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Top Medical Evidence Supporting Curcumin's Health Benefits

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Top Medical Evidence Supporting Curcumin's Health Benefits

Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) has been considered the "spice of life" in many Asian countries such as India, China, Indonesia, and other tropical countries because of its traditional use as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Since 1994 there have been over 8000 peer-reviewed articles, reports, patents, and clinical trials showing that curcumin is indeed a potential therapeutic molecule.

Curcumin, the active ingredient derived from Turmeric, has been found to be an effective antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, and anticancer agent. It has also been shown to have other health benefits, including improving metabolic syndrome, pain, degenerative eye conditions, and kidney function.

Although curcumin has many therapeutic benefits, it is most well-known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Due to these effective clinical uses, many medical practitioners are incorporating curcumin into their treatment protocols in various functional approaches. This article will discuss curcumin, how to incorporate it into your life, its many uses in improving health outcomes, and how to increase its bioavailability.


What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is a polyphenol derived from turmeric (Curcuma longa), a perennial herb and dietary spice in the ginger family, and has a yellow pigment. Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is a low molecular weight polyphenol generally regarded as the most active constituent of turmeric preparations. Curcumin is contained in the thick rhizome of turmeric and is extensively cultivated in India, China, and Indonesia. Turmeric is a major ingredient in foods as a coloring agent or to add flavor. In addition, it is used in curry powders, prepared in mustard, used as a preservative, and served in teas and other drinks. You can also find turmeric in topical applications, such as anti-inflammatory creams. It is even used in cosmetics.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, turmeric has a global appeal; over 2400 metric tons of turmeric are imported annually into the USA for consumer use. Modern use of turmeric as a medicine focuses on curcumin's pharmacology and clinical applications.

Medical Evidence Supporting Curcumin

Curcumin has been studied extensively for its potential health benefits, particularly in the field of medicine. Some of the medical benefits of curcumin include:


Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can be very debilitating, as two of the most common symptoms are diarrhea and fatigue. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, aching joints, fever, night sweats, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Even those with an inactive disease still report some symptoms. The good news is curcumin has been shown to help improve IBD. IBD is a chronic relapsing inflammatory disorder of the small intestine and colon. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease are under the umbrella of IBD. Many clinical trials have been conducted and have identified that curcumin can be effective in managing IBD. Studies showed a significant reduction in IBD symptoms with doses ranging from 1500 mg/day to 8000 mg/day. Although curcumin can be helpful, assessing other contributing factors that aggravate or trigger an IBD occurrence, such as stress, is also important.


Arthritis is another inflammatory disease that affects the joints, and over 250 million people worldwide have some form of arthritis. Arthritis can cause severe joint pain and be extremely debilitating. The major goal of arthritis treatment is reducing joint pain induced by inflammation. The existing standard treatments are steroids and NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce inflammation, thus reducing pain. However, prolonged use of these drugs can increase the risk of immune disturbances, gastrointestinal disorders, and cardiovascular events. The good news is curcumin at 1 gram has been shown to be just as effective for relieving arthritis symptoms as these analgesics. A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials showed the efficacy of curcumin as a therapy for alleviating symptoms related to arthritis.


Pain is an unpleasant sensation and can stem from various etiologies. Pain is one of the biggest reasons for clinical visits. As stated above in the arthritis section, the current treatment for pain and inflammation can cause a variety of harmful side effects. Therefore, there is a need for an effective therapeutic alternative with low toxicity and fewer harmful side effects. Cue in curcumin to the rescue. The clinical data reveals that curcumin is effective for ameliorating pain through inhibiting or downregulating proinflammatory mediators and oxidative stress mediators such as COX -2 and CaMKIIα. Curcumin is a promising and safe therapy for treating and managing pain and inflammation.


The big, bad "I" word - Inflammation. If you have visited with your doctor recently, they probably discussed the major role inflammation had on your symptoms or how it was a contributing factor to why you went in to see them. If you have got this far in this article, you now understand how systemic chronic inflammation creates an environment that can lead to chronic conditions or diseases. Remember, a normal inflammatory response is needed to heal properly. The issues occur when a hyper-inflammatory or insidious, chronic low-grade inflammatory response occurs. Research shows that consistent oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation and various chronic conditions. Some more good news on Curcumin. There is promising research on curcumin showing that its main effects are anti-inflammation and antioxidant. Curcumin has demonstrated therapeutic potential to improve inflammation and inflammatory conditions by blocking Nf-kB and TNF-A pathways, which are responsible for a pro-inflammatory response. Curcumin is at the forefront of nutrients in chronic inflammatory conditions.


