Curcumin: The Golden Spice of Good Health

Curcumin (Turmeric): The Golden Spice of Good Health

Curcumin is the active ingredient present in turmeric, which makes it the most researched spice. Turmeric is the key ingredient in most Indian dishes, especially the curries. The health benefits of curcumin are well-known for  ages in the  ancient Ayurvedic system of Medicine. In India and other South Asian countries, curcumin is used both for its medicinal value as well as a food colorant,   preservative and as a topical application to improve the health of the skin.

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is a polyphenol and the active ingredient that imparts a characteristic bright yellow color. Curcumin comes from the Curcuma longa plant (Turmeric), which is a member of the ginger family. The dried roots of turmeric and used in the ground and powder form. It gets its nickname golden spice due to its distinct yellow color. Although the terms 'Curcumin' and 'Turmeric' are used interchangeably, Turmeric is the spice, and curcumin is one of the ingredients in this spice. Most of the benefits of turmeric are attributed to curcumin. 

What is unique about curcumin?

Turmeric has several chemical compounds called curcuminoids, and curcumin is the principal active compound. Curcumin is a fat-soluble polyphenolic compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which contributes to its therapeutic effects on the body. It is for this reason, curcumin is used in holistic and natural treatments for  healing wounds, reducing inflammation and pain.

Health Benefits of Curcumin

Inflammation-fighter: Curcumin is a natural inflammation fighter. Its anti-inflammatory property is evident from many studies indicating its beneficial effect against inflammation-induced conditions such as arthritis and IBS. Research shows that curcumin inhibits the action of COX-2 and iNOS, which are enzymes that mediate the process of inflammation[1]. When there is improper regulation of these enzymes, it results in chronic inflammation.

Potent antioxidant effect: Curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties works hand-in-hand with its antioxidant benefits, which makes it a potent antioxidant. Research attribute most of curcumin's therapeutic effects to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is a superior antioxidant in several counts[2].

  1. It increases the body's antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH) and catalase.
  2. It is a chain-breaking antioxidant, which means it is capable of breaks the generation of the endless chain of free radicals and protects the body from damage.
  3. It employs several different mechanisms to fight free radicals – it scavenges the reactive oxygen species, it improves the body's self antioxidant defense mechanisms, and it inhibits the activity of specific free radicals.

Lowers the risk of degenerative diseases: Curcumin offers the best protection from degenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and other neuro disorders. Studies show that curcumin increases brain levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor)[3]. BDNF is a hormone that is produced to improve brain function, low levels of this hormone is linked to conditions like depression and Alzheimer's.

Good for your heart: Curcumin's strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects play a vital role in the health of your heart. Inflammation and oxidation are two driving factors for increased risk of heart problems. Curcumin helps reduce inflammation and oxidation. In a study on people undergoing coronary bypass surgery, 121 people were randomly assigned curcumin ( 4 grams a day) or placebo a few days before and after surgery. Patients that received curcumin showed a 65% reduction in the risk of heart attack[4]. Also, curcumin improves endothelial function (lining of blood vessels) and promotes better blood pressure and heart health[5].

Exhibits anti-cancer properties: Research shows that curcumin inhibits chemically induced carcinogenesis in the skin, forestomach, and colon when it is administered during the start and/or postinitiation stages of cancerous conditions. Among the medicinal plants that are researched for cancer management and  treatment, turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin capture the limelight. Curcumin is a pleiotropic molecule that interacts with many molecular targets. Research on cell structure, animal research, and clinical trials indicate curcumin's potential as a therapeutic agent in conditions like pancreatitis, IBS, as well as certain types of cancer.  Studies have shown that curcumin leads to the death of cancerous cells and reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumors as well as the spread of tumors[6] [7]. Studies have also shown that curcumin reduces the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumors in animal studies.

Anti-bacterial:  Analysis of many studies show curcumin's antibacterial properties. Curcumin exhibits antibacterial effects on a broad spectrum of bacteria. Another advantage is that it works in synergy with other antibiotics, and the combination yields the best results.  Curcumin is found to exhibit antibacterial activity by inhibiting a wide range of bacteria. Recent studies indicate that curcumin inhibits the growth of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria[8]. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the Gram-positive strains that are susceptible to curcumin-mediated inhibition. With S. aureus being a major problem in hospitals where the MRSA spreading is challenging to control, curcumin's  anti-bacterial effect against S. aureus plays a crucial role.

