28 November 2016


Turmeric is that wonderful traditional Indian herb with the golden colour and the subtle taste. We all know it well. It spices up many dishes, and increasingly it is becoming known for its many well-researched preventative and therapeutic benefits.

But are you confused? Want to know how much to take, and in what form? Natural herb? Fresh or dried powder? Tablets? What about curcumin? Where does pepper fit in? And what about other substances that are claimed to increase its uptake and efficacy?

This week, prompted by fascinating new research that suggests curcumin may prevent cancer from spreading, we review what is known and point to what to do, but first

         Thought for the day

                My wish 
                Is not to save my life
                But to savor my life

                              PhD student


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizome of the ginger family.

Traditionally, like many other herbs, turmeric was widely grown and used in India for both cooking and medicine.

These days, scientists have identified curcumin as the main bioactive ingredient of turmeric.

Curcumin is a natural polyphenol compound and there is a growing body of good research demonstrating that curcumin has many therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant activity.

Personally I know of a good number of people who have had great relief from arthritis through taking turmeric.

The actual research indicates possible benefits relating to inflammation, indigestion (including dyspepsia, bloating, and gas), ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, osteoarthritis, heart disease (including atherosclerosis and lowering LDL cholesterol), blood clotting, antibacterial and antiviral properties, uveitis, neurodegenerative conditions (including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis) and it may help to reduce damage to cells and DNA caused by free radicals.

For a good academic review of the therapeutic properties, CLICK HERE
Luthra PM et al, Indian J Clin Biochem : 2001 Jul; 16(2): 153–160

Curcumin also has proven anti-cancer activity, specifically because it induces cancer cell apoptosis (cell death) through regulating various signaling pathways and arresting the tumor cell cycle.

Now, recent research from Sydney points to newly realised positive anti-metastatic mechanisms of curcumin, and the possible synergistic actions of combination therapy using curcumin with chemotherapy.

Reference, CLICK HERE
Deng Y et al. Molecular Mechanisms of Anti-metastatic Activity of Curcumin : Anticancer Research, Nov 2016 vol. 36; 11, 5639-5647

So the questions remain … How much do we take? What form do we take?

Having spent a good deal of time researching the subject, this is what I have concluded :

Turmeric contains about 3% curcumin.

Most positive therapeutic trials I found have been based on administering 6 - 8 gms of curcumin each

6 - 8 gms of curcumin is equivalent to around 250gms of turmeric. A teaspoon contains about 4 gms of turmeric powder, so this is equivalent to 62.5 teaspoons of powder!

Happily, several things are proven to increase the bio-availability of curcumin from turmeric, but first, let us clarify - fresh or powder?

Traditionally, when not used fresh, turmeric rhizomes were boiled for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they were ground into the familiar golden powder.

The evidence is that either the fresh herb or the powder is therapeutic; while most of the research seems to have been conducted using tumeric powder, often combined with an adjuvant, or curcumin as an extract.

Personally, I like using fresh wherever possible, but if you wanted the therapeutic levels of fresh turmeric, and you took turmeric on its own, you would need to take 250gms per day. While that would be ludicrous, there is a practical solution.

There are number of compounds, some natural, some proprietary, that combine synergistically with turmeric and greatly increase the therapeutic effectiveness of curcumin.

1. Pepper 
This is the traditional adjuvant. It contains about 5 -10% of the alkaloid piperine which is regarded as the key, active ingredient.

Piperine is well known for its ability to increase the bioavailability of many nutrients including curcumin. It does this by inhibiting key enzymes for metabolism, preventing substances from leaving cells, decreasing intestinal activity, and stimulating useful amino-acids. All of these changes work to keep substances in the body’s cells longer.

In the case of curcumin, several studies have demonstrated that piperine aids in absorption. The best evidence suggests that by using 5% by weight of black pepper compared to the amount of turmeric increases the positive effect by 20 times.

In other words, use 5% black pepper, and reduce the amount of turmeric needed by one twentieth.

This means when you use turmeric and black pepper, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 20, which is the equivalent of a bit over 3 teaspoons of turmeric plus .15 teaspoons of black pepper.

Sounding more do-able? Read on….

2. BioPerine
BioPerine is a patented product that is derived from peperine. The brand name BioPerine is owned by Sabinsa Corporation and it contains around 95% piperine.

BioPerine has been researched in clinical trials to validate its safety and efficacy.

