Blog Post by Ayush Herbs®
The myriad benefits of turmeric have been widely studied and proven.  The problem with turmeric supplementation is that the active components, curcuminoids, are very poorly absorbed. A pure turmeric extract will not reach the blood supply in any meaningful or therapeutic level. Its effects, while still quite powerful, will be limited to the intestines. It is so poorly absorbed in fact that in one study even at a dose of 2g/kg, blood levels of curcuminoids were barely detectable, if at all[1]. For a 150 pound person that means eating almost a third of a pound of turmeric will still not result in significant systemic distribution.
In response, the supplement industry has spent millions of dollars to bioengineer products with improved assimilation. Thousands of years ago in India, Ayurveda developed techniques that greatly enhanced the absorption of haldi as it is called. There are two widely accepted methods to increase turmeric absorption; take it with some kind of fat[2], or with black pepper, or more specifically piperine.[3] Most available preparations for turmeric that boast increased assimilation are based on these methods.
Curcuminoids are lipophilic substances. This means that they will not dissolve in water which makes them poorly absorbed by our intestines. However, they do dissolve in fats which are themselves readily absorbed by the intestinal lining for absorption and utilization. Turmeric is just along for the ride. Hence the use of phospholipid phytosomes and other creative approaches using fatty substances for increasing absorption in many modern turmeric preparations.
Piper nigrum, or black pepper, contains the alkaloid piperine, which gives pepper its distinct spicy flavor. This compound inhibits glucuronidation. Glucuronic acid is added to molecules by the body to make them more water soluble which allows the kidneys to remove them from the body. This process is very prevalent in both the intestinal lining and the liver in order to protect the body from possibly toxic molecules that are ingested. Piperine inhibits glucuronidation in both the intestines and the liver. This allows high levels of curcuminoids to enter the blood flow in their active form. In fact, adding piperine to a turmeric supplement can increase absorption by 2000%.[4]. That is a mind boggling number! Where did they come up with the crazy idea to look and see what would happen if you combined pepper and turmeric? You guessed it, by observing the traditional ways turmeric was consumed in Indian culture!
But why go to all of that trouble to engineer and process complex products when there are easy, low tech, culinary ways to achieve the same ends? Ayurveda has long espoused the benefits of taking turmeric with fats and pepper. Whether taking it with milk, ghee (clarified butter), or a curry with cooking oil and pepper, these recipes greatly enhance the ability of turmeric to be absorbed.  Try these for yourself; I am sure most people reading this have tried an Indian curry.
The combination of fats, ground pepper, turmeric, and other herbs and spices are an ancient biomedical powerhouse to infuse the body with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial compounds. Golden milk as it is called, is easy to make and a favorite Indian folk remedy. Just heat some milk, add turmeric or curcuminoid powder and stir, letting it combine for a few moments. One of the reasons I enjoy using a powdered turmeric is that it allows you to get the high doses that are most effective in studies without having to take handfuls of pills. These recipes are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many delicious ways to combine turmeric with fats and ground pepper.
Once in the blood supply curcuminoids are absorbed by most of the major tissues in the body including  the brain, heart, liver, and muscles.[5] Turmeric has been revered since ancient times for its wonderful, medicinal effects. From its early culinary uses to modern nutraceuticals, there have been many developments in its use. One thing that has not changed is that it still tastes great. So do yourself a favor and taste your turmeric when you take it!

1] Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):353-6.

Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.
Shoba G1, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS.
[2] Int J Pharm. 2012 Oct 15;436(1-2):617-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2012.07.031. Epub 2012 Jul 27.
Novel lipid based oral formulation of curcumin: development and optimization by design of experiments approach.
Pawar YB1, Purohit H, Valicherla GR, Munjal B, Lale SV, Patel SB, Bansal AK.
[3] Indian J Med Res. 2010 May;131:682-91.
Tissue distribution & elimination of capsaicin, piperine & curcumin following oral intake in rats.
Suresh D1, Srinivasan K.
[4] Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):353-6.
Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.
Shoba G1, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS.
[5] Cancer Res Treat. 2014 Jan;46(1):2-18. doi: 10.4143/crt.2014.46.1.2. Epub 2014 Jan 15.
Recent developments in delivery, bioavailability, absorption and metabolism of curcumin: the golden pigment from golden spice.
Prasad S1, Tyagi AK1, Aggarwal BB1.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.