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.
What is Curcumin?
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. And as interest in natural supplements and improved health studies have developed, so has our proof that this extract of the curcuma longa root (part of the ginger family) has effective anti-inflammatory properties, and works as a strong antioxidant within the body, too1.
Getting Your Daily Dose
Whether you are 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 effects3. 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.
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 disease4,5. 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 transferring 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 ageing6,7.
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 structure8. 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 are 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.
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.