Curcumin is the main active compound in the turmeric plant and is responsible for turmeric's vibrant yellow colour and finger staining prowess!
Turmeric has been used for centuries as a medicinal ingredient but curcumin extracted from Turmeric has now been found to be the main component that provides benefits. Increasing amounts of research have been conducted to discover what those benefits are and under what circumstances and how to maximise its effectiveness.
Curcumin has well established anti-inflammatory properties, able to match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease, so curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects may help prevent and even treat these conditions.
Curcumins mechanism appears to be related to blocking NF-kB, a molecule that activates inflammation. Curcumin also lowers inflammatory cytokines like TNF, IL-1, IL-6, and lowers the expression of COX-2, an inflammatory enzyme.
Boosting Antioxidant Capacity
Curcumin is also a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals and boost the body's own antioxidant enzymes like glutathione. This may help prevent oxidative damage and protects against many diseases related to aging like neurodegenerative diseases. Curcumin also boosts BDNF brain levels, which may reverse some age-related brain decline and offer protective effects.
Joint and Arthritis Relief
As an anti-inflammatory, curcumin can be highly effective for relieving joint pain and arthritis symptoms. In many studies, curcumin worked as well as anti-inflammatory drugs for improving pain, stiffness, and physical function in people with osteoarthritis.
Curcumin may also help relieve pain for rheumatoid arthritis, injuries, and postoperative pain. Curcumin combined with piperine for absorption is a promising natural option to relieve joint pain.
Interestingly, curcumin also shows antidepressant effects and the ability to boost mood. It works similarly to antidepressant drugs by raising serotonin and dopamine activity. Curcumin also boosts BDNF, the “happiness molecule” in the brain linked to improved mood and cognitive function.
Curcumin’s antidepressant effects have been of interest in several studies and it is showing promise, but more research needs to be conducted to compare to other therapeutic interventions.
Improving Heart and Metabolic Health
Curcumin may improve several risk factors for heart disease. It improves endothelial function and may reduce atherosclerosis, lowering heart attack risk. Curcumin also reduces LDL cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and prevents blood clot formation. In people already diagnosed with heart disease, curcumin can reduce symptoms like chest pain. Curcumin's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and blood-thinning properties likely all support heart health.
It is important to consult with a medical professional to ensure that there is no negative interactions with medications.
Potential Risks and Precautions
While turmeric spice in cooking is considered very safe, curcumin supplements have a few potential side effects and precautions:
- May cause upset stomach, especially in sensitive individuals at higher doses. Start low.
- Avoid taking curcumin for several days before surgery due to blood thinning effects.
- Be cautious combining curcumin with blood thinners like warfarin or aspirin due to increased bleeding risk.
- Some sources mention possible liver toxicity at higher doses. Use care if you already have a liver condition.
- Curcumin can interact with some medications including antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs.
ALWAYS Check with your doctor.
Curcumin Absorption and Bioavailability Challenges
One major drawback of curcumin is poor bioavailability. Curcumin has low absorption and rapid metabolism and excretion by the body. Methods like phospholipid curcumin formulations, nanoparticles, and combining curcumin with piperine have been developed to help increase curcumin bioavailability. Choosing an absorbable form of curcumin can help maximize potential benefits.
In summary, curcumin is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound in turmeric that shows promise for fighting and reducing the effects of several diseases with an inflammatory component.