Curcumin – Nature’s Most Powerful Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation, the source of so much disease, has met its match in Curcuma longa. Curcuma longa, known to us as turmeric, is a warm-climate plant that is harvested just once per year for the root. As a cornerstone of ancient medicine, turmeric has spent centuries gladly taking all of the credit for the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties offered by traces of a polyphenol called curcumin.

Because it’s natural, renewable, and affordable, spreading the word about the benefits of curcumin hasn’t been difficult. What is difficult, however, is sifting through the mountains of emerging research which appears to corroborate evidence that was previously thought to be outdated or anecdotal. The scientific community is hot on curcumin, and curcumin is living up to the hype.

The Evidence

Perhaps the most impactful findings are the ones that show curcumin as a contender against cancer cells. Not only does it kill off some cancer cells, it can prevent normal cells from becoming cancerous, and it can prevent malignant tumors from using your blood supply to grow.

Research exploring the benefits of curcuminoids have also produced evidence that this polyphenol shows promise in preventing or treating symptoms of the following:

…and even more. Though not every result has been positive enough to cease the pursuit of other beneficial treatments, many conclusions definitely warrant excitement and further study. In particular, the finding that curcumin either outperforms or measures up to the effects of big-name, mass-market OTC and prescription medications like aspirin, Coumadin, and Prozac.

This could be a real asset to those who have suffered adverse side effects from medications. Curcumin and its host, turmeric, have no known negative side effects when taken in normal, recommended doses. That said, you should consult a doctor before taking it in tandem with anticoagulant drugs, antacids, and some diabetic medications, as the combination may reduce the efficacy of both.

The Root

While other members of the ginger family contain traces of curcumin, the only only source offering an appreciable amount is turmeric. Even so, the curcumin content found in turmeric hovers around 3-5%. That seems like a paltry percentage, but don’t underestimate this little powerhouse – turmeric get its brilliant yellow/orange color from that little bit of curcumin. Supplements will derive extract of curcumin from turmeric, or just offer a dosage of turmeric outright.

Getting More Curcumin

With its hotshot rep as a preventative, no one could blame you for immediately wanting to incorporate more curcumin into your life. How to best do that all comes down to personal preference. Fresh turmeric root is a good source, and if you love curry, you’re in luck – fitting extra curcumin into your diet will be a snap. But many more prefer the simplicity of a high-quality supplement. There’s no bitterness, no chewing, and you can get a therapeutic dosage much more conveniently.

It’s crucial to take into account the question of bioavailability and optimal absorption. Recently, concerns over the poor absorption of curcumin have led many to consume it with black pepper, a source of piperine. Piperine prevents the liver from metabolizing the curcumin at the pace it normally would, and has been shown to increase the amount of curcumin in the bloodstream one thousand-fold.

This can become problematic if you’re combining piperine-laced curcumin with other supplements or medications. Fortunately, manufacturers are patenting new ways of making curcumin more bioavailable without the use of piperine. Some of these methods involve using portions of turmeric that were previously thought to be inessential to creating a good curcumin supplement.

With such a vital and exciting natural resource in our hands, you can rest assured that we will continue to discover safe, easy, and more effective ways to best use curcumin for the good of our health.

Relevant Links:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758121/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569207

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