The Benefits of Turmeric and curcumin
Used in India for thousands of years as a cooking ingredient and for its medicinal properties, turmeric is the spice that gives your favourite curry its distinctive yellow colour and is now a big deal in the world of wellness, and it may have some potential benefits for you.
With so many herbs and spices listed as having potential health benefits, it’s easy to get confused. Turmeric? Curcumin? Are they the same thing? Yes, and no. The bioactive compounds found within turmeric are called curcuminoids, with the main active ingredient being (you guessed it) curcumin.
As interest in natural supplements and improved health studies have developed, the benefits of curcumin are beginning to be discussed. So far, the Curcuma longa root (part of the ginger family) has potential effective digestive properties for people with irritable bowel syndrome, along with potential anti-inflammatory properties, working as a strong antioxidant within the body, too. 1
WHAT IS TUMERIC?
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a bright yellow-orange spice derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which belongs to the ginger family. It's native to South Asia, particularly India, and has been an integral part of traditional medicine, cuisine, and cultural practices in the region for thousands of years.
Turmeric is known for its vibrant colour, earthy flavour, and numerous potential health benefits.
WHAT IS CURCUMIN?
The active compound responsible for many of its health-promoting properties is called curcumin. Curcumin is a polyphenol with potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a subject of significant scientific interest and research.
In culinary applications, turmeric is used as a spice to add flavour and colour to various dishes, especially curries. It's also utilised as a natural food colouring agent. Beyond its culinary use, turmeric has been used in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments and promote overall well-being.
Due to its potential health benefits, turmeric has gained popularity in the wellness and dietary supplement industries. It's available in various forms, including fresh roots, dried powder, extracts, and supplements.
However, it's important to note that while turmeric contains beneficial compounds like curcumin, the amount of curcumin in raw turmeric is relatively low. This has led to the development of curcumin supplements that provide higher concentrations of the active compound.
GETTING YOUR DAILY DOSE
Whether you’re into daily exercise, work on your feet, or simply suffer from pain or inflammation as a result of a pre-existing medical condition, we can certainly all benefit from an anti-inflammatory in our lives. Boosting your diet is a great way to pack your body with naturally restorative, active compounds, as well as helping to counter overreliance on convenient non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which bring unwanted side effects and long-term issues with regular use.
So that means we should all eat loads of curries, right? Wrong. The curcumin content of turmeric is not very high at all, barely moving the scales at a measly 3%. 2 Many studies that prove the effectiveness of curcumin use extracts that exceed 1 gram per day, leaving you with a curry marathon on your hands in an attempt to reach the desired level.
What’s worse is that curcumin is also poorly absorbed into our bloodstream, making it even more difficult to get the amounts we need from food alone. In short, without proper supplementation, it’s virtually impossible to reap the rewards of this super spice.
Not only is curcumin scientifically proven, some studies even position this wonder extract as being able to match the anti-inflammatory properties of popular NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, without the side effects. 3 But is inflammation something we should be actively reducing on a regular basis?
Inflammation is a natural function of the body, and an incredibly important one. It works to increase blood flow to damaged tissue, from cuts and scrapes to pulled and torn muscle, helping to fight off any bacteria before beginning the healing process. Therefore, some acute, short-term inflammation is actually extremely beneficial to your body, and in some cases, it can actually offer improved physical conditioning as muscle fibres tear and are replaced thicker and stronger – think building size and strength in the gym by purposely targeting specific muscle groups. Want to know more about reducing inflammation and improving exercise? Click here.
However, prolonged, chronic inflammation is a serious warning sign. Not only can it cause a number of debilitating side effects, such as stress on joints, impaired ability to move, and consistent pain, scientists also believe that inflammation plays a key role in a number of serious and degenerative illnesses, such Alzheimer's and heart disease. 4,5 So, anything you can do to help support your body in its fight with inflammation management on a regular basis is sure to offer some positive benefit to your overall health, now and in the future.
TACKLE YOUR TOXICITY
Inflammation aside, the antioxidant properties found within curcumin are not to be ignored.
Free radicals are elements produced during normal metabolic processes within the body, such as transfering food into energy. If there is an imbalance between these free radicals and antioxidants, this causes a highly reactive scenario resulting in oxidative stress. This stress causes damage to important substances within the body, including cells, protein and DNA, and is thought to be a contributing factor to various diseases and accelerated ageing. 6,7
Antioxidants provide your body with the internal protection it needs, and curcumin is a potent provider of this specific support, helping to neutralise free radicals through its unique chemical structure.8 In turn, this amazing natural extract helps two-fold – not only helping to restore the balance within the body, but also to stimulate your in-built antioxidant defences.
SUPPLEMENTING WITH CURCUMIN
Now, this is easier said than done. There are many curcumin supplements on the market right now, promising everything from increased bioavailability to high concentrated dosage. As mentioned earlier, the main issue is that curcumin is poorly absorbed into our bloodstream. It is fat-soluble so has a number of issues staying active in the acidic environment of the stomach, before passing through the gut wall and onto the areas of our body it can be effective for. So, even if you’re taking the correct levels of curcumin, it could potentially be having very little positive effect on your health.
One solution is to take black pepper supplements alongside it. Black pepper contains piperine, a natural substance that can naturally enhance the absorption of curcumin by a staggering 2,000%. 9 Substantially increasing their effectiveness, many of the best curcumin supplements contain piperine. However, there is also advanced supplementation technology available such as NovaSOL® – a new form of curcumin developed specifically to deliver high absorption. In a recent clinical trial published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research journal10, NovaSOL® curcumin was shown to be 185 times better absorbed than standard powdered curcumin and significantly better than any other form, too.
Once you’ve tackled adsorption rates, you can even look to pair this herbal health boost with other natural compounds that work to improve the effects of inflammation. One of these includes cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive extract of the cannabis plant, much heralded by the health and wellness community for its anti-inflammatory properties. CBD works within the body by helping to reduce cytokine production – the chemicals that kick-start the entire inflammation process. Explore the science of inflammation and how CBD works to help naturally reduce it here .
START SUPPORTING YOUR BODY
With the science that’s out there, it’s clear that curcumin is a natural powerhouse when it comes to protecting your body and helping fight inflammation. From understanding your dosage to supplementing correctly, there are a number of hurdles to jump through before it becomes effective, but the natural health benefits to your body are simply there for the taking – don’t miss out
Curcumin and Turmeric FAQs
Can I take curcumin supplements alongside other supplements?
Before adding curcumin supplements to your regimen, consult a healthcare professional, especially if you're already taking other supplements, to avoid potential interactions.
Is there a recommended dosage for curcumin?
While there is no one-size fits all dosage, a common guideline could be taking a higher dose over 210mg for an average 70k person (but only for 2-3 months), then switching to a lower dose of 140 mg which can be taken continuously. Of course, we recommend speaking with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Can turmeric help with joint pain?
Yes possibly, as curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties may provide relief for some individuals with joint discomfort. However, results vary, and it's important to consult a healthcare professional.