If you’re like most people, you’ve heard of a supplement known as curcumin. Perhaps you’ve even heard about the amazing research developing around this supplement. You likely have a few lingering questions as well.
Is it a spice?
Is it an herb?
Is it natural or man-made?
What are the potential side effects?
Should everyone take this as a supplement?
Our goal is to answer all of those questions right here in one convenient place. We’ll discuss some of the research that is leading many experts to believe that curcumin could help prevent or perhaps even cure serious medical conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
We encourage you to settle in and learn more about curcumin. It could have a positive impact on your health or that of someone you love.
What is Turmeric?
Do you have a bottle of turmeric in your kitchen? Perhaps you’ve used it many times to flavor your food or to give a dish that golden color that this spice is famous for producing. Even if you’ve only heard of this spice once or twice, you have a foundation for understanding curcumin.
In Asian countries, many people consume a plant known as Curcuma longa Linn. The spice that we refer to as turmeric in the western world is derived from the rhizomes of this plant. Curcumin is a pigment or curcuminoid that is found in turmeric, and it is what gives this flavorful spice its bright yellow color. Due to its molecular structure, it’s also known as a naturally occurring polyphenol. We may refer to it as such throughout this report.
While curcumin is just starting to receive a lot of attention in the media, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes in India for more than 4,000 years. Indian medical literature has identified at least 100 ways to use turmeric, and it’s considered a sacred spice in the Hindu religion. The fact that scientists are now discovering the potential healing power of this natural antioxidant isn’t surprising. As more studies are completed and curcumin is better understood, there’s a chance that it will transition from a member of the kitchen spice rack to medication that saves lives.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Like many superfoods, you will see a lot of big claims about the health benefits of turmeric, and many of those benefits are believed to come from curcumin. You can find blogs and websites claiming that it can cure cancer, eliminate chronic inflammation and even stop memory loss or potentially reverse Alzheimer’s. Some even state that turmeric is as powerful as the pharmaceutical drugs currently prescribed for arthritis and many other medical conditions.
Is it starting to sound like just another fad that will soon be replaced by another “miracle” supplement? The big claims may sound that way, but there is some truth to the hype surrounding curcumin taken from turmeric. While there are no definitive research findings that prove it can prevent or cure cancer or any other disease, there is a growing field of research that proves turmeric is a powerful antioxidant with some potential medical applications.
Much of that research is focused on curcumin. Chances are high that we will one day see this derivative of turmeric used in legitimate pharmaceuticals that fight or prevent serious diseases. Yes, it’s possible that cancer or Alzhemiers will make the list of diseases impacted.
Remember, turmeric has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in India. While it may not deliver amazing benefits when added as a spice to your curry, it is powerful when consumed in higher concentrations and on a routine basis. In other words, the power comes from consuming it as a medication rather than as a spice. Also, isolating curcumin could deliver better results than simply using the full turmeric spice.
Does this mean that everyone should run out and purchase high-quality curcumin supplements? Possibly, but like many natural medicines currently being researched, we’re probably a long way from seeing curcumin turned into a true miracle drug that is sold from pharmacies. That doesn’t mean that many people won’t benefit from adding curcumin or turmeric to their daily supplement routine right now.
When added to a more extensive treatment plan, there is reason to believe that curcumin from turmeric can make a difference while further research is explored. Let’s take a look at some of the most common uses for turmeric supplementation along with an analysis of the research that is sparking so much hype around this yellow spice compound.
Curcumin and Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is what makes many medical conditions so painful, and it can damage your body significantly over time. It’s the human body’s natural response to infection or the presence of anything toxic inside the body, which is needed to heal minor cuts and bruises occasionally. Chronic inflammation occurs when that protective response happens on a consistent basis. Routine or consistent inflammation can lead to clogged arteries that put you at risk of a heart attack, and it can cause pain and stiffness in your joints.
If a spice or coloring compound can help relieve inflammation without serious side effects, it can become a powerful weapon against the following inflammatory conditions plus potentially many others:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Periodontal disease
- Crohn’s disease
The question is whether there’s any scientific research proving that turmeric or any of its isolated compounds can efficiently prevent excessive inflammatory responses inside the body. Curcumin is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory substance, and there have been some studies confirming its ability to provide valuable inflammatory relief.
One study completed at Panjab University in India found that giving patients doses of curcumin before and after the administration of cisplatin therapy protected renal functioning and provided other benefits due to the reduction of inflammation. Cisplatin is a compound commonly used in chemotherapy treatments and is known to cause renal failure and other medical problems. This study gives hope that this yellow coloring compound could solve those problems.
Another study published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry induced colitis in rats and then administered curcumin to reduce inflammatory symptoms at two receptor points. The results showed promise that the resulting reduction of inflammation could help people who suffer from colitis and other forms of irritable bowel disease.
There are quite a few additional studies conducted on animals and humans that have delivered similar results, pointing to this polyphenolic compound as a true contender for future anti-inflammatory medications. It is believed to work by inhibiting molecules within the body that cause inflammation. Studies using doses as high as 8,000 mg were proven safe for humans and animals, but you don’t want to go that high in dosage when taking a natural turmeric supplement without medical supervision.
