What is Curcumin? Turmeric is a spice derived from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, which is a member of the ginger family. It has a long history of use in herbal remedies, particularly in India, China, and Indonesia. Curcumin is the most important biologically active phytochemical compound of Turmeric. Curcuminoids comprise about 2-9% of turmeric. Curcumin is one of 3 curcuminoids of turmeric. The other two curcuminoids are bisdemethoxycurcumin and demethoxycurcumin.
Curcuminhas a long history of use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine for stomach pain and arthritis. Scientific research has found that curcumin has strong antioxidative, immunomodulatory, proapoptotic, hepatoprotective and antiangiogenic efficacy. In several systems, curcumin has been described as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Studies has been presented to suggest that curcumin can suppress tumor initiation, promotion and metastasis. Recent studies have are evaluating the therapeutic potential of curcumin in treatment of especially colorectal and pancreatic cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin and Anti Inflammatory Properties
Curcumin blocks the formation of reactive-oxygen species, possesses anti-inflammatory effect as a result of inhibition of cyclooxygenases (COX) and other enzymes involved in inflammation. COX-2 is the body’s main enzyme responsible for the production of pain and inflammation in muscle and other tissues. Curcumin has not only been shown to be a COX-2 inhibitor, but it’s also well tolerated.
According to a study, curcumin inhibits the production of various inflammatory chemicals, including cyclo-oxygenase-2, lipoxygenase, prostaglandins, leukotrienes, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-8. (Nutrición Hospitalaria journal.)
NF-kappaB (Nuclear factor-kappa) acts like a switch to turn on genes that produce the body’s inflammatory responses. Curcumin has been shown to exert strong inhibitory effects on NF-kappaB activation within the body. Curcumin inhibits overexpression of NF-kappaB.
Curcumin has similar anti-inflammatory action as NSAIDS. A human study of 18 patients with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) found that 1,200 mg of curcumin per day was at least comparable to NSAID drugs in improving symptoms. Turmeric extract was found to be safe and evenly effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. (August 2009 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine) Published a study found curcumin substantially suppresses systemic inflammation markers MMP-3 by 48% to 99%, and MMP-13 by 45% to 97%.
Curcumin may help prevent and treat cancer by different mechanisms. Curcumin has been found to inhibit the activity of several matrix metalloproteinases in cell culture studies. Angiogenesis is the scientific term meaning the process which a tumor uses to promote blood vessels growing into a tumor. Curcumin has been found to inhibit angiogenesis in cultured vascular endothelial cells and in an animal model. Laboratory studies have shown that curcumin induces programmed death of colon cancer cells. Curcumin also suppresses colon cancer when combined with other polyphenols such as resveratrol. The combination of curcumin with green tea extracts has prevented experimentally induced colon cancer in rats. Prostate cancer is often dependent on sex hormones for its growth. Curcumin reduces expression of sex hormone receptors in the prostate, which speeds androgenic breakdown and impairs cancer cells’ ability to respond to the effects of testosterone.
Curcumin also appears to reduce the risk of lung cancer associated with smoking. Experimental studies on curcumin and nicotine, cancer-causing chemical, showed that curcumin reduced the effects of nicotine as a carcinogen by 50 %. Published in June 2010, the study documented curcumin’s mechanisms of action in regards to lung cancer. The researchers, concluded that curcumin is effective in stopping the spread of cancer cells through apoptosis, or cell death. A study published in 2009 reported that laboratory tests of curcumin found that it activates substances that kill both brain and lung cancer tumors. Research determined that curcumin both prevents brain tumor formation and kills brain tumor cells.
Alzheimer’s disease is due, in part, to the accumulation of amyloid, a protein, in the brain. Oxidative damage and inflammation are also associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin has been found to inhibit amyloid beta oligomer formation in vitro. Alzheimer’s begins as an inflammatory process in the brain. In a study conducted in 2005 showed that curcumin inhibits the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, which are collections of beta-amyloid protein, in both tissue culture and in animal models of Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the February 2005 “The Journal of Biological Chemistry” journal. Vitamin D3 together with curcumin, may stimulate the body’s immune system to clear amyloid beta from the brain. A preliminary study results, which appear in the July issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, may lead to new approaches in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s by utilizing the property of vitamin D3 both alone and together with natural or synthetic curcumin to boost the immune system in protecting the brain against amyloid beta.
Take 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric extracts three to four times daily per day. (standardized for 95% curcuminoids) Supplements ranging from 450 mg to 2,500 mg have been given in clinical trials. Curcumin was found to be pharmacologically safe in human clinical trials with doses up to 10 g/day. A phase 1 human trial with 25 subjects using up to 8000 mg of curcumin per day for three months found no toxicity from curcumin.
Clinical trials indicate that the systemic bioavailability of orally administered curcumin is relatively low. Some capsules of curcumin contain piperine, a compound found in pepper which aids absorption of curcumin into the blood stream. Nanoparticle or liposomal formulations can also increase absorption.
Curcumin Side Effects
Don’t use turmeric if you have gallstones or bile duct dysfunction. Allergic dermatitis has been reported with curcumin. Curcumin may interact with chemotherapy drugs like cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin. Talk to your physician before taking curcumin with blood thinners, including ibuprofen or aspirin .