Curcumin is the key active ingredient in turmeric and has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It belongs to a family of active compounds within turmeric known as curcuminoids. It is responsible for providing the bright yellow colour to the authentic spice.
It has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine and foods for thousands of years for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.1
Scientific research is now supporting the claims of Ayurvedic medicine. It has been shown this powerful compound can have a positive impact in the treatment and prevention of many inflammatory diseases as curcumin acts as a master switch of inflammation providing a protective effect.
Curcumin benefits are now shown to benefit individuals with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and arthritis.2
What is the best way to take curcumin?
The amount of curcumin in turmeric is relatively low, only around 3% per gram. Research investigating the health benefits of turmeric are mostly based on high doses of curcumin extract. It is often hard to consume enough curcumin in the diet therefore a supplement may be needed for therapeutic effects.
Unfortunately, this powerful compound is poorly absorbed by the body.
To maximise absorption, it is beneficial to consume black pepper alongside it. This contains a powerful substance known as piperine, which can increase the absorption by 2000%. 3
Curcumin is also fat-soluble. Meaning that you can increase its absorption by consuming it alongside fatty foods. This includes foods such as olive oil, nuts, avocado or ghee, a butter used in traditional Indian cooking.
Below we investigate the top 7 benefits of curcumin for overall health:
1.A powerful antioxidant that protect’s against cell damage
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can help protect against damage from free radicals.
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. These dangerous atoms go around and cause damage within the body. They do this by generating oxidative stress and reacting to substances such as proteins, fatty acids and DNA. Over time, this damage can lead to ageing and diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancers.
Curcumin has the power to neutralise free radicals. In addition to this, it can also boost the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.4,5,6
This helps to protect the body against cell damage, whilst also improving the body’s own defence mechanisms.
2. A potent anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is essential for human survival. It helps the body fight against foreign invaders and helps repair tissue.
Short-term inflammation is beneficial, however long-term, chronic inflammation can have a negative effect on human health.
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Some studies even suggest it may even be just as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs.7
One study investigated the effects of supplementation in patients with osteoarthritis. It found that supplementation with 1000mg daily significantly reduced inflammation markers Interleukin-1-Beta and Interleukin-6 by 27% and 65% retrospectively.8
Research now suggests that chronic, low-level inflammation may play a role in almost all chronic diseases. This includes Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer and other metabolic conditions.9,10,11
Therefore, keeping inflammation at bay and reducing it where possible is essential for good health.
3. Reduce symptoms of arthritis and assist with pain management
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It causes the breakdown of cartilage between joints, causing bones to rub against each other. This causes stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement.
Supplementation consistently shows a reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms. It appears to be most beneficial for improving pain and physical function.
One double blinded trial investigating the benefits of osteoarthritis provided 50 patients with a curcumin blend daily for three months. It found that supplementation improved mobility and decreased inflammatory status scores by 58%. It also extended walking distance from 76 to 332 meters and considerably reduced the inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP).12
Curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory properties is shown to be of great benefit to those who experience chronic joint pain.
4. Support healthy liver function
Emerging research indicates that curcumin may play a role in the prevention and treatment of liver diseases.
Oxidative stress is where there is an imbalance of free radicals (damaging cells) and antioxidants in the body. This can lead to cell and tissue damage.
Oxidative stress is considered a key causing factor of liver damage.13
Emerging animal studies show that supplementation may be beneficial in the prevention of oxidative stress in the liver.14,15,16
Other studies have investigated the effect of curcumin on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). One placebo-controlled trial found curcumin supplementation led to a reduction in liver fat content and improved liver function tests.17
Research in animal studies looks promising, however more human trials are needed.18
5. Managing heart disease
Heart disease has the largest cause of death world-wide. It is an incredibly complicated condition with many risk factors.
One of the most common risk factors include high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Over time, this can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries known as atherosclerosis.
Research has also found positive effects of supplementation on atherosclerosis. This is a condition where plaque begins to build up and block the arteries.
In a six month, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, participants were instructed to take three capsules of 250mg of curminoid or placebo twice per day. The results found that those taking curcumin, significantly reduced markers of atherosclerosis.19
Because of this, it is important to maintain the strength of the heart and surrounding blood vessels. One of curcumin’s main benefits to heart health is its ability to improve the integrity of the walls of blood vessels.20
Having a high blood pressure increases strain and weakens blood vessel walls. Over time, this can lead to vessel damage and increase the risk of stroke.
