An article over at the BBC underscores a potential new use for curcumin, the substance derived from turmeric, in helping stroke patients. One thing would be nice is if they recognized the way it is used in Ayurvedic medicine. I.e., many formulas in traditions like Ayurveda (or Siddha) include honey, ghee or black pepper. These all can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin. Some may even help it to cross the blood-brain barrier. By contrast, it may merely need to reduce systemic inflammatory responses among cell types that do cross the BBB, thus reducing neuronal damage.
Bioperine, an extract of the fruit of the plant that yields black pepper, has connections to the Ayurvedic medicine tradition of India. It is frequently recommended for its ability to increase absorption of difficult-to-absorb nutrients like CoQ10, and may enhance absorption of other supplements as well. Here is a brief account of the whys and hows of its use:
Bioperine (Allergy Research Group). Each bottle, 60 vegetarian capsules. Each tablet, 25 mg black pepper fruit extract (bioperine). Suggested use it to take 1 tablet, with a multi, coQ10, etc., once or twice per day (not more than that). If possible, about an hour or so before you eat to enhance absorption.
Bioperine is the brand name for an extract from the fruit of the plant that produces black pepper (Piper nigrum). It is known generically as piperine. According to research conducted by the manufacturer, bioperine substantially increases the absorption of selenium (30%), beta carotene (60%), vitamin B6 (140-250%) as well as coenzyme Q10. These studies measure the amount found in plasma of these nutrients, comparing the amount found with or without the use of Bioperine.
One theoretical concern is that using this may increase blood levels of some drugs as well. On the good side, could this be a replacement for help reduce the dose of a ritonavir boost for example?
Sabinsa (the supplier) researchers claim it has no effect on the absorption of drugs, stating that research in India found that, Bioperine taken for enhancing nutrient absorption does not significantly affect the level of prescription drugs. Why this would be so is not clear. They also indicate that it is important that the bioperine be taken at the same time as the nutrient supplements, emphasizing that with bioperine, TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
What its mechanism of action is is not clear to us (except they call it a thermonutrient). However, it is an inexpensive addition and may permit lowering dosages of various nutrients. This also conforms with the traditional use of black pepper in many different Ayurvedic recipes. In a study in India, it was shown to be protective of the liver through antioxidant activity but not as powerful as silymarin. It may be best to err on the side of safety and NOT use this with pharmaceutical drugs; however, by contrast, it may help with protease inhibitors which do not get into the plasma well.
For further information, please see the NYBC entry: