Curcumin is the primary active ingredient in turmeric. Turmeric is a yellow-orange spice well known as a prominent ingredient in Indian cuisine and yellow mustard, but it also offers potent therapeutic benefits. Curcumin is the pigment responsible for both turmeric’s brilliant golden color and many of its health benefits. Curcumin soothes irritated tissue, is a potent antioxidant, supports wound healing, resists harmful organisms, and helps maintain health in the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and immune systems.
The Potent Antioxidant Activity of Curcumin
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the body’s production of harmful free radicals and its ability to counteract their adverse effects. Antioxidants help restore this balance by inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules, allowing your body’s natural healing mechanisms to repair the damage.
Turmeric contains many antioxidant compounds, of which curcumin is the most potent. In fact, studies have found that the antioxidant activities of this compound are ten times more effective than those of resveratrol, the much-hyped antioxidant in red wine.
In vitro testing has found that this compound scavenges free radicals and protects DNA from oxidative damage. Interestingly, not only does curcumin have its own antioxidant properties, it also appears to enhance the strength of other antioxidants.
Promotes Cardiovascular Health
The antioxidant properties of turmeric have a direct effect on the cardiovascular system. Curcumin reduces the toxic effects of aggressive medical therapies, especially the way they affect the heart. Animal testing has found that the phytochemical promotes normal heart size and function.
Helps Maintain Liver Health
For centuries, traditional Hindu medicine has used turmeric to support liver health. While much of this research has concentrated on its potential action against rogue cells, relatively few studies have been done on its liver-protecting effects. The research that already exists reveals promising results.
Studies have found that curcumin helps protect the liver from the effects of various toxins and promotes normal liver function. Animal tests indicate that it may also have potential for addressing fatty liver disease. More research is necessary to fully examine these promising liver-protecting effects in humans.
Resists Harmful Organisms
Research has found that curcumin displays resistance against many types of harmful organisms. Its resistance to fungus may be the most impressive.[1, 5] In vitro, turmeric extracts have even been observed to inhibit the growth of harmful organisms that specifically target the digestive system.
Other Health Benefits
As if its antioxidant, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective properties, and resistance to harmful organisms aren’t enough, turmeric shows strong potential in many other applications. It’s a legitimate superfood, and researchers are studying it for dozens of possible health benefits. Here are just a few.
Curcumin has soothing abilities and is one of the most effective ways to naturally address the symptoms of red, swollen tissue. Multiple studies have determined that daily ingestion of turmeric reduces tenderness, joint swelling, and stiffness.
Scientists have dedicated much research to turmeric’s relationship with cancer. Animal and in vitro studies that have evaluated curcumin and several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin, and colon cancer. Those inquiries are exploratory and more research is needed.
Both animal and human studies found that curcumin encourages wound repair and normal skin cell production. The effect seems to be effective regardless of whether the curcumin was taken orally or applied directly to the wound.
Curcumin consumption promotes normal gallbladder function and bile flow. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that turmeric supported normal digestion. Other studies have found that turmeric supports the health of stomach cells.
Bioavailability of Curcumin
While curcumin may seem like a miracle nutrient, it does have one possible weakness-bioavailability. Studies indicate that a relatively small percent is actually absorbed by the body after consumption. Because of this, much recent research has been devoted to improving its bioavailability.
Nanocurcumin is a specialized form of curcumin in which tiny particles of the compound are suspended in a special emulsion. In theory, these nanoparticles should be easier to absorb due to a greater total surface area, improved physical stability, and reduced energy requirements for processing. Further research is necessary, but early results are very promising. Researchers have already found nanocurcumin to be more effective at suppressing harmful bacterial activity than standard curcumin formulations.
While nanoparticles hold serious potential, there may be a simpler way of increasing the bioavailability of curcumin. Piperine is an alkaloid found in black pepper. It slows certain metabolic process, increasing the bioavailability of other compounds taken with it. Researchers found that the addition of piperine can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2000%!
