Proven Benefits of Curcumin
12 Wonderfully Proven Safe and Effective Benefits of Curcumin to Boost Your Healthy Lifestyle
What Is Curcumin and What Does It Have to Do With Turmeric?
Curcumin is a popular topic. You might often see it mentioned along with turmeric. Maybe you're wondering, as I wondered, if curcumin is another name for turmeric.
It turns out that curcumin is not same as turmeric. Curcumin is the biologically active chemical found in the Turmeric plant, a flowering plant from the ginger family native to India and Southeast Asia.
If you've ever handled turmeric, you know that it's liable to stain everything yellow. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its bright yellow color and ability to stain. It’s responsible for the biological effects of turmeric that have attracted so much attention.
Turmeric has been known and used in Asia since ancient times, but It wasn’t until very recently that curcumin was discovered in turmeric.
We've known about turmeric since ancient times. It has a long history of use in India and Southeast Asia, but it wasn't until very recently that curcumin was discovered in turmeric.
Two German scientists, Vogel and Pelletier, discovered curcumin within the rhizomes of the turmeric plant and published their discovery in 1818. They called it the yellow coloring matter of turmeric. At that point, curcumin's chemical significance wasn't understood.
Vogel’s son was the first to fully isolate curcumin from the turmeric plant in 1842, but he never shared his method. We were left in the dark about the structure of curcumin for decades after.
In 1910, scientists Milobedzka and Lampe isolated curcumin and identified its chemical structure as diferuloylmethane. Years later they managed to synthesize the compound.
It wasn't until 1949 that curcumin was understood to have more properties than a yellow dye. In this year, Schraufstatter and Bernt found that curcumin was a biologically active compound that displayed antibiotic effects.
While curcumin didn't seem to capture a lot of attention after the discovery of its antibacterial properties, in the last decade interest in the properties of curcumin seems to have exploded along with interest of the general public.
With high public interest has come high claims about what curcumin is capable of doing. It’s hard for you to know what's true and what's not.
How Do People Make Use of Curcumin?
It might surprise you to know that humans have made use of curcumin through turmeric since 2500 BC.
It's a big part of traditional medicine in parts of Asia and one of the most popular remedies of Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is used to heal wounds, skin, aid congestion, and much more.
Curcumin has long been the dye of choice for giving clothing a bright yellow color. I'm sure you can see why. It's been used to dye Buddhist robes and festive clothing for children.
Turmeric and curcumin also have a long history as being used as a spice. It gives many of the traditional Indian dishes their bright yellow color and unique flavors. People use turmeric in all sorts of dishes today, not just traditional Indian foods.
Today, we can take pure curcumin in a supplemental form. People take curcumin supplements to treat anxiety, depression, arthritis. Some believe that taking curcumin will prevent cancer, heart disease, oxidative damage, and improve their overall well-being.
So what are the real benefits of curcumin? Let's look at the evidence.
The 12 Evidence-backed Benefits of Curcumin
1. Curcumin relieves symptoms of depression
Curcumin can make you happier. If you’ve ever struggled with depression or depressive feelings, you'll want to try using curcumin as an anti-depressant.
Curcumin has been incredibly effective in treating depressive symptoms in animal studies. What's effective for animals does not always work for people. Thanks to the newer human studies, we know that curcumin is also great at treating depression in people, as effective as a traditional anti-depressant!
A large study, published in the journal Phytotherapy, tested the effectiveness of curcumin for treating depression against fluoxetine and a curcumin-fluoxetine combination. It found that curcumin was as effective as fluoxetine at relieving symptoms.
In another study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, 58 people with Major Depressive Disorder were treated with either curcumin or a placebo. After eight weeks, curcumin was found to be significantly more effective at relieving the symptoms of depression than the placebo. Curcumin was most useful for those with atypical depression, a notoriously hard-to-treat form of depression.
A meta-analysis of six studies with 337 patients showed that across the studies curcumin was comparably effective for treating depression when compared to a placebo.
2. Curcumin improves circulation and helps prevent clots
Good blood circulation is essential for good health. When your blood circulation is excellent, your brain gets the oxygen it needs, and you're less likely to form a blood clot. Curcumin is capable of making your blood flow as it should be.
In a study of post-menopausal women, curcumin was tested to see if blood flow improved when compared to exercise. Both curcumin and exercise increased the blood flow of the women. Another study, published in the journal BMB Reports, shows that curcumin possesses anticoagulant activities.
Anti-coagulants are compounds that help prevent the blood from clotting, so curcumin's anti-coagulant nature is especially attractive if you're at risk of heart attack, stroke, or of forming blood clots. On anti-coagulants, blood doesn't clot and form blockages in veins, so blood flow is also indirectly improved.
3. Curcumin has anti-cancer effects
I view the possibility of getting cancer to one of the more frightening possibilities in life. You never know if you’ll get cancer until you either get it or are dying after living a cancer-free life. We do know that certain factors in our lives can increase or decrease our risk of developing cancer.
