A short intro to Curcumin
Curcumin or Turmeric is a very popular ingredient in dietary supplements. The Asian spice has been linked to dozens of health benefits. According to numerous reports, the spice has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it very useful in various ways. For instance, Elizabeth Ann Shaw, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, explains that Curcumin can help in preventing and reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. On top of that, it can also deliver anti-aging benefits.
So, should one really take Curcumin? And, are there any dangers associated with the spice?
What is Curcumin?
Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric. It has a rich yellow color, which gives curry its distinct appearance. The compound is very common in Asian foods, where it is used as a spice.
Based on numerous studies, there is no doubt that Curcumin is very beneficial. However, reaping the benefits of the spice is not as easy as it sounds for two main reasons. Studies show that Curcumin has a very low bioavailability. This means that you could consume the compound, but your body will not be able to absorb it. So, basically, it becomes useless.
On top of that, Curcumin has a very high metabolism in the GI tract. The spice can be broken down and excreted at a very fast rate before the body has gotten a chance to make use of it. This explains why some supplements may contain Curcumin but still be ineffective simply because they fail to address the bioavailability issue.
One of the best ways of making sure your body can take up Curcumin and make use of it is by taking the spice with black pepper. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which boosts the bioavailability of Curcumin. If you are buying a curcumin supplement, make sure that piperine is included in the formula, or the whole thing may be useless.
What Are the Benefits of Curcumin?
Curcumin is linked to a number of health benefits such as:
- It has Anti-Inflammatory Properties.
Curcumin is a strong natural anti-inflammatory compound, and the best part is it comes with fewer side effects as compared to other chemical-based anti-inflammatory drugs. Research shows that Curcumin blocks the action of the molecule that is responsible for turning on the genes that stimulate inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s response to pathogens. It helps our bodies to fight off bacteria and infections effectively. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is very problematic. It’s actually responsible for some conditions such as cancer and heart diseases. By naturally controlling inflammation, Curcumin helps to keep the body safe from itself without causing severe reactions.
- It has Antioxidant Properties.
Curcumin is an antioxidant by itself. On top of that, trials show that it is capable of boosting the function of the antioxidant enzymes that are already within your body. This is beneficial in various ways.
Antioxidant compounds are responsible for protecting the body against free radicals. Free radicals attack cells and mess up with proteins, fatty acids, and DNA. They are actually responsible for various diseases as well as aging. Free radicals can damage your skin tissue resulting in wrinkles. This explains why Curcumin is so common in anti-wrinkle and anti-aging supplements.
- It’s Useful for Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Treatment
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by inflammation of the body, which attacks joints. This autoimmune condition is known to be very painful. Since Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties, it makes sense that it can be used for the treatment of these conditions. Some studies actually show that Curcumin is a better anti-inflammatory drug than some of the prescription drugs on the market.
- It Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
The endothelium is the lining of blood vessels. It plays various roles, including the regulation of blood pressure and blood clotting. Unfortunately, endothelial dysfunction is very common, and it has been linked to numerous heart diseases, some of which are fatal.
Studies have shown that Curcumin can improve endothelium functions, thereby lowering the risk of heart diseases. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties also go a step further to protect the cardiovascular system as a whole.
- It Lowers the Risk of Brain Disease
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone found in your brain that helps in the multiplication of neurons. It’s believed that low BDNF can result in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
Research has shown that Curcumin can increase BDNF levels. In doing so, not only can the compound reverse the effects of low BDNF in the brain, but it can actually boost the brain’s performance. It helps to restore brain functions that are affected by aging. For instance, there is some evidence to show that Curcumin improves spatial memory. This is, however, based on animal studies.
While on the subject of brain diseases, it’s important to note that Curcumin might also help with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This stems from the fact that the compound is an excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substance. Further human trials are still needed to show how Curcumin can be used for this purpose.
- It Can Prevent and Fight Cancer
Vitro and animal studies show that Curcumin can prevent the formation of cancerous cells and fight the spread of existing cancer at the molecular level. It’s believed the spice achieves this by fighting the growth of blood vessels in the tumors, thereby starving the tumor.
There is some evidence showing that Curcumin can prevent cancers of the digestive system. However, there aren’t enough clinical trials to conclusively tell how beneficial the herb is for this purpose.
What Are the Side Effects of Curcumin?
There are no serious adverse effects associated with the proper use of pure curcumin products. Taking around 8mg of Curcumin every day for a period of not more than 2 months should be safe.
In rare cases, some users may report side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, stomach upset, and dizziness. These side effects have been linked to taking high doses of Curcumin. So, this is something you can avoid.
It’s also important to make sure that the Curcumin product you are using is of high quality. It also doesn’t hurt to start with low doses, which should give your body time to acclimate to the new compound. Remember to check the list of the ingredients included in the supplement. Some of the Curcumin products have other chemicals that you could be allergic to.
Nursing and pregnant women should avoid Curcumin. You should also speak to your medical provider before using the spice if you are using other medications.
The exact dose to use here will vary depending on the condition in question. For instance, individuals with osteoarthritis are likely to get the best out of Curcumin by taking 500mg turmeric extract 2 to 4 times per day for about 2 months.
To address the bioavailability issue, Curcumin may be used with 20mg of piperine. This combination should be 500mg of Curcumin and 20mg of piperine taken three times per day for a total of 1500mg Curcumin and 60mg piperine. Piperine is not necessary if you are using a curcumin supplement that contains the BioPerine chemical.
Some people also use Curcumin alongside essential oils.
It’s wise to speak to a doctor before you start taking curcumin products. They will help you find the best dosage for your unique needs.
The vibrant color of Curcumin paints a decent picture of how beneficial the spice is. Numerous studies have affirmed its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. There is evidence to show how helpful it is for treating depression and Alzheimer’s disease. It also protects the brain and heart functions. So, even though the research on the compound is minimal, the little that is available is already showing so much potential.
However, it’s important to make sure that you are using the right curcumin supplements. There’s really no point in purchasing a poorly-made product that is ineffective and possibly dangerous. Secondly, don’t forget the important role that piperine plays. You really don’t want to spend your money and time taking something that is simply going in and out of your digestive tract without doing anything.