Curcumin is a bright yellow, fat soluble chemical that is found in some plants. It is naturally found in Ginger and Turmeric (which is also part of the ginger family). Turmeric has higher amounts of curcumin present, it is this which gives turmeric its bright yellow colouring. Curcumin has a wide variety of commercial uses. It is used as a supplement, in cosmetics, as food flavouring and food colouring. As a food additive it is known as E100.
The Basics Of Curcumin And Turmeric
Turmeric (curcuma longa) has long been used in India as a spice. The harvested product is dried and powdered before it is used as a spice. It has traditionally been used to treat a wide variety of ailments, such as depression, smallpox, ringworm and even sprained ankles! Turmeric is a source of curcumin, which is the natural chemical that is believed to have these healing powers. However, turmeric only contains 2-5% curcumin and the curcumin also has a poor oral bioavailability (only small amounts are absorbed) so vast quantities of turmeric would have to be taken to see any health benefits.
To receive the believed health benefits you can take curcumin as a supplement. Curcumin was first isolated in 1815 and since then has undergone vast amounts of research. It appears to help with a variety of natural pathways in a variety of ways.
Curcumin is believed to have a wide variety of benefits. Some of these benefits are under active investigation. These include helping with:
- Heart Disease – by improving the function of the blood vessel lining.
- Brain Function – by boosting levels of the brain hormone BDNF which increases the growth of new neurons.
- Aging – Anti inflammatory and anti oxidising effects combine to help with the aging process
- Inflammation – targeting multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway, curcumin is believed to be as potent as some anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Diabetes – curcumin is believed to delay diabetes in people with prediabetes.
- Oxidation – by neutralising free radicals, having an anti-oxidant effect.
- Arthritis – working as an anti-inflammatory, curcumin is believed to ease arthritis.
- Depression – boosting BDNF potentially reverses some of changes that occur in the brain that are linked with depression.
- Heartburn/Indigestion – the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may help to ease heartburn.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidising effects may slow down, or even reverse, this disease. It also promotes the repair of stem cells in the brain – another important factor.
- Cancer – early studies have shown that curcumin has promising effects on preventing, maybe even treating cancer. It appears to interfere with a variety of molecular pathways involved in cancer development. It also may contribute to the death of cancerous cells.
Other Important Information
As only small amounts of curcumin are absorbed, it is generally advised to take another supplement to help with absorption. Bioperine (black pepper extract) is commonly used for this. However, if you are taking curcumin to help with the inflammation of the colon it is not advised to take another supplement, as you want it to stay where it is!
Always be sure to seek professional medical advice before taking any supplement. This is especially needed if you are taking medication or other supplements.