Utilized throughout history for many purposes, plants evolved to produce secondary metabolites as natural defense mechanisms against disease and infection. Many plants have pharmacological or biological activities that have played a role in health care, from plant-based medicines to healthy cuisines. One such plant, Curcuma longa, has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for well over 2,000 years. A close relative of the ginger family, this rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant has long been prized for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, anticoagulant, antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and hypotensive properties. Additionally, turmeric activities have been shown to be cardio-, hepato-, nephro- and radioprotective. Turmeric, the bright yellow-orange aromatic powder, is obtained from the rhizome of the plant. The bioactive compounds it contains come mainly from fat-soluble, polyphenolic pigments known as curcuminoids. Curcumin, the principal curcuminoid, is generally considered its most active constituent.
Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), curcumin aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and hyperlipidemia. It may also enhance performance and recovery in active people with exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects are seen to provide therapeutic benefits in heathy persons, as well as those with health challenges. Similar to vitamin E, curcumin’s antioxidant activity has been shown to improve systemic markers of oxidative stress due to an efficient ability to scavenge and neutralize free radicals. Oxidative stress is implicated in many chronic inflammatory diseases and conditions, including diabetes, obesity, asthma, colitis, depression and arthritis, as well Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cardiovascular diseases.
The pathological processes of oxidative stress and inflammation are closely related. Inflammatory cells release free radicals at the site of inflammation leading to oxidative stress, while free radicals enhance pro-inflammatory gene expression. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory pathways, as well as mediators of the inflammatory response. Curcumin has been extensively studied in both modern and Ayurvedic medicine for treatment of various medical conditions, including some cancers, atherosclerosis, liver diseases and arthritis. It has also been utilized in treatment of traumatic brain injury and dementia. Ongoing studies will continue regarding the potential role of curcumin in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, as curcumin’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and lipophilic actions appear to aid and improve the cognitive functions of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin has relatively poor bioavailability possibly due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and speedy elimination. However, when combined with components such as black pepper, the bioavailability greatly increases. Black pepper contains piperine, a compound that inhibits drug detoxifying enzymes, including the metabolic breakdown of turmeric compounds in the liver and digestive tract. This allows the curcuminoids to remain in the body for a longer time, thereby increasing the bioavailability of the curcuminoids. Additionally, turmeric or curcumin is best taken with a meal that contains fats or oils to aid in the enhanced absorption of the beneficial properties. When consumed with fat, curcumin is directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system, bypassing the liver, which actively attempts excretion through urination.
The beneficial effects of turmeric are traditionally achieved through dietary consumption, even at low levels, over a period of time. The traditional use of turmeric has been known to be safe for centuries. To date, no studies have discovered any toxic effects associated with turmeric use even at high doses. Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has isolated more than 100 components, many of which have potent pharmacological properties, including curcumin, volatile oil and curcuminoids.
Always check in with your healthcare provider before taking curcumin or turmeric, especially if you are taking medications or have a health condition. Supplements may increase the effects of several pharmaceutical drugs, including blood-thinning and blood-sugar lowering medications.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality formulations for overall health support:
Turmeric Plus by Nutritional Frontiers: This professional botanical formulation provides turmeric rhizome extract along with Bioperine® in support of free radical protection and digestive, circulatory and blood vessel health.
Curcumin 500 with Bioperine® by Pure Encapsulations®: This formula provides Curcuma longa root extract along with Bioperine® in support of the body’s natural inflammatory response, as well as healthy liver, colon, musculoskeletal and cellular function. Gluten free, Non-GMO, hypoallergenic formulation.
Turmeric Extract Full Spectrum® by Planetary™ Herbals: Planetary Herbals Full Spectrum™ Turmeric Extract consists of a concentrated turmeric extract, standardized to 95% curcuminoids, and whole turmeric rhizome. This captures a broad range of turmeric constituents in support of antioxidant protection and a healthy inflammatory response. Sourced from Certified Organic turmeric roots. Available in tablets or in a proprietary liquid blend.
Curcumin Extract 500 mg by Vital Nutrients: This potent antioxidant formulation supports normal tissue and overall health and provides free radical defense. Free of coatings, binders, gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and sugar. Independently tested for authenticity, potency, heavy metals, residues, and toxins.
Curcumin Pro-95 by Professional Supplement Center®: This powerful blend provides BCM-95® comprising 95% total curcuminoids, curcumin and volatile oils in support of antioxidant and cell-protective activity, and brain and neuronal health, as well as a healthy microbial environment. Free of wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, GMOs, and artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives.
Turmeric, the Golden Spice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects of Human Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
Bruno, Gene, MS, MHS, RH. Curcumin and Cardiovascular Health. Vitamin Retailer, November 2017.
The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/
Why Turmeric and Black Pepper Is a Powerful Combination. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turmeric-and-black-pepper