Curcumin… What is it?
Curcumin is a rhizome, meaning an underground root crop, and a member of the ginger family that is used to produce the yellow spice turmeric. It has been used since ancient times in the Indian subcontinent as both medicine and food. It is hugely important in Eastern cultural cuisines and in their management and treatment of diseases. The Okinawans in Japan have the longest lifespans of any other country, and turmeric tea is a regularly consumed beverage in their diets, which is thought to be one reason for their longevity.
Curcumin has been heavily studied, most of these focused on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of this healing super-food. These two terms always seem to cause great confusion, so here is a quick, and hopefully simple to understand explanation as to what they mean…
Antioxidants provide spare electrons to free radical molecules which go about your body stealing their missing electrons from other cells, creating great damage along the way. By providing the food (e.g. electrons) that these free radicals need it protects your cells from losing stability.
Inflammation is actually your body’s natural defense mechanism, whereby your white cells fight infections and bacteria in your bloodstream. However, when there are other particles in your bloodstream caused by a poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, and other factors it can lead to what is known as chronic inflammation, or a long-term immune response to an unknown attack. Anti-inflammatory foods work to reverse this process by increasing the good-to-bad ratio of particles in your bloodstream and reducing the immune response that created it.
Curcumin Benefits –
Research has shown curcumin may protect against certain cancers, treat arthritis and fibromyalgia, control IBS and other gut issues, lower glucose levels, and even may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and early onset dementia.
There have also been solid reports which show turmeric extracts can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis by reducing inflammatory pain, thereby improving flexibility and range of motion.
Evidence showing turmeric protecting against Alzheimer’s disease has been found through curcumin’s apparent blocking of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in studies on mice in laboratory testing. Members of the Indian population have very low rates of Alzheimer’s disease, and since their diet is rich in turmeric it is thought to be one of the main reasons.
Curcumin may also help control cholesterol and reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, which in turn can protect against heart attack and stroke. Patients under risk of stroke often take blood thinners, and curcumin has blood-thinning properties. So, it’s important to remember that if you are currently taking these anticoagulants, curcumin may increase these effects (See cautions below).
Taking Curcumin –
Curcumin supplements that contain black pepper extract (piperine) are better absorbed than just taking plain curcumin by itself. If you cook with turmeric, be sure to add some black pepper to what you’re making to increase the benefits. It’s no surprise that Indian curries are hot by nature, as they have been aware of this fact through thousands of years of Ayurvedic healing practices.
Also, curcumin is fat-soluble and should be taken with some form of fat to maximize its effectiveness. If taken with water or other liquid your absorption will be nearly non-existent. For advice on the best ways to take curcumin, and my recommendations on what to buy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: As with most natural healing protocols, it’s important to be patient when starting to take curcumin supplements or when increasing your dietary consumption of turmeric. You may not see obvious benefits for several weeks, but stay the course until you do.
Curcumin Cautions –
Caution is advised if you choose to take curcumin supplements while on a blood-thinning protocol under your physician’s care, or if you are scheduled for surgery since it can increase bleeding during surgery. To be safe, stop using turmeric two weeks before your surgical date.
With curcumin’s proven ability to reduce blood sugar levels, those with diabetes and need to carefully monitor their glucose are also cautioned to be careful if taking supplemental curcumin to avoid dangerous sugar lows.
It’s also possible that turmeric can cause uterine stimulation, so pregnant women should try to avoid taking it.
If you have gallstones or bile duct issues it is advised to also avoid taking curcumin, since it can cause gallbladder contractions.