Curcumin is a naturally occurring compound found in the spice turmeric. Used extensively in cooking throughout Asia, it has also long been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for its wide-ranging healing properties. We’ve listed some of curcumin’s more extraordinary health benefits below.
Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory
The human body often reacts to external stressors by becoming inflamed. It a vital and natural immune response, but over time, chronic inflammation of tissues can lead to a variety of health problems. Many commonly occurring disorders including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and arthritis are now being linked to long-term inflammation. Curcumin has been proven to act at a molecular level to block the chemical signals that cause this inflammation and has been shown in a number of studies to reduce inflammatory “markers” found in the body. This may prove to be a key health benefit of curcumin due to growing support in the medical research community for an “inflammation theory of disease”.
Curcumin is an effective anti-oxidant
Antioxidants are vital to the body as they act against the naturally occurring process of oxidation, where the body’s DNA and cells are damaged by free radicals. Free-radicals are unstable atoms that “steal” electrons from other, stable atoms. Damage caused by free radicals has been linked to the aging process, cancer, and the development of cardiovascular disease among other health problems. Curcumin has been shown to act as an effective anti-oxidant, blocking the process of oxidation.
Curcumin improves brain function
A recent long-term study in the US showed that a supplement of curcumin taken daily over 18 months, improved cognitive and memory function in those over 50 and without pre-existing Alzheimer’s. It is thought that curcumin may work by breaking down the amyloid plaques that form in the brain and which are thought to play a central role in the development of Alzheimer’s. The supplements were also shown to positively affect the areas of the brain that regulate emotions and anxiety.
Possible anti-cancer properties of Curcumin
Curcumin may be able to help prevent and even treat cancer by slowing down the growth and spread of cancerous cells; an effect that has been demonstrated in laboratory studies. It has also been suggested that it can help increase the efficacy of cancer treatments in part because it increases the bioavailability of chemotherapy drugs. There is also some evidence to suggest lower rates of cancer in regions where people eat large daily doses of curcumin as part of their normal diet.
There may be many health benefits of curcumin – but there is a problem. Curcumin has extremely low bioavailability. This means that only a very small amount reaches your bloodstream to be transported to your body’s other systems. It also dissolves poorly in water and is metabolized (gets turned into other things) quickly. This means that you would need to eat a lot of naturally occurring curcumin to see the benefits. Now that modern clinical trials are finally proving the very real health benefits of curcumin, many manufacturers have found ways of overcoming these obstacles to manufacture pharma-grade curcumin. These methods include creating cyclodextrin curcumin formulations, where the curcumin is “combined” with another type of molecule to increase its bioavailability. Products such as Volt03 utilize this method. Other approaches include coating the curcumin in a layer of fat or using synthetic curcumins known as “analogs”. For the many health benefits of curcumin, maybe we should all look to the ancient wisdom of the east and consider a daily dose of this extraordinary spice.