Curcumin – the plant extract that’s spicing up our health
Fighting the formation of damaging free radicals, reducing inflammation and defending our body against a host of serious conditions like Alzheimer’s and cancer is why recent studies into curcumin’s benefits have got doctors, scientists and the public, excited.
Curcumin has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years as an anti-inflammatory - in the form of turmeric extracts. Turmeric itself is a popular flavouring for curries and spiced dishes, especially in places like India, and it’s been silently fighting infection and disease for centuries among the Asian population. What piqued an initial interest into studying the effect of turmeric were national uses of turmeric and the correlation to the low rates of colon and prostate cancer that are reported.
Thanks to literally thousands of positive studies, articles and papers detailing beneficial findings, the range of available curcumin supplements has grown. However, no matter how effective a supplement may be, the efficacy comes down to how well our body can circulate and absorb the key ingredients. This is known as bioavailability.
It’s recognised that this naturally-derived compound is not easily absorbed due to its molecular structure and solubility in water. What’s special about this particular curcumin supplement is that the benefits of this wonder spice are maximised by using a key ingredient not found in comparable products – cyclodextrin.
The importance of bioavailability
Found in turmeric in small quantities of around 2-6%, the active compound - curcumin – needs to be consumed often to have any sort of beneficial effect. If we don’t want to eat tumeric in our food or are averse to consistently consuming spicy food like curries that incorporate turmeric, then curcumin supplements are necessary. When we couple this with the low bioavailability factor of curcumin to the body, concentrated delivery is the only viable way to get the benefits.
As curcumin is a naturally-derived compound that’s not easily absorbed due to its molecular structure, cyclodextrin allows a rapid take up of this incredible substance. To be used by the body, substances need to be water soluble or hydrophilic (literally water-loving) to some extent. Where cyclodextrin steps in is that it forms a hydrophilic shell around the curcumin molecules and facilitates swift absorption.
Even though certain curcumin supplements may state that they contain 95% - 100% curcumin, if absorption is minimal, then the effects are negated – meaning minimum benefits. As the difficult bioavailability level is a commonly known quality of curcumin, other substances found in other supplements to increase this ratio are substances like piperine. Although absorption levels of curcumin are elevated using piperine, it can have adverse effects on medications – in fact, it’s recommended to avoid piperine if taking any sort of medication, and it’s potentially toxic.
Why is curcumin so effective?
The group of compounds known as curcuminoids have far-reaching health implications in part thanks to the molecular structure being similar to certain polyphenolics. These natural phenol groups are the infection and disease fighters found in plants; their mechanism which protects them from invading pathogens and deters predators.
By making the anti-bacterial quality of a plant’s natural defences adaptable and palatable to us, then herbal and plant-based remedies have a vast potential to benefit our health – if properly channelled. The curcumin extract from the ginger family or Zingiberaceae variety of plants contains curcuminoids – remarkable compounds that carry out a world of beneficial actions to cells, tissues and our internal mechanisms.
However, without the unique vehicle of cyclodextrin, curcumin’s versatility and power would mean nothing. It’s a molecular technology that means the body can use this naturally derived super spice with maximum results.
Curcumin’s many benefits
By harnessing the power of the natural healer, curcumin, we have access to a wide-ranging set of positives. From bolstering the immune system, acting as an anti-viral and an anti-fungal agent, to moderating inflammatory response; curcumin’s a true generalist. It’s even been found to have the ability to counter conditions and diseases as diverse as Alzhiemer’s, and certain types of cancer by inhibiting the growth of tumours.
When the body’s natural defence mechanism kicks in, inflammation immediately occurs. As this initial healing and infection-fighting process begins, white blood cells are sent to defend and repair the body. Unfortunately, when continually inflamed, certain chemicals that are initially released to help the body remain indefinitely – causing damage to tissue and cells. This is where getting to the source of inflammation and reducing it is so important. Curcumin inhibits the signalling molecules that tell the body to inflame, thus tissue and cells can repair efficiently.
Here are a few examples of the way curcumin fights disease:
Immunity – boosting key immune cells known as CD4 and CD8 T, curcumin stimulates production of these important fighters that destroy infected cells.
Alzheimer's – improving cognitive functions in patients with AD, curcumin also hinders abnormal inflammatory reactions and reduces oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Cancer – curcuminoids have been found to inhibit the formation of tumours and induce natural cell death (something which cancer cells are not programmed with) in infected cells.
Diabetes – prevents a build of up of fat cells in the liver, and helps insulin production. Curcumin also promotes normal function of a number of organs, which reduces stress on the liver.
Arthritis – reduces swelling, and the inflammation and pain associated with the condition.
Other inflammatory diseases – Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis are just a few examples where curcumin reduces the triggers for inflammation and the body’s defence mechanism attacking healthy cells.
Curcumin is a versatile but targeted supplement
As a general health booster, curcumin helps the body fight invading bacteria, pathogens, viruses and reduces the negative effects of potentially damaging reactions like chronic inflammation. For various conditions from Alzheimer’s to psoriasis, curcumin boosts the body’s ability to fight and inhibit serious diseases.
Thanks to a unique delivery system, cylcodextrin, the considerable power of a humble spice is optimised – firing up health and truly giving us the spice of life.