What is Curcumin?
Curcumin is the main active compound found in the root of the turmeric plant, and what gives turmeric its signature yellow pigment. Turmeric’s use dates back nearly 4000 years. Because of its brilliant yellow color, it is also known as “Indian saffron.”
Today, turmeric is used to color cosmetics and foods. As a spice, it is commonly used in Asian cooking, especially curries. The root is also used widely for pain and inflammation.
Turmeric grows mostly in the monsoon forests of India, which produces most of the world’s turmeric and consumes about 80% of it annually. It is a perennial herb with underground rhizomes which are harvested about ten months after planting. ried rhizomes are sold whole or ground into powder. In the market, turmeric rhizomes look like smaller yellow versions of ginger root, which makes sense, since it belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae).1
It can be incorporated into foods, including rice and bean dishes, to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. Mixed with milk or water it is taken to treat intestinal disorders, colds, and sore throats, among other benefits.1
Medicinal Properties of Turmeric
Botanical preparations have been used for centuries in traditional medical practices. Because of its numerous beneficial properties, turmeric has been one of these. In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric is known to have many medicinal qualities including strengthening the overall energy of the body, relieving gas, dispelling worms, improving digestion, regulating menstruation, dissolving gallstones, and relieving arthritis. It has been used as an antibacterial agent and a remedy for liver disorders, anorexia, rheumatism, diabetic wounds, runny nose, cough, and sinusitis.1
Modern Research on Curcumin
Although many of the traditional remedies mentioned so far are more than a thousand years old, modern science has begun to validate their benefits through rigorous research. The bioactive compounds in turmeric called curcuminoids have been established as having powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The most important of these compounds is curcumin. Although the curcumin content of natural turmeric is only around 3%, it can be increased in strength by taking curcumin extract supplements.2
Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. However, studies have shown that the consumption of black pepper which contains natural piperine, increases the absorption of curcumin by as much as 2,000%.3
Curcumin and Inflammation
Free radicals are a harmful byproduct of the body’s normal cellular metabolism, but they’re also generated by toxins, stress, illness, injury, and other factors. A small amount of free radical activity in the body is normal, but when it overwhelms the body's antioxidant systems, r, a condition known as oxidative stress can results. Antioxidants control oxidation by neutralizing harmful free radicals. This helps prevent damage to cells, reduces inflammation, and protects against chronic conditions. The curcumin in turmeric acts as a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals and help reduce oxidative stress in the body.4
Because of its antioxidant properties, curcumin is also an anti-inflammatory compound. As such, it makes sense that it may help with inflammatory disorders like arthritis, an inflammation of the joints. Studies are ongoing on the possible use of curcumin for other inflammatory disorders like allergies, asthma, autoimmune illnesses, glomerulonephritis, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel, gout, lupus, vasculitis, and transplant rejection.
Heart Health and Curcumin
Worldwide, heart disorders and illness are the number one cause of death. Consuming curcumin through diet or supplementation may support heart health and the cardiovascular system.5
The antioxidant effects of curcumin have been shown to fight against cardiotoxicity and may prevent diabetic cardiovascular complications. The anti-thrombotic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin and the effect of curcumin in decreasing serum cholesterol levels, may protect against the pathological changes occurring with atherosclerosis. The inflammatory effects of curcumin may also have the possibility of preventing atrial arrhythmias.6
Curcumin and Mental Health
The brain is a complex organ involved in numerous functions that control the body’s many processes. Hormones from the pituitary and hypothalamus are critical for proper mental stability and behavior. Alzheimer’s and depression are two brain disorders that are very prevalent in society and are continuing to rise. Alzheimer’s and other dementias are the 7th cause of death worldwide.5
There is some preliminary data suggesting that curcumin may help address the inflammation, oxidative stress, and amyloid plaque build up that is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. More research using more bioavailable forms of curcumin is needed.8
Curcumin has also shown some promise in treating depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most available research shows that taking curcumin might improve anxiety symptoms in people with depression. Further trials should be implemented, particularly in Western countries, where curcumin does not represent a usual component of the diet.5
Curcumin and Aging
Given that oxidation and inflammation play key roles in aging, curcumin may have beneficial effects on the aging process.
Aging typically manifests as a decline in physical function, health, and vitality, and an increased risk of developing age-related disorders such as Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, metabolic disorders, and others, fueled by low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress.9
The current body of published data shows a wide range of potential benefits offered by curcumin, as well as turmeric. As researchers continue to explore the ability of curcumin to support our most critical areas of health, leading edge product development technologies are working to enhance curcumin’s bioavailability, and unlock the power of this potent phytochemical compound for optimal health and longevity.
One patented form of curcumin, called BCM95, is designed for enhanced bioavailability and absorption. ecoNugenics uses BCM95 in several researched formulas, including BreastDefend and ProstaCaid for optimal cellular health and longevity.
- Sahdeo Prasad and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects” 2nd edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
- Nutr Cancer, 2006;55(2):126-31. DOI: 10.1207/s15327914nc5502_2
- Planta Med 1998 May;64(4):353-6. DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-957450
- Sunde RA. Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. “Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease.” 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:225-37.
- W.Wongcharoen, A. Phrommintikul; The protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular diseases; February 24, 2009; DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2009.01.073
- Tsuyoshi Hamaguchi, Kenjiro Ono, Masahito Yamada; Curcumin and Alzheimer's Disease: 03 September 2010. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-5949.2010.00147.x
- Laura Fusar-Poli, et al; Pages 2643-2653, 19 Aug 2019; Curcumin for depression: a meta-analysis; https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2019.165326
- Sikora, E., Scapagnini, G. & Barbagallo, M. Curcumin, inflammation, aging, and age-related diseases. Immun Ageing 7, 1 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-4933-7-1