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The ultimate guide to turmeric

In this post, we aim to answer the most common questions about turmeric and its most active component – curcumin. Learn more about turmeric’s traditional use, its health benefits, and how you can ensure that you get enough curcumin to maximize its benefits.

What is curcumin? What health benefits does it give and what should you consider when taking it as a dietary supplement?

Turmeric is a spice that has been popular in Southeast Asia and India for thousands of years. In its raw form, it resembles ginger root and has a unique golden colour and a warm, peppery taste. Due to the health benefits turmeric has also been widely used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Nowadays, it is the best studied component of turmeric. It proves to be one of the most effective and inexpensive nutritional supplements. Many experts say that it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and perhaps even anti-cancer properties.

Curcumin health benefits that have scientific support

Well, here is as list of claims that all have scientific support.

  • Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which means that it’s very effective in reducing inflammation. Its potency can be compared to and sometimes even surpass some anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • It can reduce symptoms of arthritis. It can relieve joint pain, and avert stiffness and inflammation. Sometimes even better than drugs.
  • Curcumin can help improve insulin resistance and blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.
  • It can help maintain brain functioning and prevent depression and Alzheimer’s disease. One reason is that curcumin boosts levels of BDNF, a type of growth hormone that influences brain function. Its deficiency in the brain is linked to the development of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is promising for Alzheimer’s disease treatment because of its ability to prevent the formation and even break up plaques linked to Alzheimer’s.
  • Curcumin is effective in eliminating several factors contributing to heart disease. It reduces inflammation and oxidation and improves the function of the endothelium, which forms the lining of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.
  • Scientists have found that curcumin can suppress the growth of tumours and cancerous cells in the body.
Curcumin as a supplement

If you want to experience the full benefits of curcumin, you may want to consider taking a curcumin supplement. The amount of curcumin in turmeric is quite low, and despite its efficacy, bioavailability of curcumin is quite limited in standard turmeric extracts.

Bioavailable curcumin supplements

However, there are more bioavailable supplements. This means that your body can absorb a much bigger dose. There are powder curcumin supplements that are up to 40 times more bioavailable than standard powder curcumin, and liquid curcumin that are nearly 200 times more bioavailable than standard curcumin. As such, it is worth getting a supplement that maximizes bioavailability. To boost the absorption of curcumin into the bloodstream you can combine your supplement with fatty foods. Ideally, take a curcumin supplement together with an omega-3 supplement.

Curcumin safety

Curcumin is safe for most people. It is hard to overdose as doses up to 8 g curcuminoids (which is a lot) show no adverse effects. If you do take too much, you may experience nausea, diarrhoea, indigestion and skin irritation. Since curcumin makes your blood thinner, you should stop taking it about 2-3 weeks prior to any surgery. If you already take prescription medication on a regular basis, talk to your doctor first because curcumin supplements can interact with some drugs.

Take-home message

Turmeric might be one of the most potent and cost-effective natural substances. If you want to get all its powerful health benefits, we recommend that you take a curcumin supplement due to the poor bioavailability of curcumin in turmeric. You might also want to look at the bioavailability of the supplements as this can differ considerably between brands. 

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