Curcumin Combats Common Environmental Toxin, Study Shows


In today’s modern world, one environmental contaminant is especially tough to avoid: benzo[a]pyrene, also known as BaP. This compound with a tongue-twister name is ubiquitous, lurking in our air, water, soil and even food. What’s more, once BaP enters your body, it can disrupt your antioxidant defenses, triggering excessive oxidative stress. One solution may be curcumin, according to emerging research, especially when it’s combined with piperine, a natural bioavailability booster sourced from black pepper.

Hiding in plain sight

BaP belongs to a group of environmental contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. It’s in the atmosphere as a component of smoke from vehicle exhaust, industrial processes, and forest fires and as well as from the burning of wood, coal and other fuels. BaP is even found in cigarette smoke and topical products like skin creams for eczema or psoriasis that contain coal tar. But the primary route of exposure is food, which accounts for over 95 percent of our total daily uptake. Certainly, eating foods grown in areas where the air and soil are contaminated increases exposure, but one of the most concentrated sources of BaP comes from how we prepare foods: high-heat grilling. Yes, when you serve up that sizzling BBQ-charred steak, it’s a good bet you’ll be eating a mouthful of this pesky toxin.

Enter curcumin, made better with piperine

Results from one preclinical study show that the combination of curcumin (from turmeric) and piperine (from black pepper) exerts a powerful effect on reducing BaP-induced damage.(1) For this study, university researchers compared the antioxidant effect of curcumin alone or combined with piperine in mice treated with BaP. First, they tested BaP alone to measure the extent of its destruction. As expected, the BaP treatment increased lipid peroxidation and other markers of oxidative stress. It also significantly reduced levels of antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes in the liver, including biochemical heavyweights like superoxide dismutases, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase. With this data, they were able to confirm BaP’s damaging effect.

Next, the researchers treated mice with curcumin alone or combined with piperine before BaP treatment. The pre-treatments not only significantly reduced the BaP-induced oxidative stress, but also significantly increased the activity of the antioxidant enzymes that were suppressed by BaP. They also found that the combo — curcumin plus piperine — was significantly better than curcumin alone in combating the BaP-induced oxidative insult.

While more research is needed to confirm similar benefits in humans, these preliminary findings suggest that curcumin and piperine are a powerful combination to combat oxidative stress.

The dual action of piperine

Why did curcumin alleviate oxidative stress better when given with piperine? It’s because piperine works as an adjuvant — a compound that modifies the effect of other compound — that not only enhances the absorption of curcumin in the intestine, but also reduces its metabolic breakdown in the body.

The bottom line

If you’re on a mission to combat excessive oxidative stress that can occur from exposure to BaP and other environmental toxins, a daily turmeric supplement may help. Be sure to choose a product that contains both a standardized amount of curcumin and black pepper extract (a source of piperine). Of course, Okinawa Triple Turmeric+® features this powerful duo along with a proprietary blend of full-spectrum turmeric sourced from pristine Okinawan farmland. Think of it as your daily defense to fortify your body’s antioxidant defenses, no matter what life throws at you.*

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


1. Sehgal A, Kumar M, Jain M, Dhawan DK. Piperine as an adjuvant increases the efficacy of curcumin in mitigating benzo(a)pyrene toxicity. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2012;31(5):473-82. PMID: 22027502.

  • Share this post