Turmeric (Curcuma longa) contains an active ingredient known as curcumin that’s a major constituent of curry powder and gives it its characteristic yellow coloring.
Chemicals found in various plants such as green tea, grapes, soy, milk thistle, and turmeric are now well-recognized to have beneficial effects on multiple signaling pathways in the human body (1).
Most interestingly, turmeric may directly affect genetic signaling – how genes are turned on, turned off, and ultimately expressed in the human body (2; 3).
These “functional foods” are low in cost with low potential for serious side effects and are becoming increasingly popular in the management and prevention of chronic disease.
My favorite curcumin supplement is Curalieve by Integrative Therapeutics.
What is Turmeric Used For?
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years and has been shown in research to possess anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-parasitic (4), anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, neuro-protective, and anti-cancer properties (5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12).
Turmeric appears to support conditions characterized by chronic, low-grade inflammation (13) such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (14), musculoskeletal pain, hypertension, heart disease (15; 16), diabetes, obesity, cancer, and autoimmune disease (17; 18;19; 20; 21).
Pharmaceutical drugs may be effective for some of these conditions but are often one-dimensional, focusing on specific risk factors, symptoms, or signaling pathways in the body. Pharmaceutical approaches may be expensive and are often associated with a high risk of serious side effects and potential complications from polypharmacy.
On the other hand, a “functional food” such as turmeric has the potential to modulate many signaling pathways of the body without the high cost, or risk of serious side effects.
Uses for Turmeric:
- May support Alzheimer’s disease and delay the progression of dementia (22; 23; 24; 25; 26).
- Strong support for its use in reducing inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (27; 28; 29)
- It may support symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis) and may decrease the need for other medications such as corticosteroids (30; 31).
- Clinical trials also support specific use in colorectal cancers alongside chemotherapy (32; 33; 34; 35)
- May mediate cell resistance to chemotherapy and radiation (36).
- May prevent and treat prostatic diseases (37)
- May offer a beneficial role in allergy and asthma (38)
- May help regulate lipid metabolism, offering beneficial effects for diabetes, obesity and related conditions (39)
- Also may offer support for Crohn’s disease, liver cirrhosis, chronic renal disease and chronic obstructive lung disease (40).
While the research on turmeric is wide, it is still lacking depth.
Researchers note that the bioavailability of turmeric is limited (41) as it is insoluble in water (42). Many of the existing controlled studies also involve low numbers of participants (43), making it difficult to make broad public recommendations on the uses of turmeric & turmeric safety.
As for solubility, one review recognized that turmeric has the ability to bind to numerous signaling proteins modulating their activity and enhancing turmeric’s ability to transport through the body (44).
One study involving rats suggested that taking turmeric with black pepper (commonly combined in Indian cuisine) may also improve its bioavailability in the body (45). While a number of companies carry curcumin as a supplement, a new water-soluble form of curcumin known as Theracurmin is also now available and has a clinical trial showing it has up to 27 times the absorption than other brands. It is also better tolerated in those individuals who may be sensitive to other forms of curcumin.
Curalieve by Integrative Therapeutics is also now available that has 3-5x the potency of Theracurmin (which has up to 27x the absorption of other popular forms)! It is now my first-line choice when using curcumin.
Turmeric, and its active constituent curcumin, are supported by thousands of research studies demonstrating that it may be a safe & natural adjunct to conventional therapies for a wide range of chronic diseases.