Curcumin and Alzheimers, Dementia & Memory
Memory issues are a primary concern for millions of people today. Problems range from mild memory loss or lack of data retention at all ages to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease later in life. Scientists in many medical fields have been testing for preventative treatments and Alzheimer’s cures for many years, and turmeric is one of the more promising options.
Additional research is needed before it is used in Alzheimers medications, but the research gives a lot of support to the claim that this component of turmeric is useful for memory enhancement or protection against memory loss over time.
In a review of the evidence related to Alzheimer’s Disease printed in the journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, researchers explained that this turmeric extract may help fight this disease by reducing inflammation in the brain and decreasing the presence of Beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques are readily found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease, and they’re believed to cause many of the symptoms associated with the condition.
Additional research is needed to prove that this spice extract can protect against or even cure Alzheimer’s Disease, especially since some studies have shown limited or no positive results. Some professionals are concerned that elderly patients may not tolerate this compound well in high dosages, but at least one study into the tolerability of curcumin taken orally has shown that it was tolerated by all but a few patients. The only complaint was gastrointestinal distress.
Turmeric is used heavily in India, and Alzheimer’s Disease is far less prevalent in the elderly population there than in other regions of the world. This fact adds to the research to give us all hope that cure or preventative treatment for Alzheimer’s is on the horizon.
Now, what about memory loss that doesn’t rise to the occasion of Alzheimer’s or dementia? One study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found improvements in memory and mood after people without dementia took a curcumin supplement. This is the research often cited when claims are made that this turmeric polyphenol can improve memory, and there is good reason to believe that it can help everyday people remember things with greater clarity and ease.
Curcumin and Depression
It’s estimated that about 350 million people around the world suffer from depression. Women are more likely to suffer than men, and millions of adults may suffer at least one major depressive episode each year. It’s obvious that any supplement or medication capable of ending that suffering will be in high demand worldwide. In fact, prescription medications for depressive incidents often come with so many uncomfortable side effects that most patients would welcome an all-natural supplement that could provide the same or similar results.
Many believe that curcumin from turmeric may one day challenge the pharmaceutical options for depression and other mood disorders. This is one of the main reasons that people start taking this polyphenolic compound as a supplement, and there is some promising research that may give us all hope.
There haven’t been as many studies related to depression as to Alzheimer’s Disease, but the studies that are available show some potential for this supplement to help improve mood in many people suffering minor or major depressive symptoms. One analysis of available research concluded that the supplement is tolerated well by most people and is safe for use. The researchers determined that some positive results merit deeper research into the connection between this turmeric polyphenol and depression.
Another overview of the research found that this compound is likely effective not only against major depression but also diabetic neuropathy and other neurological disorders. It was noted in this report that the impact seems to come from changes in the brain that are caused by the properties of curcumin.
Based on the studies that are currently available, some medical doctors are now using this turmeric supplement in addition to Prozac and other common prescription medications for depressed patients. You can get the benefits without a doctor’s prescription by adding turmeric to your food or by taking a high-quality supplement that isolates the most powerful component of the spice.
Curcumin for Arthritis
We mentioned arthritis in the above section related to curcumin and inflammatory responses, but we wanted to take a closer look at the growing body of research suggesting that this polyphenol compound is also a potential solution for arthritis sufferers. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million adults have been diagnosed with arthritis and hundreds of thousands of babies are born with this condition or related rheumatic medical conditions.
Many adults are disabled due to arthritis, so finding a cure or preventative treatment has been the focus of many research studies in the past decade or longer. This is a medical condition that involves chronic inflammation, and the body’s defense system literally attacks joints throughout the body. This leaves sufferers in extreme joint pain that is difficult to treat. The pain and stiffness often develops slowly over time, and the end result is often reduced function of the knees, wrists or other body parts with sensitive joints.
The good news is that turmeric and its relevant extracts are proving to ease the inflammation associated with arthritis, resulting in less pain and improved joint functionality for many patients. It is also possible that this supplement can modify the extreme immune system response that causes the body to attack itself, which could potentially put some rheumatoid arthritis suffers in remission.
In one detailed overview of the research related to turmeric and joint arthritis, it was concluded that there is justification for using this spice in addition to other treatments for arthritis. This gives some validity to the many anecdotal claims that joint pain and stiffness is relieved significantly when a quality turmeric supplement is used daily. This research falls short of recommending this spice compound as an official treatment for arthritis only because the studies available have not included enough subjects. Larger human studies are needed for before development of new pharmaceuticals will begin.
Another detailed review of the research related to arthritis found similar results, recommending further research into the use of this turmeric polyphenol for the treatment of arthritis. As with many studies related to this compound, the researchers mentioned concerns about the bioavailability of the polyphenol within the human body. This is perhaps one obstacle that researchers will need to overcome before this natural compound is used to create new treatments for arthritis or any other medical condition.
Many people with arthritis are already using turmeric supplements to help relieve pain and stiffness. Many have reported impressive results. Since the side effects are limited, there is no reason that such experimentation should stop. If you or someone you love is suffering from arthritis, this is one supplement that you may want to add to your treatment plan.