Promotes skin health: Curcumin is known for its healing effects and is often used in skincare routines. In Japan, it is consumed as a tea, in Thailand, it is used in topical applications and cosmetics. Several studies show that the medicinal effects of curcumin are helpful in  a variety of dermatological conditions. A systemic review of several studies pertaining to curcumin and skin health found that turmeric/curcumin products and supplements, both oral and topical, may provide therapeutic effects on the skin[9].

Why should you get your curcumin from supplements?

Research shows that one issue with taking curcumin is that it not well absorbed by the body; in scientific terms, it has a poor bioavailability[10]. Curcumin is poorly absorbed, metabolized fast, and eliminated rapidly; it doesn't stay in the system for long to confer the therapeutic effects.  For these reasons, researchers recommend taking curcumin in the form of supplements as a better way to obtain its medicinal effects.

Here are some top reasons to get curcumin via supplements -

  1. If you were to consume pure turmeric powder, the highest concentration of curcumin averages to about 3.14% by weight[11].
  2. A good quality turmeric ( curcumin) supplement can provide up to 90% of curcumin.
  3. If you choose supplements that offer bioavailable curcumin it increases its availability once inside the body and can be instantly used.

For those that are looking to get a significant amount of curcumin in your diet, supplements are a great choice.

Choosing your curcumin supplement

Pure Encapsulation Curcumin 500 with Bioprene: This product is a hypoallergenic supplement. It combines the strength of curcumin with the power of black pepper extract to provide a potent formula. The presence of black pepper in the form of Bioperine improves the absorption rate of curcumin in the body, so you get maximum benefit. The suggested dosage is 2 3- capsules, between meals to support healthy liver, colon, and cell function. The supplement works to support the body's natural inflammatory response and promotes well-being.

Douglas Laboratories Optimized Curcumin with Neurophenol: Douglas Laboratories Optimized Curcumin is formulated to support cognitive function in healthy aging adults. The unique formula combines curcumin with a proprietary blend of neurophenols (standardized blueberry and grape extracts). The formulation provides 400 mg of curcumin (Longiva TM optimized curcumin) with 300mg of neurophenols (as Neurophenols TM) that includes 85 mg of flavonoids (a type of antioxidant).

Integrative Therapeutics Thermacurin HP: Integrative Therapeutics' curcumin formulation provides 180 mg of curcumin in 2 capsules. It is formulated to be better absorbed (about 27 times more) in the blood when compared to standard curcumin supplements. The focus of the formulation is to maximize the biological effects of curcumin in the body. The supplement offers curcumin as 'Thermacurin HP,' a novel preparation of turmeric that utilizes patented, colloidal dispersion technology to enhance bioavailability and dramatically increase curcumin levels in the blood. It is water-dispersible, meaning it dissolves quickly and maintains solubility over time, thereby improving curcumin’s overall absorption. The recommended dosage is 2 capsules per day for 7 days, one may reduce dosage to one capsule a day or as recommended by the physician. The product is formulated to support healthy heart, liver, lung, and kidney function; support optimal immune function and cell heath.

If you are looking for a nutritional supplement that also does the double duty of protecting your overall health, curcumin fits the bill well. Please be aware that those that take blood-thinning medications, anti-coagulant drugs, or women that are pregnant/ nursing should avoid taking curcumin supplements. Curcumin slows blood clotting abilities, and due to this reason, patients taking blood-thinning medications should exercise caution.

When choosing curcumin supplements, it is crucial to buy a formulation that offers curcumin in bio-available form. If the curcumin supplement you choose is not in a bioavailable form, it is of no use to use as it will just directly pass the digestive tract without being absorbed in the blood.

Our experts at Supplement First look diligently into safety, bio-availability, and other aspects before recommending to our consumers. Supplement First offers select superior quality curcumin/turmeric supplements so consumers can make a choice with peace of mind.