Curcumin is the active ingredient found in the culinary spice known as Turmeric. It is classified as a phytochemical due to its antioxidant properties and is used medicinally. The part of the plant which is used for medicinal purposes is known as the rhizome (underground stem). There is no established Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for Curcumin.
Curcumin has been shown to prevent the formation of, and neutralize existing free radical damage, attributed to its antioxidant properties. It is also reported to have a wide range of other beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity.
Research supports the premise that curcumin exhibits great potential as a therapeutic agent for a variety of conditions, including certain types of cancers, psoriasis and Alzheimer’s disease (1).
Cancer- There is a substantial amount of evidence to support the use of curcumin in cancer prevention. Curcumin inhibits precancerous changes within DNA and interferes with mechanisms which are involved in the progression of cancer (2) (3), modulating the growth of tumour cells through regulation of multiple cell signalling pathways (4). In a study of chronic smokers, those who took curcumin excreted significantly lower levels of mutagenic substances in their urine compared to those who didn’t which demonstrates the cancer-inhibiting properties of curcumin (2). Clinical trials have also shown that curcumin is well tolerated and may produce antitumor effects in people with precancerous lesions or who are at high risk for developing cancer (5).
Cholesterol- Early research has revealed that curcumin may also provide a benefit for lowering both Total and LDL cholesterol by stopping the oxidation of cholesterol and therefore protecting against the build- up of plaque in the arteries (2). A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials further concluded that turmeric and curcumin may protect patients at risk of CVD through improving serum lipid levels (6).
Reducing the risk of heart disease– Curcumin may help to reduce clumping of the platelets, which may help to prevent Atherosclerosis and lessen the risk of heart disease
Reducing inflammation– Curcumin may be beneficial in relieving the pain and stiffness of arthritic and rheumatoid conditions, such as osteoarthritis, as the inflammation associated with these ailments can increase the level of pain individual may experience. It may also prove useful to individuals with skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Carminative– Curcumin may have a carminative action (a substance that prevents or relieves gas in the gastrointestinal tract), which may be useful to those who suffer from excessive flatulence and IBS.
Supports and detoxifies the liver– Curcumin may have beneficial effects on liver-related diseases such as toxic liver damage, inflammatory liver disease and cirrhosis, as well as proving useful for those who have over -indulged in alcohol.
Turmeric (curcumin) is considered to be safe when taken by mouth for up to 8 months. It is not associated with any significant side effects however it can cause digestive upset including nausea, diarrhoea and dizziness. Turmeric or curcumin may have an anticoagulant effect and therefore should be used with precaution alongside blood thinning medications such as warfarin and aspirin. It is also contraindicated for use by those with gallbladder problems. There is no established Tolerable Upper Intake Level for Turmeric or Curcumin.