The Short Version
Black pepper…yes…the spicy ingredient made of ground (or I suppose technically whole) peppercorns. And peppercorns are the small, dried, unripe fruits of the black pepper plant. In addition to flavoring food, it’s commonly used as a medicinal agent, a preservative, and in perfumes. Research has shown that piperine, the main active ingredient in pepper, will increase the absorption of nutrients while also appearing to reduce inflammation associated with chronic diseases like asthma, arthritis, and chronic gastritis.
Black pepper contains the bioactive compound piperine, which is an alkaloid like capsaicin, the active component found in chili powder and cayenne pepper. Like capsaicin, piperine helps moderate nausea, headaches, poor digestion, while also reducing chronic inflammation.
Those good things aside, piperine’s most significant benefit is its ability to boost the absorption of nutrients. Piperine does this in three steps:
It increases the absorption of nutrients by ‘modulating efflux mechanisms’. I should note, that ‘modulating efflux mechanisms’ is just a fancy way of saying changing the way the body’s cells shield themselves. Without going into too much more detail, all our cells use efflux pumps as quasi-shields to control what gets in and out. Under normal circumstances this is a good thing; but when germs, and inflammatory cells use these pumps it can prevent drugs and supplements from working.
Piperine works by essentially ‘lowering the shields’ of cells (especially ones trying to protect themselves from inflammation) for a short time. Therefore, pairing piperine with nutritional supplements allows those other nutrients to ‘sneak’ past what would otherwise be guarded cells.
Piperine alters the liver’s metabolism, through an alteration of the enzymes the liver uses to flush excessive nutrients. If you have a normal liver, it will process what it can and discard the rest. Ultimately it tries to do its best to keep the bad stuff from getting to your blood. With a few different anti-inflammatory nutrients, curcumin and boswellia being the top 2, the liver ends up preventing them from being absorbed sufficiently.
The net effect of adding piperine to any of the following extracts, vitamins or minerals is a minimum of 30% increase in nutrient absorption.
Piperine increases the rate your body generates energy through increasing cellular thermogenesis. While best known as a weight loss technique, thermogenesis is also useful in accelerating absorption of nutrients.
When your body goes into thermogenesis, your cells signal they need extra energy (calories) AND fresh nutrients. At low levels (e.g. not sitting in the sauna or doing high intensity training), thermogenesis doesn’t increase caloric metabolism enough to cause weight loss. But because the amount of fresh nutrients your body needs are tiny, a small increase can make a huge impact.
The Bad Parts
While piperine does slow the metabolism of some drugs, extensive research has shown this becomes a concern at doses exceeding 10mg per pound. Working through the math, I will need to take 1.75 grams of piperine a day to reach that level. Most supplements use between 5-10mgs of piperine per dose (or roughly 0.06 mg per pound).
Fully Human’s Way
We use an extract of piperine called BioPerine®. Freedom uses a 10mg dose, standardized to 95% piperine. We chose this version because it is the most potent, and most researched version of piperine. Find out more about our inflammation support supplement here.