Curcumin for Cancer
In our earlier section on turmeric extract and inflammation, we touched on research concluding that the extract can stop the growth or spread of cancerous cells. This is one of the most stimulating areas of research for turmeric and its powerful polyphenol compounds, so we decided to go a bit more in depth on this topic. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 14 million people survived cancer as of 2014 and that number is expected to reach more than 18 million survivors by 2024. Perhaps turmeric-derived supplements will help us get to that number of survivors even faster.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are four ways that polyphenols from turmeric could potentially help cancer patients:
- Cancer prevention
- Slow the spread of cancerous cells
- Improve effectiveness of chemotherapy
- Protect healthy cells from radiation damage
As we noted in our section related to inflammation, there is also a chance that the use of this golden-colored supplement could one day protect cancer patients from side effects of some chemicals used in chemotherapy treatments. The Mayo Clinic notes that there isn’t enough research available to turn these polyphenols into a new treatment for cancer today, but this compound is a strong contender for future pharmaceutical development once additional research is completed.
Cancer Research UK adds some interesting information to this conversation by noting that turmeric and its polyphenols are likely more effective against certain types of cancer. They specifically mention cancers of the bowel, skin, stomach and breast as some of the most likely forms of cancer to respond to future turmeric treatments.
Based on this research, we can’t depend on this supplement to prevent or stop the growth of cancer alone, but it won’t surprise medical professionals if it becomes a part of the eventual cure for cancer. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add a quality supplement to your daily routine to get some of the benefits discussed in this report. If there is a strong chance that the compounds could prevent cancer, you may want to get ahead of the research.
Possible Curcumin Side Effects
At this point, we have already gone over a couple studies that have found turmeric supplements safe for use in humans. This doesn’t mean that there are no potential side effects that may come with routine use or with the consumption of high dosages. We already discussed one study that noted a few patients suffered from gastrointestinal distress when receiving turmeric supplements for research purposes. It turns out that bloating, nausea and other digestive issues are among the most minor potential side effects.
Research in animals has found that the potency of curcumin is enhanced by 2,000% when it is consumed along with black pepper. The concern is that this may lead to significant DNA changes that may lead to additional medical problems. As with most areas of turmeric research, there isn’t enough evidence to state with certainty that is will apply to humans.
This research is still cited by many people who recommend that consumers stick to cooking with turmeric rather than supplementing with an extract from the spice. You may also take the approach of not consuming your supplement in high dosages and avoiding the use of black pepper. It’s most likely that extremely high concentrations of this spice would be needed to create changes in the DNA of any person.
Most research studies report only minor side effects when turmeric polyphenols are taken in dosages up to 2,100 mg. When problems do arise, one of the following symptoms is most likely the cause:
- Acid reflux
- Skin rash
8,000 mg of the supplement are needed to cause the rash, and this is still a rare reaction. Most of the stomach discomforts are also rare, and you would need to take more than 1,000 mg before they become a real concern. Headaches and nausea may impact some people with a dose as low as 480 mg.
Some research has found that more severe side effects have been found in rats when extremely high doses of these polyphenols are taken. This includes stomach ulcers and oversized livers, but most humans don’t take dosages that are high enough to produce these more serious problems. Taking a lower dose on a daily basis is considered safe for adults, but further research is needed to prove that with certainty.
How to Find the Best Curcumin Supplements
At this point, you have probably made up your mind about taking a turmeric-related supplement. There are some impressive health benefits that you could gain, and the growing body of research shows great potential for future medical applications of these powerful polyphenols. While you do have to consider the chance of minor side effects, this is a supplement that makes a lot of sense for many people interested in preventing or treating a variety of medical conditions.
You don’t want to give these supplements to children, and you may want to discuss the use of turmeric supplements with your doctor if you have a diagnosed medical condition and take prescription medications. There is always the risk that any supplement you take may interact with your medications, especially a natural supplement likely to become a prescription drug in the future.
If you do want to try a curcumin supplement, there are a few things to look for on the label before you make a purchase:
What is the percentage of curcumin in the product?
- What is the percentage of curcumin in the product? Don’t let tricky wording on the front of the label fool you. In order to find a supplement that contains more of these powerful polyphenols than added ingredients, you need to look at the back of the label to see exactly what is included in the formula. The best supplements are more than 90% curcumin.
What is the potency of the supplement?
- What is the potency of the supplement? Some supplements use an extraction process that delivers a more potent product, so you can receive more polyphenols per capsule. The packaging can still deceive you, so make sure to look at the overall curcumin content before opting for a high-potency supplement that is more expensive than other products.
What is the brand name associated with the supplement?
- What is the brand name associated with the supplement? This is an important question because many fake supplements are packaged with no brand name or with a brand name that has no online presence and may not really exist. Look for trustworthy brands like Vimerson Health, Vitamin Bounty, NatureWise, and Now.
You now have all of the information needed to add a curcumin supplement to your daily routine. As more research related to turmeric and its polyphenols is released, we will keep you updated on the potential health benefits.