Some great news to share from the arena of herb and spice combinations: Piperine,
a naturally-occurring substance in black pepper, has been shown to assist with the assimilation of beneficial curcumin – the main active component in turmeric. The science behind this has been known about for several years however the simple food combination of turmeric and black pepper is a valuable health shortcut that many are not aware of.
If you are not including the “wonder spice” turmeric in your diet or supplementation regime you might wish to consider it (pls note, this is not medical advice) as it is widely regarded to be one of the most healthful spices on the planet. We’ve already reported on the fact that over 600 scientific papers have now been published that have indicated healing qualities for turmeric across a very wide range of conditions.
However one of the challenges associated with taking turmeric is that the beneficial compounds in it have a low bioavailability. Curcumin is rapidly metabolized (broken down) in the liver and intestinal wall and so, not much of it gets to where it would need to go in the body. In a 1998 study , ingestion of 2 grams of curcumin led to minimal increases in serum (blood) levels of curcumin – however when 20mg of piperine was added, bioavailability was increased by an astonishing 2000%.
It also just so happens that the two spices combine very well in the kitchen, flavor-wise as well…
In short, add some black pepper when you add turmeric in cooking – and if you are taking turmeric supplements, look out for formulas that contain piperine.
One of Turmeric’s most heralded qualities is its reported ability to act as an anti-inflammatory. It is for this reason that it is listed among our Top 20 Natural Painkillers In Your Kitchen We received a wonderful [unsolicited] note from a reader on one of our Facebook pages yesterday and I wanted to highlight this as it is inspirational:
“I have had 4 knee surgeries in 2 years with lots of residual pain. I was on celebrex as an anti inflammatory with no luck. Each night I wake up with aching pain radiating from my knee down. I stop taking the Celebrex and bought turmeric with piperine last Saturday as a natural anti inflammatory. Not once, have I woken up in the middle of the night. Natural is the only way to go.” — E.W., via Facebook.
Piperine has also been found by scientists to have cognitive enhancing ability. 
Turmeric is commonly available in powder form however if you can get fresh, whole organic turmeric I regard it very highly. You can use it (in general) in a similar manner to ginger and I love to grate or slice it onto various foods. It also makes a slightly strange but highly esteemed healthy tea. Note that it has a tendency to turn everything yellow, including your fingertips and especially that white marble countertop… 😉
This example of turmeric and black pepper is a lovely introduction to the topic of synergistic herbal blends. There are numerous combinations of herbs that have a result “greater than the sum of the parts”. In traditional Chinese herbalism, blends are often complex and based on a tradition of use hundreds or even thousands of years old – and in the Amazon, herbal healers have a remarkable repertoire of herbal blends, the knowledge of which has been handed down as an unwritten tradition throughout the ages.
Safety Note Piperine (black pepper), while generally considered safe and of course consumed by practically everybody, has been found to affect the bioavailability of certain medications.  If you are using medications, please consult a medical professional before using herbs and supplements and ask them about known interactions.