Curcumin is one of those factors that decrease your likelihood of developing cancer. In animal studies, it has proven to have a strong anti-cancer effect on more than one type of cancer. In the rare studies done on people, curcumin also displays anti-cancer effects.
A study published in the journal Molecular Reports, tested the effect that curcumin had on people with prostate cancer. Curcumin inhibited the growth of certain kinds of prostate cancer cells.
A different study found that curcumin had an anti-mutagen effect on chronic smokers. A mutagen is anything that causes DNA changes. DNA changes caused by mutagens can lead to cancer.
4. Curcumin reduces stress and anxiety
You've probably felt anxious sometime in your life, and you might deal with anxiety on a regular basis. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorder.
Whether you feel it only before some nerve-wracking event or on an everyday basis, you can reduce your anxiety with curcumin. Curcumin is a natural anxiolytic, with many studies finding that it reduces symptoms of stress in rats.
In one study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, curcumin and saffron were given to people with Major Depressive Disorder. Curcumin and saffron were found to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
5. Curcumin improves memory
Just about everyone would like to have a better memory. If you’re looking to improve your memory, curcumin can help you out.
A study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, gave people 180 milligrams of curcumin over an 18-month period. Those who took curcumin showed a 28 percent improvement on memory tests, while those who took the placebo showed no improvement.
6. Curcumin is good for brain health and may protect against age-related disease
After learning that curcumin is good at improving memory and reducing anxiety and depression, you're probably not surprised to learn that it's good for brain health.
Curcumin protects the brain by improving blood flow and protecting the brain against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress increases with aging. Oxidative stress plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
A study, published in the journal Neuroscience, found that curcumin protected the brain against oxidative stress. It also reduced mitochondrial dysfunction.
7. Curcumin lowers LDL cholesterol levels
An abundance of readily available animal products has led to an abundance of high cholesterol in our population. High levels of LDC cholesterol will cause cholesterol buildups in the walls of arteries which can lead to heart disease.
One study tested curcumin's effect on patient levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol. Low doses of curcumin lowered the levels of LDL cholesterol in patients.
8. Curcumin heals the skin
It's hard to hide damage to your skin. It's especially frustrating when the damage causes scars or is a reoccurring condition. Curcumin can speed up skin healing, prevent scarring, and help treat some skin disease.
In one study, published in the West Indian Medical Journal, turmeric was applied topically to cesarean scars. The scars treated with turmeric healed faster with fewer complications.
A review of available research data on curcumin, published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, found that curcumin could help treat several different skin conditions. It aided in the treatment of psoriasis, scabies, and scleroderma.
9. Curcumin is beneficial to the health of the gastrointestinal system
Your gastrointestinal health is important for many reasons. The health of this system influences your likelihood to develop obesity, diabetes, poor brain health, and more.
An analysis of existing research, published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, found that curcumin was beneficial to the gastrointestinal organs. Curcumin accumulates in and shows positive effects on the stomach, intestines, and liver. The existing data suggested that curcumin was likely to be useful for treating gastrointestinal disorders.
In a small pilot study, curcumin was given to patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The patients showed a reduction in their symptoms after taking curcumin.
A study of the effects of curcumin with mesalamine in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis found that the combination induced remission of the disease.
10. Curcumin protects the liver and treats liver diseases
Your liver is a very important organ, serving over 500 vital functions. The liver breaks down toxins, metabolizes fats and proteins, forms bile, stores vitamins, store minerals, activates enzymes, sends out hormones, and does many more services for the body. Curcumin can protect your liver and might help treat existing conditions.
A meta-analysis, published in the journal Nutrients, found that curcumin had a positive effect on the liver by altering different cellular pathways. Curcumin was able to protect the liver and treat liver disease.
11. Curcumin benefits joint health
Curcumin is good for your joints. Its anti-inflammatory nature makes it great for protecting you against inflammatory joint diseases and relieving joint pain.
A meta-analysis from the Journal of Medicinal Food found that curcumin was as good at alleviating arthritis symptoms as ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium, a medication used to treat arthritis symptoms. Additionally, curcumin didn’t have as many adverse reactions as some of the medications used to treat arthritis.
A study, published in the journal Arthritis Research Therapy, used found that curcumin slowed the progression of osteoarthritis in lab mice. Topically applied curcumin protected the cartilage and collagen of joints.
A small pilot study, from the journal Phytotherapy Research, found that curcumin relieved pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Curcumin was even more effective at relieving pain than diclofenac.
12. Curcumin may help in preventing and treating diabetes
One of my favorite benefits of curcumin is its ability to prevent diabetes. One in four adults will develop diabetes over the course of their lifetime. They'll have to avoid sugar, inject themselves with insulin, take their blood glucose levels, and potentially deal with all the health issues that are associated with diabetes.
If you want to avoid developing diabetes or treat your existing diabetes, curcumin could be helpful to you. It could even be better than existing treatments like insulin, which might eventually make diabetes worse by further increasing insulin resistance.
In a study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, pre-diabetic individuals were given a curcumin serum over a 9-month period. While about 16% of the people given a placebo developed type 2 diabetes, none of the people treated with curcumin developed the disease.
