Curcumin, native to India and Southeast Asia, is the most important component of the spice turmeric. It is the active ingredient, creating that vibrant yellow color found in curry. But aside from brightening our food, curcumin plays an important role in our health. In fact, it’s been used in both ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer agent. It helps modulate the body’s levels of glutathione, an important intracellular antioxidant. Studies have also shown that it’s effective in fighting conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease; and, according to the National Institutes of Health, curcumin is effective in both acute and chronic inflammation. Read on to see what else curcumin can do for you.
FIGHT CANCER Curcumin fights cancers at the cellular level and appears effective in combating all types of cancer and tumors. In some cases, it helps prevent the transformation of healthy cells to tumor cells; in other cases, it might inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Research also shows that curcumin works well as an adjunct for many traditional cancer treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy.
PREVENT DIABETES Studies have shown that curcumin is useful in preventing type 2 diabetes; it significantly lowers glucose levels and insulin resistance. Turmeric, the spice curcumin constitutes, helps maintain proper function of the pancreas, which helps the body properly regulate insulin formation. Turmeric might also help control cholesterol and unwanted fats in the body—both of which may lead to diabetes development if not properly managed.
SUPPRESS ARTHRITIS Because curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory, it helps reduce damage to bones and cartilage. It may also benefit type 2 collagen synthesis, thereby improving joint function. Curcumin even has the potential to cleanse the body of several enzymes that may create joint inflammation.
COGNITIVE EFFECTS Some researchers claim that many cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can be prevented with regular curcumin use because curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier. Curcumin plays an important role in decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress, which many researchers believe contribute to Alzheimer’s. Studies have also demonstrated that curcumin decreases amyloid plaque build-up in the brain.
WHERE CAN I FIND CURCUMIN? Curcumin comes in powdered or capsule form—and you can find it as a tea or in ointments. If you rely on your diet as a source of curcumin, note that it takes approximately five curry meals to get the equivalent amount of curcumin contained in one standard capsule. When looking for the right supplement, consider the source. Make sure that it’s a natural source (free of synthetic compounds), bioavailable (several companies have developed processes to enhance bioavailability), and that it’s GMO- and pesticide-free. Also, look closely at the other compounds contained in the supplement. Although there is a full spectrum of curcuminoids (and many have similar properties), be sure to consider the other additives. Many researchers consider curcumin to be very safe, even at high doses. The recommended dose is approximately 900 mg per day and should be taken with food to help with absorption.