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Turmeric & Curcumin

Curcumin is the active component of turmeric, a vibrant yellow spice. Turmeric has been consumed in India for thousands of years as both a culinary and medicinal herb. Curcumin is the active constituent to which most of turmeric’s health benefits are attributed. Turmeric is famous for having benefits for overall health and brain health, by fighting inflammation, lowering Alzheimer’s risk and reducing cancer cell growth [i].

However, the curcumin content of turmeric powder is only around 3%, by weight [ii]. Most of the studies on this herb use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. Therefore, it would be very difficult to reach these levels just using turmeric as a spice in your diet.

Curcumin is fat soluble, which means it breaks down and dissolves in fat or oil. Consuming curcumin supplements or turmeric in cooking alongside a fat can increase its bioavailability (the rate at which your body absorbs a substance).

Anti-inflammatory Effects:

Although acute, short-term inflammation is beneficial, it can be a concern if it becomes chronic and attacks your body’s own tissues. This may lead to chronic disease such as neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis, for example [iii]
[iv]. The exact causes of such chronic diseases are very difficult to pinpoint, however application of a strong anti-inflammatory compound such as curcumin has been shown to alleviate symptoms and even prevent disease progression by fighting inflammation [v]

Given that oxidation and inflammation are believed to play a role in ageing, curcumin may also have preventative effects in terms of age-related diseases [vii].

Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind ageing and many diseases. It is driven by free radical damage to the body tissues. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals due to its chemical structure [viii].

Brain Health:

Neurons send messages throughout the nervous system, they are central to brain activity. Neurons in the brain are capable of forming new connections, and in certain areas of the brain they can multiply and increase in number. One of the main drivers of this process is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is the gene involved in making a protein responsible for enhancing the activity neuron cells. Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of BDNF protein, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease Interestingly, animal studies have found that curcumin may increase brain levels of BDNF, and have antidepressant-like benefits [ix]
[x]. Curcumin activity in the brain has also been compared to conventional anti-depressant medications in medical trials [xi]

Curcumin has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it shows promise for Alzheimer’s treatment. Curcumin may help to clear amyloid plaques, a main cause of the disease [xiii]

Lower risk of heart disease:

Curcumin may help reverse many steps in the progression of heart disease [xv]. Several studies suggest that curcumin can lead to improvements in heart health, especially in post-menopausal women [xvi]
[xvii]. Moreover, curcumin can help reduce inflammation and oxidation (as discussed above), which can play a role in heart disease.

Role in Cancer Prevention:

Curcumin has been studied as a beneficial herb in cancer treatment and been found to affect cancer growth and development. Effects of curcumin include: increased termination of cancerous cells, reduced angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels to supply tumours), reduced metastasis (spread of cancer to other tissues and body parts) [xviii]

Evidence suggests that curcumin may even prevent cancerous growths from occurring, especially cancers of the digestive system like colorectal cancer [xx].


Given that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory compound, it makes sense that it may help with arthritis. Several studies prove that there is an association. In a study in people with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was found to be more effective than a conventional anti-inflammatory drug [xxi]. Other studies have seen improvements in various arthritis symptoms from curcumin administration [xxii].


Gallbladder problems: Turmeric may make gallbladder problems worse, including gallstones or a bile duct obstruction.

Liver disease: Turmeric is not recommended for those with severe liver disease

Surgery: Turmeric might slow blood clotting. It might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using turmeric at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Turmeric is commonly used in small amounts as a spice in foods, in this format tumeric is likely safe for use. Do not take medicinal amounts of turmeric if you are pregnant.


Anticoagulants or Anti-platelet Medications: Turmeric may slow blood clotting. Taking turmeric along with medications designed to prevent clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding, due to having additive effects.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Recommended For

Arthritis (Osteo) , Inflammation , Joint Health , Brain Health , Depression , Cardiovascular Health , Pain , Memory

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