In another study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, researchers gave curcumin to overweight people with type 2 diabetes. Curcumin lowered the blood glucose levels of the subjects, suggesting that it could be used to treat an existing diabetes condition.
A review, published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, of existing literature, found that curcumin both prevented and treated diabetes and related diseases. Curcumin positively affected most of the principal aspects of diabetes.
The Side Effects of Curcumin That You Need to Know About
Generally, curcumin is a benign substance. Part of the reason it's so interesting to researchers is that it has a wide array of helpful effects while having little to no adverse compared to traditional medicine.
You're probably safe if you decide to use curcumin, but there are some side effects that you need to watch out for. It's even more important to understand the possible negatives of curcumin if you take medication or have existing medical problems.
1. Look out for curcumin’s interactions with other medications
• Curcumin interacts with blood thinning medications.
If you take blood thinners, you should skip out on the curcumin. Coumadin, Plavix, and aspirin are considered blood-thinning medications. Curcumin also thins the blood and can make the effect of blood-thinners much stronger than intended and cause dangerous bleeding.
• Curcumin interacts with drugs that reduce stomach acid.
Curcumin can interact with drugs meant to reduce stomach acid, like Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Nexium, Prevacid, and Omeprazole. It can even make the drugs do the opposite of what they're supposed to and increase stomach acid production. That doesn't sound like it would be a pleasant effect if you're already having issues with too much stomach acid.
• Curcumin interacts with drugs that lower blood sugar.
Curcumin can make the effect of diabetic drugs stronger. This will potentially lower the blood sugar too much and cause hypoglycemia.
2. Look out for how curcumin affects these health conditions
• Curcumin can adversely affect people with diabetes.
While curcumin can be enormously helpful for diabetes, it also comes with risks. It can lower the blood sugar of people with diabetes too much, which can be dangerous.
• Curcumin can be dangerous for people who have bleeding disorders.
Curcumin prevents blood clotting. For people with certain bleeding disorders, curcumin can put them at risk of bleeding too much.
• Curcumin worsens gallbladder problems.
If you have gallstones or other gallbladder problems, you should avoid curcumin as it can make your condition worse.
• Curcumin can make anemia worse.
If you're anemic or have an iron deficiency, you should probably avoid curcumin. Curcumin can lower the absorption of iron.
• Curcumin can worsen the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Curcumin can increase stomach problems in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease. If you have this disease, you should be cautious about taking curcumin.
3. Look out for these other curcumin precautions and side effects
• Don't take curcumin while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Taking curcumin could potentially cause a miscarriage. Curcumin interacts with so many things that it's hard to know how else it would affect a developing baby. It's better to avoid taking while so little is known.
• Curcumin might hurt your chances of having a baby.
Curcumin might lower the fertility of men. Curcumin has been shown to lower the testosterone and movement of sperm in animal studies.
• Curcumin can be dangerous to take before surgery.
Curcumin lowers the blood's ability to clot, and that can be dangerous for surgery. You're more likely to bleed out during surgery if your blood isn't clotting well. Don't take curcumin before surgery and let your doctor know when you last took curcumin.
Additional Information About Curcumin and Some Research to Go With It
1. There isn’t all that much curcumin in turmeric
Curcumin may be responsible for the health benefits of turmeric and its impressive abilities to stain everything, so you might think that it makes up a large part of the turmeric plant. Or you might think that when you eat curry, you get a good amount of curcumin.
You can’t get all that much curcumin from the turmeric plant. According to one study, the highest amount of curcumin that could be found in pure turmeric powder made up 3.14% of the powder by weight.
2. Curcumin isn't all that bio-available to humans
Most of the curcumin we take doesn't get absorbed. Very little of curcumin is absorbed by the human body.
This can be a problem for taking curcumin medicinally, especially given that curcumin only makes up around 3% of turmeric powder.
3. Piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin
Oral curcumin can still be helpful if it's taken with black pepper.
Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, increases the oral bioavailability of curcumin. When curcumin was administered orally with piperine, the absorption rate was found to increase by 2000%.
4. Curcumin has been synthesized and altered to forms that are more bio-available
Different forms of synthetic curcumin have been created to be more absorbant than curcumin. The versions of curcumin all have different rates of absorption. There is demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and tetrahydrocurcumin.
These forms of curcumin all show slightly different effects on the human body. They mostly act the same as curcumin and have all the same benefits.
5. Many of Curcumin's benefits come from only one of its properties
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin has a positive effect on so many diseases because many diseases are at least partially caused by inflammation. This one property of curcumin makes it good for so many issues.
Curcumin is an amazing substance that has been around to benefit us for a long time. We've used it as a dye, spice, and medicine through turmeric.
We are only just starting to appreciate how useful it can be for our health, as a preventative, alleviator, and a cure. We might even find other ways it can benefit us in the future.
There are more some concerns regarding curcumin. It might not work for everyone, but for you and most other people, curcumin is something that will aid in living the healthiest life possible.