Curcumin – Many Benefits
Curcumin, an extract of the herb turmeric, which is the ingredient in curry which gives the characteristic yellow color from the carotenoids it contains.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in southeast Asia as a spice and medicinal herb. It is a relative of ginger, and if you have seen turmeric root you can see the similarity to ginger root, except for the strong, yellow pigment. It has been used as a tonic for the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems. Turmeric is beneficial for indigestion, poor circulation, skin disorders, diabetes, arthritis and coughs. It is considered a natural antibiotic. It can be used fresh or powdered. Powdered turmeric can be put in capsules for daily use, or mixed with butter. Turmeric is better absorbed with fats.
Curcumin is 2-5 % of turmeric and appears to concentrate many of the beneficial aspects of turmeric. Many studies have been done and are in progress on curcumin. These studies show that curcumin is a:
- potent anti-inflammatory
- aids circulation
- inhibits autoimmune processes
- inhibits platelet aggregation
- has a modest blood thinning effect
- protects the skin from UV damage
- protects the brain from alcohol damage
- beneficial in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- improves cognitive function, improves both behavior and psychological symptoms associated with dementia
- decreases inflammation in the digestive tract and blood vessels
- supports liver health, inhibiting NF-Kappa B, an inflammatory molecule that damages the liver
- Depression – a study at Baylor University Medical Center showed that curcumin
- is as effective as Prozac, without the side effects
- it enhances the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine
- it lowers cortisol, a stress hormone
- it has recently been shown to be beneficial in diabetes, lowering blood sugar,
- reducing sugar dumping by the liver, improves insulin receptor functioning
- increases glutathione, the body's major detoxification molecule.
- Cancer – it has beneficial effects on all phases of cancer, reducing initiation, proliferation, inducing apoptosis, causing cancer cell death as well as reducing blood supply to tumors
- it reduced DNA damage from radiation
- in combination with quercitin, it reduces the number of colon polyps by 60% and the size of polyps by 50%
- From the medical journal Athersclerosis – curcumin reduces oxidation of LDL
- cholesterol, slowing athersclerosis
- it reduces fatty artery deposits, reducing atherosclerotic lesions
- fights infections, having antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial effects
Curcumin should NOT be used in pregnancy, jaundice or bile duct blockages.
Curcumin is not well absorbed. Less that 2% gets absorbed into the bloodstream. While unabsorbed curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects as it travels through the digestive tract, many of the above effects will not be realized. Like other plant carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and beta carotene, it is better absorbed with fat.
One strategy that supplement makers use is combining curcumin with phospholipids (lecithin) from soy or sunflower. Another absorption enhancer is a black pepper extract, piperine, increasing bioavailability by 5-10 times.
The best absorbed extract is called BCM-95: Developed in India, it combines curcumin with oil of turmeric. Many of the studies showing curcumin's benefits have been done with BCM-95. Absorption studies indicate that compared to other curcumin preparations, BCM-95 reaches higher blood levels and stays in the blood longer, up to eight hours. This is the form that we carry in our practice and for personal use.
- maintenance – 2-400 mg. Capsules daily
- chronic inflammation – 1 capsule 3x daily, or 2 am and 2 pm
- disabling joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis – 6 capsules daily in divided doses
- cancer – 3-4 grams daily (3,000-4,000 mg)
- chronic low grade infection – 1 cap 3x daily
- acute infection – 2 caps 3x daily
- mix ¼ to ½ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of pasture butter, such as Kerrygold
- or put in capsules, take 2 or more daily
Uses in Cooking
- use fresh root or powdered turmeric in soups, stews, curries and sauces