So, What is Curcumin?
You have probably seen Curcumin a lot recently in the press, but what is it?
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that gives it its bright yellow color. Curcuma longa (or Turmeric), a type of ginger cultivated extensively across south and southeast Asia, has long been used as medicine due to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties; we now know this thanks largely because scientists isolated pure soluble compounds which they named “curcumins.” These research studies show how useful these natural supplements can be!
Curcumin is one of three curcuminoids present in turmeric, the other two being desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin. It has long been used in traditional herbal medicine, especially in India and Southeast Asia.
Of course, it has several uses such as a dye, food additive, and a dietary supplement. As a cooking ingredient in Indian curries, Thai curries, and is often used to flavor coconut milk to make a rather nice hot drink called Golden Milk. One of my favorite Thai curries is Kaeng som (แกงส้ม) or orange curry, which gets its color from Curcumin.
It is also often used as a dye, and if you have got the raw juice on your hands, you will know why! From personal experience, if you are working with the raw root, wear gloves. It is not a very good fabric dye as it fades in strong light, although it is used a lot in India, mainly for Buddhist Monk robes.
Curcumin has been the subject of much interest and research over the last few decades due to its medicinal properties. Research has demonstrated that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce inflammation and may even play a role in cancer treatment. Curcumin has helped to reduce the transformation, proliferation, and spread of tumors; it achieves this through the regulation of transcription factors, inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, protein kinase, and other enzymes.
Curcumin prevents proliferation by interrupting the cell cycle and inducing programmed cell death. Furthermore, curcumin can inhibit the activation of carcinogens through the suppression of certain cytochrome P450 isozymes.
In animal studies, curcumin has protective effects in cancers of the blood, skin, mouth, lung, pancreas, and intestinal tract. The primary factor that has held curcumin back as a widely used medication is its poor absorption when taken orally. Often better absorption has been achieved by taking curcumin in Golden Milk, the addition of the fat in the milk and the black pepper have a proven benefit in helping bio-availability – although the absorption has been relatively low.
Many supplement manufacturers have turned to piperine the active compound in black pepper, adding it to their curcumin supplements to improve bio-availability. Up until recently, this has been the most effective way of increasing curcumin absorption. Piperine has several additional health benefits, so it seemed the ideal solution.
Unfortunately, it has not been the perfect solution for everyone as some people have an allergy to it, or more precisely a spice allergy, while not a true allergy piperine can cause allergy-like symptoms and may trigger an attack in people with asthma. This has led to further research in the hope of finding a better solution, Novasol Curcumin is that better solution, offering higher bio-availability than the Piperine Curcumin supplements without any risk of an allergic reaction.
So to summarise Curcumin is fast becoming an everyday supplement for many people; it has several health benefits (see The Eight Health Benefits of Curcumin) and from a personal perspective, I have found it to be one of the few supplements that I can actually feel the difference when I take it. So I hope that answers what is curcumin.