Powerful Benefits of Curcumin

Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, does much more than just give the spice its golden color. As a supplement, it has the power to support healthy kidneys and liver, protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s, reduce joint inflammation and potentially combat cancer stem cells. Why should you take it, how does it work, and how can the body properly absorb it? Read on for more about how to incorporate this spice into your diet and your health.

What It Is: A History in Healing

Curcumin is a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory effects. The main source of curcumin is Turmeric, which is typically made up of 3-5% curcumin, or even a little more depending on where it was grown. Turmeric is usually harvested in the warm regions of India, China and Southeast Asia, where it is also commonly used in cooking. It has been studied extensively for its health benefits, and the findings suggest curcumin has some amazing healing capabilities.
However, we aren’t just now discovering the potent health benefits associated with curcumin and turmeric.  It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system, to heal a whole host of ailments. Turmeric is believed to balance the three doshas (energies), known as vata – the motion in the body, pitta – the energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, and kapha – the energy that controls bodily growth. It’s commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for decreasing inflammation, treating liver and digestive problems, and to treat skin ailments.

Inflammation: Turmeric and curcumin supplements have been shown to help patients with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, injuries and physical trauma. This is because curcumin inhibits the body’s signal to product inflammatory compounds called eicosanoids. For example, a 2010 study found that Meriva, a turmeric supplement, provided long-term relief for 100 patients with knee osteoarthritis. Taken regularly, curcumin can be just as effective or more for pain relief as a daily pain pill.

Blood, Liver and Heart: Curcumin is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Because it’s an anti-inflammatory, it helps reduce the risk of clots and protects cells from damage, allowing for smoother bloodflow.

Curcumin may also be able to promote a healthy liver. Once again, it’s curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties that make it a so potent. It lessens liver injury caused by ethanol, thioacetamide, iron overdose, cholestasis and alcohol abuse. Additionally, it somewhat undoes cirrhosis, making it the ideal antidote if you’ve been indulging frequently in alcohol lately.

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Respiratory: Your lungs might also benefit from regular curcumin consumption. Curcumin has shown promising benefits with certain respiratory illnesses and diseases. Animal model experiments have shown a decrease in lung injury and fibrosis from radiation, chemotherapy drugs and various toxins. Additional studies from animal and pharmacological studies suggest that curcumin also protects the lungs from acute injury, respiratory distress syndrome, allergic asthma and obstructive pulmonary disease. This is due to curcumin’s therapeutic effect on curbing inflammation and oxidative stress. It has also been shown to be effective in alleviating bronchitis and other respiratory infections, so keep some turmeric or curcumin supplements on hand for the winter months.

Memory Diseases: Alzheimer’s and related diseases are low in India, and it’s possible the high consumption of curry – most often made with turmeric – is to thank for that. Potential contributing factors for Alzheimer’s disease include oxidative stress,cerebral deregulation, abnormal inflammatory reactions, free radicals and beta amyloid. Curcumin’s healing properties, including delayed neuron degradation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and metal-chelation, help improve the overall memory of Alzheimer’s patients. 

Cancer: In Ayurveda, turmeric is used to treat cancers, especially breast and uterine cancer. This practice has been gaining traction in Western medicine, as well: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently nominated turmeric for further studies. According to the NCI, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties “…may play a role in the agent’s observed antineoplastic properties, which include inhibition of tumor cell proliferation and suppression of chemically induced carcinogenesis and tumor growth in animal models of cancer.” Curcumin destroys cancer cells while promoting healthy cell function, and also prevents blood development necessary for cancer growth.

Skin: Curcumin can benefit skin problems from eczema to aging to skin cancer. It can be ingested or applied directly to benefit the skin. Curcumin is a powerhouse for the skin because it protects the skin from free radicals, sun damage and inflammation.  Curcumin’s antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties make it a powerful combatant for many skin issues including acne, warts, rashes, psoriasis and vitilago.

Curcumin Absorption in the Body

Curcumin in turmeric is a phenomenal addition to any diet, and doctors and scientists continue to find ways that it benefits the body. However, the key to those benefits is getting your body to use curcumin the right way. A small percentage of consumed curcumin is actually absorbed by the body. There are ways to pair it with food and supplements for optimal absorption.

  • Black pepper: When taking curcumin or turmeric orally, it will have the best absorption when paired with black pepper or piperine, which is black pepper extract. If you are purchasing a supplement, look for one that includes black pepper for the most effective dose.
  • Fats: Turmeric is fat-soluble, so it dissolves in fats. Without fat, curcumin can’t make it much farther than the stomach. It typically provides the most benefit when it is absorbed in the bloodstream. One popular way to pair turmeric with fats is to make a golden tea, where turmeric, coconut oil and milk are dissolved together to make a tea. You can also combine it with oil to cook on your veggies or sprinkle it on an avocado.

Turmeric is called the “spice of life” for a very good reason. Its powerful healing potential has been extensively tested and is backed up by science and thousands of years of healing through Ayurveda. It’s a simple diet addition that can make all the difference, particularly as you age. Add the golden spice to your food or supplement list and experience the impressive therapeutic abilities of curcumin.