The health benefits of curcumin can be significant, but its effects have been limited because it is not well absorbed in the body. Several recent breakthroughs have led to formulas with greater bioavailability. And that’s welcome news.
Curcumin—a compound in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color—has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. It’s been studied as a potential treatment for a wide range of disorders including colon cancer and osteoarthritis.
Ohio State University researchers have developed a new formula that may release curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties throughout the body. The researchers mixed curcumin powder with castor oil and polyethylene glycol (a substance commonly used as a laxative). That process allowed the curcumin to be more easily absorbed in the gut so it could enter the bloodstream and tissues. In laboratory animals, the formula was shown to shut down an acute inflammatory reaction.
Curcumin has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. The Ohio State team is investigating whether it can be useful as a daily supplement to battle disease.
Another new curcumin supplement with increased bioavailability helped to relieve symptoms of depression in a group of people with major depressive disorder. The improvements began after four weeks and continued through the end of the eight-week study. Participants took 500 milligrams of the supplement twice daily, or a placebo.
An earlier study of the same supplement found that it worked as well as Prozac in treating major depressive disorder without the major side effects. Produced by Europharma, the supplement appears to boost curcumin’s bioavailability through a process called micronizing and the addition of essential oils from turmeric.
More than curry
Turmeric is a relative of ginger, and it’s a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine. Tumeric intake is high in India, and the incidence of Alzhemier’s in that country is relatively low. There is some speculation that the two things are linked.
Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, and research has shown it can decrease amyloid plaque build-up in the brain that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin has been used to treat joint pain, digestive issues, and skin problems. It may also be useful in the treatment of cancer. A recent study found that it may help increase a protein inhibitor that is known to slow the progression of mesothelioma—a cancer of the lining of the lung that has been linked to asbestos.
Curcumin is available in capsules and other forms including powders and teas. It’s found in many ointments for the relief of joint pain.