sulfate.) into metabolites.
Based on various studies the metabolites produced are: curcumin glucuronides and curcumin sulfates or, alternately, reduced to hexahydrocurcumin(HHC) and Tetrahydrocurcumin (THC). Again most studies have shown that these metabolites are less biologically active compared to the parent compound curcumin.
Half-lifeÂ is the time it takes for a drug or other ingested substance to lose half its strength. Medications with a short half-life must be taken several times a day, to maintain therapeutically effective concentrations of blood serum levels.
In contrast, medications with longer half lives maintain effective blood serum levels for much longer periods of time and can be taken less frequently.
TheÂ studies by Whalstrom and BlennowÂ demonstrated curcuminâs rapid systemic excretion from the body or short half-life. As mentioned when 1g/kg curcumin was given orally to ratsÂ around 75% of the curcumin was excreted via the feces with only trace amounts found in the urine.Â Â A short half -life decreases Turmericâs therapeutic effect in the body. More studies are needed in order to drawÂ definitive conclusions about Turmericâs half-life.
1) Add BLACK PEPPER to Your Turmeric
Black Pepper is aÂ powerful medicine in its own rightÂ and a Potent Turmeric Adjuvant.
How does Black Pepper Enhance the Bioavailability of Turmeric?
âPiperine is a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism. One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is making them water soluble so they can be more easily excreted. But this black pepper molecule inhibits that process.â âMichael Greger, M.D. (Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues.)
How much Black Pepper?
âIf people are given a bunch of turmeric curcumin, within an hour thereâs a little bump in the level in their blood stream. We donât see a large increase because our liver is actively trying to get rid of it. But what if the process is suppressed by taking just a quarter teaspoonâs worth of black pepper? Then you see curcumin levels skyrocket. The same amount of curcumin consumed, but the bioavailability shoots up 2000%. Even just a little pinch of pepperâ1/20th of a teaspoonâcan significantly boost levels. And guess what a common ingredient in curry powder is besides turmeric? Black pepper.âÂ â Dr. Michael Greger
Black Pepperâs Side-effects
The compound Piperine in pepper significantly increases curcumin and thus Turmericâs overall bioavailability. When pepper is freshly ground from whole peppercorns the essential oils in the pepper are more available.
Piperine is the active ingredient in black pepper; itâs what causes black pepperâs spiciness and heat.
Black pepperÂ Chemistry
âThe sharp aroma of black pepper is due to its essential oil content. Black pepper contains approximately 1.2 to 3.5% essential oil.Â Its key chemical constituents include: d-limonene (up to 20%), a-pinene, b-pinene, sabinene, b-caryophyllene and ÎŽ-3-carene.Â It is an essential oils rich in monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes (e.g. b-caryophyllene).
As a herb: Black pepper contains 5-10% pungent acid-amides (pseudoalkaloids), with piperine as its main compound and several others including piperyline, piperoleines, and piperamine.Â Pharmacological studies show that piperine is analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and exhibits a depressant effect on the central nervous system.â
One StudyÂ entitled:Â Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers
demonstrated that when piperine was co-administered with curcumin and given to human subjects the bioavailibity of curcumin increased 2000%.
2) Add a Healthy Fat to Turmeric
Since turmeric is fat-soluble, in order for your body to fully absorb it and experience its amazing health benefits, Turmeric needs to be combined with a fat.
âWhen it doesnât dissolve properly, curcumin has a tough time getting into the gut, which is where most of the immune system lives. â80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health,âÂ explains Dr. Joseph Mercola.
âAnother way to boost the absorption of curcumin is to consume it in the whole food, turmeric root (fresh or dried as a powder) because natural oils found in turmeric root and turmeric powder can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin seven to eight fold. When eaten with fat, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby in part bypassing the liver.âÂ âDr. Michael Greiger, MD
3) Heat Increases Turmericâs Bioavalibility
Dr. Saraswati Sukumar explains how to enhance Turmericâs bioavailability
âThe potent ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which, despite its power, is not easily absorbed by the body without assistance. This is where the sautĂ© pan and a little warm oil come into play.âÂ Dr. Sukumar explainsÂ âI use it [turmeric] in every sautĂ©, just a quarter teaspoon, a half teaspoon is enough. But you donât have to use it sparingly â use it lavishly.â
âThe problem with the pill is that it is very insoluble in water,â she said. âThe better way to take it, I feel, is to use it in your cooking very extensively. If you have any sautĂ©, just sprinkle it in. The moment you heat oil and add turmeric to it, it now becomes completely bio-available to you.â âDr. Sukumar
SUMMARY: To extract the optimum benefit when consuming turmeric as a medicine
1.Â ActivateÂ turmeric with some cooking heat.
2.Â BoostÂ turmericâs absorption 2,000% by combining it with some freshly ground black pepper.
3.Â SkyrocketÂ turmericâs bioavailability and healing potential by mixing it with a healthy fat (such as coconut oil or ghee) some fresh ground black pepper and then gently cook cycle on medium low heat (never boil). Ghee has been used as a vehicle for medicine and as a medicine itself by Ayurvedic doctors for thousands of years.
Dosage guidelines according to the University ofÂ Maryland Medical Center
âą Cut root: 1.5 â 3 g per day
âą Dried, powdered root: 1 â 3 g per day
About The Author:
Paul FassaÂ is a contributing staff writer for REALfarmacy.com. His pet peeves are the Medical Mafiaâs control over health and the food industry and government regulatory agenciesâ corruption. Paulâs valiant contributions to the health movement and global paradigm shift are world renowned. Visit his blog byÂ following this linkÂ and follow him onÂ Twitter here.
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