Curcumin is the active ingredient in the ancient spice turmeric. Beloved by Indian and Southeast Asian cooks, turmeric is the yellow powder that gives many dishes a rich, golden yellow colour, and is made from the roots of a plant belonging to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). It has been in use for millennia, not just in cooking, but as a dye and for use in traditional Asian medicine.
Studies have shown curcumin to have powerful health benefits, and it is recommended by many as a treatment for a wide variety of conditions. Special interest is being taken in its abilities to alleviate pain and accelerate healing. But what does this mean for you? Read on for 7 incredible benefits of curcumin, as well as how to take it and any side effects to be aware of.
7 Incredible Benefits of Curcumin
- Curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory
Much attention has been given to curcumin’s use as an anti-inflammatory to relieve pain. Studies have suggested that curcumin is more potent as an anti-inflammatory than ibuprofen and aspirin. These studies have shown that dosages of around 500 mg of turmeric taken twice daily offers significant benefits. Medical experts now believe that chronic inflammation is linked to many long-term and life-ending diseases, such as heart disease, lung disease, and more, so incorporating curcumin into your diet is a great thing to do.
- Curcumin may prevent and aid in the treatment of cancer
Science suggests that curcumin may help treat and prevent various cancers, and it has been particularly connected with breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer. In laboratory experiments, curcumin seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. Certainly, certain cancer rates are lower in those countries where turmeric is commonly part of the diet.
- Curcumin can help reduce the effects of arthritis
Several studies have shown a correlation between taking a curcumin supplement and reduced pain and more mobility in those living with osteoarthritis. Scientists working with mice have shown that curcumin significantly slows osteoarthritis disease progression and has a palliative effect. While studies on humans have been less conclusive, this research offers hope to many who live with the chronic pain of arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation is very positive about the benefits of curcumin for pain relief and reducing stiffness for both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Curcumin has strong antioxidant properties
Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is well known for its value as an antioxidant. It seems the effect is so strong it may prevent toxins from damaging your liver and help those who have health issues requiring the use of strong drugs that may, over time, cause liver problems. Antioxidants help reduce the damage free radicals can do in our cells, which help reduce signs of aging on the inside and out.
- Improved digestion
Apart from adding colour and flavor to food, curcumin may also help your gut to digest it. Researchers show that curcumin reduces inflammation of the gut and improves its permeability leading to improved digestion. There is even a suggestion that curcumin may help those who live with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Curcumin may help control and prevent diabetes
Although research is in its early stages, studies with animals indicate that curcumin could be important in controlling and preventing diabetes, a disease that is becoming ever more prevalent in Western society. Studies with rodents have seen curcumin reduce glycemia and hyperlipidemia, and so it shows promise as an effective treatment, especially since it is so readily available and cheap to buy and produce.
- It’s a possible weapon in the war against Alzheimer’s
This is another area where scientists have not yet initiated human studies, but there is the very real possibility that curcumin may be of use in delaying or even reversing Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that curcumin can boost the levels of an important protein found in the brain and spinal cord. This protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), improves the health of neurons and how those brain cells communicate with each other. Many people with brain conditions show reduced levels of this vital protein, and perhaps curcumin will help us fight this horrible disease.
How much curcumin should I take daily?
Most studies and supplements recommend a daily intake of between 500 and 2000mg of turmeric a day, which works out at around 20-60mg of curcumin. The average Indian diet is at the upper limit of this, at around 2000-2500mg of turmeric (60-100mg of curcumin) a day, so you can safely take more.
Top Tip: Be aware that many turmeric products are marketed as 'curcumin' but just contain normal turmeric powder (the same stuff you'd find in your spice rack) and contain very small amounts of curcumin. On the ingredients list you should be looking for a specific curcumin dose of at least 100mg per day. You can boost curcumin absorption with piperine (from black pepper) making the curcumin you do take even more effective.
Are there any side effects of taking curcumin?
As with everything in life, curcumin should be taken in moderation. Taking too much risks irritating your gut as it stimulates the production of gastric acid; not a problem for most but a literal pain for a few.
Also, because of curcumin’s apparent blood-thinning effect, people on blood-thinning drugs like warfarin are best advised to talk to their doctor before taking a supplement.
Always stick to the recommended dose on any supplements you take.
The evidence overwhelmingly supports the health benefits of taking curcumin. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are proven, so it is no surprise that it can help with the treatment of so many conditions and diseases. But, like most supplements, curcumin is not for everyone. All research shows that taking quantities of turmeric or a curcumin supplement will only benefit you, provided you stick to the suggested doses.
We're not permitted to discuss any nutritional supplements in this particular article but if you need some nutritional advice please get in touch here.