Ask the expert


Turmeric and black pepper for arthritis

I have been reading a lot about turmeric and its health giving properties in arthritis etc. Can you advise a product which is available to buy. I understand turmeric needs something to help absorption such as black pepper, but I can't find a combined product just turmeric capsules or pills. Many thanks.

19 August 2019

Thanks for contacting Health at Hand. Turmeric is increasingly being recognised for its medicinal values and properties.

We thought you would like an overview of its benefits so we have provided the information below and hope that it will help you.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a dried rhizome of Curcuma longa (C. domestica) also known as Zingiberaceae. A rhizome is a plant stem that grows horizontally underground as opposed to vertically above ground. It can produce shoots and roots. This rhizome looks very similar to root ginger.

Turmeric is widely available as fine yellow powder and used worldwide as a spice, mainly in curries. As medicine it has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine but in the early 1970s modern medicine started to look at it more closely because it was suggested that curcumin has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

What are the active constituents?

The active constituents of turmeric are curcuminoids. Curcumin is one of the three curcuminoids in turmeric spice that gives turmeric the distinctive bright yellow colour.

Does turmeric help in arthritis?

Curcumin modifies the inflammation process and there is some evidence that it may help alleviate arthritis symptoms. It may also interfere with platelet activity so may prevent clots such as DVT.

What other conditions can it help?

Because of its its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, turmeric has been claimed to be beneficial in inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Turmeric is also thought to help protect the liver, prevent cancer and prevent cancer progressing, and help manage symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. However research into all of these claims is still in its infancy.

How do I take turmeric?

Turmeric can be used as a powder or root in cooking. It is versatile as a spice so it can be added to many foods such as curries and sauces. As a powder it can be safely used up to 3g daily.

Some people prefer to use it as turmeric as a milky drink.

It is available on the market through various sources as a supplement in the form of a capsule. You need to be careful of the dose when you are taking any herbal medicine and this includes turmeric capsules.

In the UK there are no official standards regulating herbal medicines. The dosage of herbal medicines depends a great deal on a variety of factors. These include growing and harvesting conditions, the extraction method used and the part of the plant that is used and the dose the manufacture selects. This is why dose stated on the packaging must be taken as guidelines only.

The advantage of using turmeric as part of your diet is that it is difficult to overdose whereas when you are taking a supplement you are taking a concentrated amount so there is a greater risk of overdose.

Does black pepper increase the absorption of turmeric?

There are several studies available that support the fact that black pepper increases the absorption of turmeric.

Absorption of curcumin can be boosted by eating the turmeric root (fresh or dried as a powder) because natural oils found in turmeric root and turmeric powder can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin.

Is too much turmeric bad for you?

There is some evidence that curcumin can be toxic to the liver when taken in high doses for prolonged periods of time so turmeric should be avoided in those with liver disease. Turmeric should also be avoided in those with bile duct disorders.

What if I am taking other medicines? Can I still take a turmeric supplement?

The most recognised interaction of turmeric is with medicines designed to affect the blood clotting process. If you are taking any anti-coagulants such as warfarin, dabigatrin, rivaroxaban, apixaban or endoxaban you should avoid taking turmeric supplements because there is a greater risk of bleeding. Likewise if you are taking any antiplatelet medication, such as disopyramide then again your chances of having an internal bleed is increased so you should avoid taking turmeric supplements.

There are other notifiable medicines that can interact with turmeric, as it affects the way the body metabolises them. If you are on other medications and you would like to take turmeric supplements then please speak to your local pharmacist or doctor to check that your medicines are compatible with taking a turmeric supplement.

Can you buy turmeric and black pepper capsules as a combined preparation?

You can buy capsules that have a combination of black pepper and turmeric within the one capsule. Whether buying turmeric alone or in combination, you should buy it from a trusted, reputable source.

Take a look at our arthritis hub for more on this subject and please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like further information.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

Got a health question?

We’re here to help you take care of your health - whenever you need us, wherever you are, whether you're an AXA Health member or not.

Our Ask the Expert service allows you to ask our team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives, counsellors and pharmacists about any health topic. So if there's something on your mind, why not get in touch now.