Used for thousands of years in India, turmeric is the herb that gives curry and American mustard its yellow hue. Traditionally used as a disinfectant and a natural treatment for bronchitis and diabetes alongside other ailments, new discoveries have found evidence that the main compound of turmeric known as curcumin can help keep us healthy in many more ways than previously thought. From being a potent antioxidant to an anti-inflammatory, curcumin has been compared in studies to prescription drugs with equal, or even better results. This isn’t an article you want to miss, as I’ll be covering all the amazing benefits that come with curcumin supplementation as well as how to add it to your diet.
What Is Curcumin?
Derived from the roots of a plant called Curcuma longa, it is related to the ginger species. The compounds found in turmeric that has been associated with amazing healing properties are known as curcuminoids, with the most important being curcumin. Unfortunately it takes an awful lot of turmeric to derive a minimally effective amount of curcumin, as only 3-5% of turmeric is actually curcumin. For this reason, I recommend taking a curcumin extract, usually in capsule form. I will go into further detail about how to supplement with curcumin later in the article, as well as what you must pair it with to increase its effectiveness.
What Are The Benefits?
Possibly curcumin’s best health benefit comes in the form of its anti-inflammatory properties. While acute exercise induced inflammation is beneficial for our body, chronic long term inflammation is quite the opposite, more often than not being a large component in many western diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. By blocking a molecule known as Nf-kB, curcumin actively prevents this inflammation activating gene from ‘turning on’. As Nf-kB is believed to have a role in many diseases, this is a breakthrough as curcumin can block the molecule better than some prescription drugs without the side effects.
Another impressive health benefit associated with curcumin is a potent antioxidant effect on the body. Diseases and accelerated aging stems from oxidative stress, more specifically in the form of free radicals. These molecules are highly reactive and are known to damage certain fatty acids, proteins and DNA in our body. The chemical structure of curcumin can neutralize free radicals and even stimulate the production of the body’s own antioxidants, making it twice as effective as most other antioxidants.
The other benefits of curcumin include cancer prevention and treatment, a reduction of pain in arthritis patients, lower levels of depression, Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention, a lower risk of other neurological diseases, lowering lipid and plaque levels in arteries which can effectively treat/prevent diabetes. With no noticeable side effects found in doses of up to 10 grams, curcumin might be one of the safest and effective treatments used today.
How To Supplement With Curcumin
The jury is still out whether it’s more effective to supplement with pure curcumin or turmeric. Some believe that turmeric is more effective than taking pure curcumin as it contains more types of curcuminoids, but you need at least 20 times more to get the same amount of curcumin. This is something you’re going to have to decide on your own, although personally I believe that curcumin taken by itself will yield very favorable results in a much smaller dose than supplementing with turmeric. The clinically effective dose of curcumin is anywhere from 100 mgs to one gram, you can take more than a gram without any adverse side effects, but no increased benefits above one gram have been proven.
There is one catch that is extremely important to understand before supplementing with curcumin, which is that its absorption rate is very low by itself. For the above dosages to hold weight, curcumin must be paired with black pepper extract. Without this combination most of the curcumin will not be absorbed into the bloodstream (more than 99%), but will be broken down in the intestines. And while all the benefits mentioned earlier in the article will not be present, curcumin can in fact help with digestion and gut health making it somewhat useful when not taken with black pepper extract. As well as the black pepper extract, curcumin is also fat soluble, meaning it is absorbed even better when taken with a fatty meal or whole milk. To put these parameters into perspective, taking 500 mgs to a gram of curcumin with black pepper extract and a fat source, results in its absorption being enhanced by over 2000%.
Take Home Message
If a cure-all has ever existed, curcumin is most definitely one of them! Most of the time when we think of a supplement or natural herb we think of it doing one thing and one thing only. But this is one of those rare compounds that be as anti-inflammatory as fish oil, as potent an antioxidant as anthocyanins, and as overall beneficial as prescription medication (for certain situations). I recommend this supplement to anybody who is looking to stay healthy and cares about preventative medicine, especially because of the lack of side effects that would discourage many from taking supplements they don’t feel they directly need.
Whether you get it from a pill or adding turmeric to all of your meals (be careful the yellow color stains quite easy), don’t forget to take it with a source of fat and some black pepper (which sometimes comes in the same capsule). Personally I find it easiest to swallow a few black peppercorns whole with a glass of whole milk whenever I take curcumin, a cheap and effective way to make sure the bioavailability is at its peak. Now that I’ve equipped you with all the information, go out and find a supplement that is right for you! As always thank you for reading all the way through and I hope you learned something useful.