Tips for Growing Turmeric
Growing turmeric is easy, but it takes about a year to harvest. Unless you’re in a tropical climate, you’ll need to grow it indoors. Turmeric doesn’t propagate by seeds. Instead, Look for fresh turmeric root at a local nursery (non-organic grocery store varieties may be treated with growth-inhibiting chemicals) and plant a cutting.
A large root will likely have several nodes attached to it, cut them apart-each one will start a new plant. Give each its own container, or plant them 12-16 inches apart in your garden; bury each under 2 inches of loose soil.
Turmeric prefers well-drained soil and full sun. You should see sprouts 3-6 weeks after planting. Your turmeric root should be ready for harvest after 8-10 months. You’ll need to start a new plant each year. You can save some of the rhizomes for next year’s crop.
Supplementing With Curcumin
Eating fresh turmeric is the best way for your body to reap the full health benefits of the spice. If adding fresh turmeric to your menu every day proves impractical or monotonous, then your next best option is a high-quality supplement from a reputable brand.
Many low-cost, low-quality turmeric supplements have been recalled for lead contamination! Before you buy, do your research and pay attention to product reviews. Only buy turmeric from trusted companies that are 100% transparent about sourcing.
While you can find supplements that only offer curcumin, I recommend a whole turmeric supplement that will provide all the essential cofactors and enzymes that help your body process the phytochemical.
Global Healing Center offers a liquid turmeric extract and we’re exceptionally proud of it. We use only the highest quality organic turmeric suspended in a gentle and safe vegetable glycerin base; this supplement contains no alcohol, fillers, or unwanted additives. The feedback we’ve received is incredible.
I’d like to hear from people who’ve supplemented with turmeric, what benefits did you notice? Leave a comment below and share your experience with us.
- Braun, Lesley, and Marc Cohen. “Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide: Volume 2.” Australia, Churchill Livingstone, 21 Nov. 2014. Print.
- Wongcharoen, W., and A. Phrommintikul. “The Protective Role of Curcumin in Cardiovascular Diseases.”International Journal of Cardiology., vol. 133, no. 2, 24 Feb. 2009, pp. 145–51. Accessed 4 Jan. 2017.
- Rivera-Espinoza, Yadira, and Pablo Muriel. “Pharmacological Actions of Curcumin in Liver Diseases or Damage.” Liver International, vol. 29, no. 10, Nov. 2009, pp. 1457–1466.
- Kuo, J.J., et al. “Positive Effect of Curcumin on Inflammation and Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Obese Mice with Liver Steatosis.” International Journal of Molecular Medicine., vol. 30, no. 3, 4 July 2012, pp. 673–9. Accessed 4 Jan. 2017.
- Wang, Y., et al. “Study on the Antibiotic Activity of Microcapsule Curcumin Against Foodborne Pathogens.” International Journal of Food Microbiology., vol. 136, no. 1, 25 Sept. 2009, pp. 71–4. Accessed 4 Jan. 2017.
- “Turmeric.” Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide, University of Maryland Medical Center, 26 June 2014. Accessed 4 Jan. 2017.
- Jaiswal, Manjit, Rupesh Dudhe, and P. K. Sharma. “Nanoemulsion: An Advanced Mode of Drug Delivery System.” 3 Biotech 5.2 (2015): 123–127.PMC. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.
- Bhawana, and et al. “Curcumin Nanoparticles: Preparation, Characterization, and Antimicrobial Study.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry., vol. 59, no. 5, 17 Feb. 2011, pp. 2056–61. Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.
- Shoba, G., et al. “Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers.” Planta Medica., vol. 64, no. 4, 10 June 1998, pp. 353–6. Accessed 4 Jan. 2017.
- “Six Brands of Turmeric Added to Recall for Excessive Lead.” Food Safety News, Marler Clark, 8 Aug. 2016. Accessed 4 Jan. 2017.