Curcumin (turmeric) has great health benefits but has a problem with absorption
The plant-derived substance turmeric is high on almost everyone's list of super ingredients for boosting health for both humans and pets. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, the bright yellow spice (and its active agent, the polyphenol curcumin) is also an everyday staple of Asian cooking, used most often in savory curries.
Turmeric has traditionally been used as a treatment for a variety of internal disorders, such as indigestion, throat infections, common colds, or liver ailments, as well as topically, to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores. In modern times it is touted as a powerful anti-inflammatory for relieving joint pain. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, some studies are also suggesting curcumin may be useful for treating depression as well. Although most often recommended as a micronutrient for use in cooking, many North Americans get their curcumin with health supplements.
The major problem with all forms of turmeric is that it is poorly absorbed by the body, meaning that its health benefits are not fully realized. Scientists and nutritionists have been working on solutions to increase the absorption of turmeric.
According to the turmeric nutrition portal, Turmeric for Health, the following tips are useful in increasing absorption of turmeric:
1. Mix with black pepper
Adding ground black pepper to foods cooked with turmeric/curcumin seems to boost bioavailability. The scientific theory behind this is that pepper suppresses the liver's efforts to rid curcumin from the body allowing it to be absorbed more deeply (according to one widely cited study up to 2000% more).
2. Add a healthy fat to cooking turmeric
When cooked or eaten with healthier fats, such as coconut, ghee (clarified butter) or olive oils, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby bypassing the liver.
3. Find supplements that address bioavailability
For pets as well as humans, turmeric/curcumin is more pleasant and more efficacious when taken in supplement form. Read labels carefully and choose a product that guarantees a high bioavailability of turmeric/curcumin.