It has been shown to increase the bioavailability of not just curcumin, but many other nutrients including CoEnzyme Q10, Selenium, Vitamin C and Beta-carotene, along with resveratrol, numerous other water and fat soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids.

So BioPerine is added to quite a few other supplements as well as turmeric based ones - read your labels…

BioPerine is claimed to lead to a 30-fold increase in availability of curcumin, but research shows that there is a big decrease in blood levels after only 45 to 60 minutes.

This means when you use turmeric and BioPerine, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 30, which is the equivalent of around 2 teaspoons of turmeric plus .1 teaspoons of black pepper. Problem then is that BioPerine only comes in capsules already combined with turmeric.

3. Longvida
Longvida is made up of 20% curcumin and 80% phospholipids.

Longvida is the only form or formulation of turmeric or curcumin that has published research demonstrating its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind amyloid plaques. While others may do this, Longvida is the only one with the research evidence.

So this makes Longvida the preferred choice for those focused on brain-related conditions such as Alzheimers or traumatic brain injury. It may possibly have both preventative and alleviating possibilities. More research is needed to clarify this, but it is a strong selling point.

Longvida does have a good deal of research and clinical studies examining its effectiveness in curcumin absorption. Based mostly it would seem upon a 2010 article published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, which examined curcumin levels in the blood with and without phospholipids, Longvida claims to increase curcumin bioavailability by 65 times; making it the highest of the 3 we have examined.

This means when you use turmeric and Longvida, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 65, which is the equivalent of around 1 teaspoon of turmeric plus .05 teaspoons of black pepper. As with BioPerine, Longvida only comes in capsules already combined with turmeric. So what to do?

Reference : Absorption studies - CLICK HERE

Hope you have not already found this out the hard way… curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces. Be careful!

PART 2 What to do? What to use? Next week we solve the mystery… how to convert all this theory into powders and tablets, along with a great turmeric recipe for a concentrated, therapeutic spread.


  1. Ian really useful post. Please could you also comment on broccoli/kale/Brussels etc vs DIM tablets for breast cancer. I would really appreciate your views on whether fresh veg is sufficient if eaten at each meal.

    1. Dear Bibi, I am a big advocate of fresh food. It is the best, but then juices, herbs and supplements can all have their place. As you probably know, DIM has been shown to lead to the preferential formation of estrogen metabolites that are correlated with healthy breast, endometrial, and cervical tissues. I have had no
      feedback from women using it who actually have breast cancer, and do to know of any research in that situation. Do you?

  2. Love reading these blogs Ian. Very interested in ......what to do, currrently combining turmeric, pepper and ginger in a shaker and make a spread too ....but would love to hear what you recommend. Many thanks for your research and sharing your insights. I so appreciate it. M xo

    1. Next week :) Stay tuned for the next exciting episode! It was just too much for one post...

  3. very interesting. My partner has had a brain tumor removed but there is still some embedded in the brain. I wonder if turmeric would keep it at bay, so it's not growing again. It would be worth trying

    1. Turmeric has some research showing anti-cancer activity so it is reasonable to expect it would have some positive benefit

  4. Ian, very much looking forward to next week's blog. I have used curcumin tablets and want to get my hands on the most effective there is to get to assist in the management of my osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Thank you as always.

  5. In response to the brain tumor query...I know someone who's father-in-law found 'kawa kawa' to be highly effective in reducing the size of his brain tumor. As for turmeric...personally I have found fresh homemade turmeric tea, to be very effective in helping with my digestive issues.

  6. I have just joined your blog, encouraged by reading The GoodWeekend, 31.1.17. I am currently making Golden Milk, the "popular" turmeric drink said to be anti-inflammatory to a point of healing cancer. My partner is caught int the system with diagnosed prostate cancer at a level 1. I don't believe he actually has it. I have had CFS/ME for 18 years - I do believe I have that! so both problems of inflammation. Ingredients Organic Turmeric powder, cinnamon, cardamon, black ground pepper.
    Recipe forthcoming if anyone wants it. Does it work? Don't know yet.

  7. Great to see you at Practical Wisdom, Ian. Following on from our conversation there, it would be wonderful to have Pt 2 of this blog, re tumeric recipes. I have found tumeric to be invaluable with focus, digestion and elimination, and overall mood. Very supportive addition to the diet. Warmest regards, Brynnie

    1. Dear Brynnie - all the details are on the following blog; just scroll down :)