One study in post-menopausal women supplemented with curcumin 150mg daily for 8 weeks showed a reduction in blood pressure.21
Other studies have found supplementation to significantly lower levels of plasma fibrinogen. Fibrinogen is an inflammation marker in the body that predicts coronary heart disease events.22
6. Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease(s)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve the chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. IBD primarily includes Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
These conditions are often debilitating and can cause poor quality of life. Symptoms commonly seen in IBD include severe abdominal cramping, mucus or blood in the stools and diarrhoea.
Emerging research has investigated the benefits that curcumin may play in mitigating some of these symptoms.
One placebo-controlled trial investigated the effects of curcumin in addition to standard medication for IBS symptoms. The study randomized participants into placebo or receiving 1g twice daily for six months. It found that that curcumin significantly suppressed the illnesses associated with active IBD and reduced relapse rate.23,24
Several studies are continuing to investigate the benefits this powerful compound may play as a monotherapy and adjunct to standard medication treatment.
7. Curcumin may help to support healthy digestive functioning
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition characterised by bloating, abdominal pain and intermittent diarrhoea and constipation.
The cause of IBS is unknown and there is no cure. Current treatment options recommend dietary and stress management.
With curcumin’s unique anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities and ability to modulate the gut microbiota, it has been shown to have therapeutic benefits to assist with IBS.
Three studies investigating the impact of curcumin on IBS found curcumin to have a small but beneficial impact on IBS.25 However more studies are needed to further investigate this link.
Are there any side effects of curcumin supplementation?
Curcumin has been shown to have no serious adverse effects in humans with doses up to 8 grams. However, more comprehensive, long-term studies are needed to understand their full effect. High doses may cause nausea and gastrointestinal upset. Use alongside black pepper may also cause drug interactions. Ensure to speak to your health professional to seek appropriate medical advice before commencing supplementation.
The bottom line
The active constituent of turmeric, curcumin has a variety of proven health benefits. From acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, boosting the body’s antioxidant defence mechanisms and improving symptoms of arthritis for pain management.
Adding turmeric to your meals can help boost flavour and taste. You can use fresh or powdered turmeric in tea, soups, curry’s and smoothies. To benefit from the therapeutic effects of curcumin you may consider taking a supplement. Vitable’s Golden Pill is enhanced with piperine to increase absorption in the body.
Are you wanting to add curcumin into your daily routine? Take the Vitable Health Quiz here.
- Shehzad, A., Rehman, G. and Lee, Y. (2012). Curcumin in inflammatory diseases. BioFactors, 39(1), pp.69-77.
- Aggarwal, B. and Harikumar, K. (2009). Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, 41(1), pp.40-59.
- Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R. and Srinivas, P. (1998). Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers. Planta Medica, 64(04), pp.353-356
- Menon, V. and Sudheer, A. (n.d.). ANTIOXIDANT AND ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES OF CURCUMIN. ADVANCES IN EXPERIMENTAL MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY, pp.105-125
- Bulmuş, F., Sakin, F., Türk, G., Sönmez, M. and Servi, K. (2013). Protective effects of curcumin on antioxidant status, body weight gain, and reproductive parameters in male rats exposed to subchronic 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, 95(6), pp.1019-1029.
- Barclay, L., Vinqvist, M., Mukai, K., Goto, H., Hashimoto, Y., Tokunaga, A. and Uno, H. (2000). On the Antioxidant Mechanism of Curcumin: Classical Methods Are Needed To Determine Antioxidant Mechanism and Activity. Organic Letters, 2(18), pp.2841-2843.
- Lal, B., Kapoor, A., Asthana, O., Agrawal, P., Prasad, R., Kumar, P. and Srimal, R. (1999). Efficacy of Curcumin in the Management of Chronic Anterior Uveitis. Phytotherapy Research, 13(4), pp.318-322
- Belcaro, G., Cesarone, M., Dugall, M., Pellegrini, L., Ledda, A., Grossi, M., Togini, S. and Appendino, G. (2010). Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev, 15(4), pp.337-44.
