Turmeric has become increasingly popular supplement in recent years. It is well-regarded for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. In a recent visit to a supplement store, I found turmeric supplements in joint health, immune health, allergy, pain management, and heart health section of the store. There were close to 50 different products available, each claiming to be the answer. This got me thinking about the importance of knowing how to use turmeric and in what forms.
Turmeric has two main classes of compounds that give its health promoting activity. One is the popular Curcumin. This serves as an inflammation- and immune-modulating alkaloid. The other is Turmerone. This is an essential oil that works as an antioxidant. Both of these compounds are chemically different and need to be extracted and used in different ways for various purposes. We can review of few health benefits for each.
Benefit of Turmeric Compounds:
Curcumin is an alkaloid from Turmeric. Curcumin has been proven to be an excellent for immune-modulation. In cases of high inflammation, it allows the body to control inflammation and reduce injury. This is true with arthritis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s and many more conditions.1 On the other hand, it promotes wound-healing by activity of improving blood flow and concentration of immune cells and wound-healing cells called fibroblasts.2 Broad range of studies have also proven that curcumin has anti-cancer activity. It reduces generation of tumors and growth of tumors, an effect that has been studied in pre-clinical and clinical trials.3 For heart health, Curcumin has been shown to reduce plaque formation and heart attacks (myocardial infarction).4
Turmerone is an essential oil of Turmeric. It is present in higher amounts in the fresh turmeric root. It is very useful anti-oxidant the prevents oxidation of lipids (like LDL-cholesterol).5 In this way, turmerone helps to protect health of an aging cardiovascular system. This is different from the anti-inflammatory mechanism of curcumin. Turmerone is found to be regenerative for our antioxidant system. It helps replenish natural antioxidants like: glutathione, glutathione reductase, super-oxide dismutase.6 This protects from effects of aging and degeneration.
Absorption of Turmeric:
Curcumin is only 3.14% of the actual dried turmeric root and it is even less concentrated in fresh root.7 Turmerone is present higher concentrations, about 40%, in the fresh turmeric root. But, turmerone is greatly diminished in the dried root and powdered form.6 Curcumin is very difficult to absorb into the body in high concentrations. Turmerones and other essential oil are difficult to preserve in the preparatory processes that involve heating.
Absorption of Curcumin: with only 3.14% concentration, we need about 3000mg (3 grams) of turmeric powder to just get about 94mg of Curcumin… However, when we take turmeric alone absorption of curcumin is limited to 2-4%. The curcumin preparations with piperine compound from long pepper or black pepper increase absorption by about 20x in humans.8 Even better absorption is achieved when curcumin is bound to a fatty acid – made into a curcumin-phospholipid form.9
Absorption of Turmerones: the essential oils are best preserved in the fresh turmeric. The are absorbed readily into the body. But, they can be easily destroyed by heating, drying, or cooking processes.
Using Turmeric as Medicine:
Daily use of Turmerones:
For daily use and health maintenance, fresh squeezed juice of turmeric root is very helpful. We can squeeze 3-5 grams root to get between 1-2 grams of turmerones to support the antioxidant functions in the body… When we combine this juice with black pepper or long pepper, we get greater absorption curcumin as well. This kind of use is helpful from preventive care, health maintenance, and slowing age-related degeneration.
Daily use of Curcumins:
For daily use, curcumin is best absorbed when it is made into a fatty preparation. Couple of ways to achieve this are to make golden milk preparation or add turmeric to stir-fry and curry preparations in combination with coconut oil. Fat-bound curcumins also travel to the brain and joints to provide anti-inflammatory effects. High concentration of curcumin absorption is also beneficial for cancer patients and individuals chronic inflammation.
Clinically, Curcumin is the most useful compound from turmeric.
- People with digestive inflammation are best served with curcumin that is partially absorbed and partially remains in the digestive tract. This is achieved by using supplement that have piperine along side curcumin.
- On the other hand, fat-bound curcumin is more useful for deeper inflammations of brain, joints, various organs, and for management of cancer.
Please, consult with your Natural health practitioner about appropriate use of Curcumin in your healthcare.
- Asha J, et al. Mechanism of the Anti-inflammatory Effect of Curcumin: PPAR-γ Activation. PPAR Res. 2007; 2007: 89369.
- Sidhu GS, Singh AK, Thaloor D, et al. Enhancement of wound healing by curcumin in animals. Wound Repair and Regeneration. 1998;6(2):167–177
- Aggarwal BB, Kumar A, Bharti AC. Anticancer potential of curcumin: preclinical and clinical studies. Anticancer Res. 2003 Jan-Feb; 23(1A):363-98.
- Xiaolong L, et al. Effect of curcumin on permeability of coronary artery and expression of related proteins in rat coronary atherosclerosis heart disease model. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015; 8(6): 7247–7253.
- Singh G, et al. Comparative study of chemical composition and antioxidant activity of fresh and dry rhizomes of turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) Food and Chemical Toxicology 48 (2010) 1026–1031.
- Vijayastelter BL, et al. An evaluation of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antinociceptive activities of essential oil from Curcuma longa. L. Indian J Pharmacol. 2011 Sep-Oct; 43(5): 526–531
- Reema F. Tayyem , et al. Curcumin Content of Turmeric and Curry Powders, Nutrition and Cancer, 2006; Vol. 55(2), 126-131
- Shoba G, et al. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Medica. 1998:64(4);353–356.
- Maiti K, et al. Curcumin–phospholipid complex: Preparation, therapeutic evaluation and pharmacokinetic study in rats. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 330 (2007); 155–163.