Turmeric is a beautiful, fragrant spice used in many Indian dishes. It has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Thanks to attention from modern researchers, it has been spicing up health headlines with increasing frequency over the last decade. But what is it about turmeric that is so beneficial, and should we believe all the hype?
Curcumin is the active compound in Turmeric that gives it its signature color and many health benefits. Science has singled Curcumin out as a promising substance for an array of conditions. Some of the evidence has been overstated in the press. There is a debate as to whether Curcumin is the miracle substance it has been made out to be. And yet, I recommend Curcumin supplementation for all my patients and take it myself because the cumulative evidence is encouraging. But before I lay out all the potential benefits of Curcumin for you, there are some points I’d like you to keep in mind as you consider adding this wonder spice to your supplement regimen:
- Curcumin is very poorly absorbed by the body, so you need to take a lot of it. Just using the Turmeric spice alone is not enough Curcumin for your body to utilize. Therefore, a Curcumin extract supplement is the most effective delivery system.
- Black Pepper, aka Piperine or Bioperine, increases the body’s absorption of Curcumin by an estimated 2000%. So, any Curcumin supplement you take should have Black Pepper (or Piperine or Bioperine) listed as an ingredient along with Curcumin extract. Or you can swallow some whole black peppercorns with your supplement.
- Curcumin is fat soluble. So, you may enhance absorption by taking it with a meal containing healthy fats.
- It has been established that Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier, so researchers are starting to examine its effects on the brain.
- Most research study participants were treated with at least 1 gram of Curcumin daily.
- Many research studies examining Curcumin benefits have a weak design or were sponsored by supplement companies, which brings their validity into question.
- Any claim that Curcumin cures and prevents a disease or a disease process is false.
Ok, now that we have put some perspective around the buzz of Curcumin as a health supplement, let’s look at some of the possible benefits and reasons it has withstood the test of time as a traditional medicinal herb:
- Curcumin has been observed to interfere with the molecular level inflammatory process in the laboratory. This could be encouraging news for the chronic inflammation that contributes to chronic disease if it is confirmed in human subjects.
- Curcumin shows anti-oxidant properties and could possibly enhance the body’s own anti-oxidant pathways. Oxidation is the main driver of the aging process. So, the anti-oxidant properties of Curcumin could help diminish some effects of oxidation and aging over time.
- Curcumin enhances certain protective factors found in the brain in the laboratory. If Curcumin has the same effect in the human body, it could protect the brain from the aging process. This is why it is often touted to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, though this claim is far-fetched based on what we know so far.
- Curcumin may enhance endothelial function- this is the mechanism activated by the linings of arteries to regulate blood pressure, clotting, etc. If this is true, Curcumin could play a role in preventing heart disease.
- Curcumin has shown cancer fighting properties in the laboratory. There is a study that claims Curcumin prevents colon cancer. These studies were not conducted in humans and have many flaws. However, the results have caught the attention of cancer researchers and we should see more in this area over time.
- Curcumin appears to decrease pain in arthritis patients in several small, weakly designed studies.
- There is evidence from one small study that Curcumin may help decrease symptoms of depression, especially if used along with an antidepressant.
The bottom line is that much more research is needed for us to understand how Curcumin affects the body. And yet, we know that it is entirely safe when taken in recommended doses. With so many wonderful possibilities and virtually no harmful side effects, Curcumin is a valuable addition to any health supplementation regimen. As more research is conducted, we will hopefully find out how to enhance the many benefits seen in the lab within the confines of the human body. So, in the meantime, keep taking your Turmeric supplement with a healthy dose of optimism and perspective.
As a Holistic Nurse Practitioner, I am always looking for ways that my patients can enhance their health through simple, natural means. Modern medicine is effective at addressing acute injuries, chronic disease, and severe imbalances. Naturopathic medicine is effective at supporting the immune system, restoring balance, and creating harmony within and among body systems. My aim is to integrate these approaches to offer patients the best approach to not only prevent and treat disease, but to also enhance health and wellness. I will use this blog to promote methods everyone can use to optimize their health. To tackle any concerns specific to your body and lifestyle, make an appointment with today!
By: Nicole Griffis, HNP, APRN-BC