- Coussens, L. and Werb, Z. (2002). Inflammation and cancer. Nature, 420(6917), pp.860-867.
- Kinney, J., Bemiller, S., Murtishaw, A., Leisgang, A., Salazar, A. and Lamb, B. (2018). Inflammation as a central mechanism in Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, 4, pp.575-590.
- Lumeng, C. and Saltiel, A. (2011). Inflammatory links between obesity and metabolic disease. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 121(6), pp.2111-2117.
- Belcaro, G., Cesarone, M., Dugall, M., Pellegrini, L., Ledda, A., Grossi, M., Togini, S. and Appendino, G. (2010). Product-evaluation registry of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, for the complementary management of osteoarthritis. Panminerva Med., 52(2 Suppl 1), pp.55-62.
- Webb, C. and Twedt, D. (2008). Oxidative Stress and Liver Disease. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 38(1), pp.125-135.
- Samuhasaneeto, S., Thong-Ngam, D., Kulaputana, O., Suyasunanont, D. and Klaikeaw, N. (2009). Curcumin Decreased Oxidative Stress, Inhibited NF-κB Activation, and Improved Liver Pathology in Ethanol-Induced Liver Injury in Rats. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, 2009, pp.1-8.
- Al-Rubaei, Z., Mohammad, T. and Ali, L. (2014). Effects of Local Curcumin on Oxidative Stress and Total Antioxidant Capacity in vivo Study. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 17(12), pp.1237-1241.
- Dong, W., Xiong, Z., Wang, B., Tong, Q. and Li, Z. (2015). Curcumin attenuates chronic ethanol-induced liver injury by inhibition of oxidative stress via mitogen-activated protein kinase/nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 pathway in mice. Pharmacognosy Magazine, 11(44), p.707.
- Rahmani, S., Asgary, S., Askari, G., Keshvari, M., Hatamipour, M., Feizi, A. and Sahebkar, A. (2016). Treatment of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with Curcumin: A Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research, 30(9), pp.1540-1548.
- Rukkumani, R., Aruna, K., Varma, P. and Menon, V. (2004). Curcumin influences hepatic expression patterns of matrix metalloproteinases in liver toxicity. Ital J Biochem, 53(2), pp.61-6.
- 1. Chuengsamarn, S., Rattanamongkolgul, S., Phonrat, B., Tungtrongchitr, R. and Jirawatnotai, S. (2014). Reduction of atherogenic risk in patients with type 2 diabetes by curcuminoid extract: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 25(2), pp.144-150
- Parodi, F., Mao, D., Ennis, T., Pagano, M. and Thompson, R. (2006). Oral Administration of Diferuloylmethane (Curcumin) Suppresses Proinflammatory Cytokines and Destructive Connective Tissue Remodeling in Experimental Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. Annals of Vascular Surgery, 20(3), pp.360-368.
- Akazawa, N., Choi, Y., Miyaki, A., Tanabe, Y., Sugawara, J., Ajisaka, R. and Maeda, S. (2012). Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women. Nutrition Research, 32(10), pp.795-799.
- Ramirez Boscá, A., Soler, A., Carrión-Gutiérrez, M., Pamies Mira, D., Pardo Zapata, J., Diaz-Alperi, J., Bernd, A., Quintanilla Almagro, E. and Miquel, J. (2000). An hydroalcoholic extract of Curcuma longa lowers the abnormally high values of human-plasma fibrinogen. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 114(3), pp.207-210.
- Hanai, H. and Sugimoto, K. (2009). Curcumin has Bright Prospects for the Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 15(18), pp.2087-2094.
- Hanai, H., Iida, T., Takeuchi, K., Watanabe, F., Maruyama, Y., Andoh, A., Tsujikawa, T., Fujiyama, Y., Mitsuyama, K., Sata, M., Yamada, M., Iwaoka, Y., Kanke, K., Hiraishi, H., Hirayama, K., Arai, H., Yoshii, S., Uchijima, M., Nagata, T. and Koide, Y. (2006). Curcumin Maintenance Therapy for Ulcerative Colitis: Randomized, Multicenter, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 4(12), pp.1502-1506.Ng, Q., Soh, A., Loke, W., Venkatanarayanan, N., Lim, D. and Yeo, W. (2018). A Meta-Analysis of the Clinical Use of Curcumin for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7(10), p.298.