If you have ever had an allergic response, you know that they are no fun! Multiple immune cell players are responsible for triggering an allergy response. They include cytokines, neutrophils, eosinophils, and IgEs. Allergies are proinflammatory diseases and are usually mediated through inflammatory cytokines. In this section, we will discuss allergic asthma and the use of curcumin to improve the allergic response. Since asthma is an inflammatory disease and curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects, the connection would be that curcumin can help improve asthma symptoms. Many in vivo and in vitro studies are making that connection. These studies reported that curcumin could help clear constricted airways and increase antioxidant levels. Curcumin also plays a major role in reducing allergic responses. The antioxidant effect prevented epithelial cell secretions in the airways. It also plays a vital role in scavenging nitric oxide to prevent bronchial inflammation in asthmatic patients. Another finding showed that curcumin significantly decreased serum IgE levels. These findings support using curcumin as a therapy for allergic asthma and suppressing Ig-E mediated inflammation.  


This is a topic that is close to my heart. My mom was diagnosed last year with what is considered to be in between stage 3 and stage 4 malignant melanoma, in which the malignancy has metastasized to one area of her lymph nodes. As her son, I am helping her navigate the healthcare system and fully supporting her and my family in every way possible. As a functional medicine practitioner and a Naturopathic Physician, I am advocating and working with her wonderful oncology team to incorporate functional medicine approaches as adjunctive care to her standard of care. The key word here is adjunctive care.

Evidence-based functional medicine approaches can be effective when combined with standard of care and working with an oncology team. With that stated, curcumin has the most evidence of any nutrient supporting its use in helping to combat cancer. Curcumin has been shown to modulate gene expression to attack cancer cells, promote healthy cell growth, and inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells. It can also block cancer-causing inflammation, NF-Kb. In collaboration with the oncology team, due to this robust evidence, curcumin has been incorporated into my mom's cancer treatment regimen along with other anti-inflammatory nutritional planning, exercise, and stress management as adjunctive care with her immunotherapy. I am happy to report that my mom is feeling healthy. All her labs and scans have been great for the past year, and we are all hopeful. It is exciting to see that the conventional standard of care continues exploring the added benefits of combining curcumin with FDA-approved anticancer agents to exert additional clinically relevant interaction to improve overall efficacy in cancer patients.

Functional Medicine Labs to Test to Monitor Curcumin Benefits

Since curcumin has many beneficial therapeutic effects on many conditions, there are a variety of commonly used specialty labs to consider to assess if curcumin could be beneficial. The first to consider is a basic inflammatory marker such as hs-CRP, which assesses cardiovascular risk and inflammation. This inflammatory biomarker along with an ESR, is an important consideration in assessing and monitoring conditions such as arthritis or other pain conditions caused by inflammation.

Another test to consider is the micronutrient panel, which is recommended for anyone suffering from any chronic inflammatory conditions, including IBD. The micronutrient panel can help to assess if there are any deficiencies in antioxidant capacity. These nutrients include glutathione and vitamins A, C, and E. As stated earlier in the inflammation section, antioxidants are needed to reduce oxidative stress, which can reduce systemic inflammation, thus reducing the risk for various chronic conditions.

There is also a test to help assess for IBD if you are experiencing chronic diarrhea, fatigue, or abdominal pain. The Gut Zoomer test analyzes the gut microbiome to assess any imbalances in the gut microbiota that can lead to gastrointestinal disorders such as IBD. It is important to note that the gold standard for diagnosing IBD is a colonoscopy/endoscopy with biopsies.

To evaluate allergies, this Allergy Panel analyzes 13 of the most common inhalant allergens.

For cancer screening, here is a great male and female cancer screening test. However, this is not diagnostic, so please see your physician for a proper work up if cancer is suspected.

How to Increase Your Daily Curcumin Intake

Curcuminoids have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). Clinical trials show that curcumin has good tolerability and safety profiles at doses as a nutritional supplement between 4000 and 8000 mg/day and in doses up to 12,000 mg/day. Curcuminoids are phenolic compounds derived from the roots of Curcuma spp. (Zingiberaceae).

If you take curcumin as a supplement, ensure that the supplement also contains piperine (black pepper). Piperine has been shown to increase the bioavailability and effectiveness of curcumin by up to 2000%. To ensure that you get a high-quality supplement, look at the company's website and see if the ingredients are sourced properly and are clinically tested and reviewed by independent 3rd parties.

If you want to incorporate curcumin as a food, add turmeric powder to your curries or put it into an alternative milk of your choice and drink it as a golden tea. There are also other teas that contain turmeric. Organic is the way to go if you want to get your curcumin or turmeric free of additives, pesticides, or not genetically altered. I love boiling turmeric root with some lemon grass and drinking that as a tea with a lemon wedge. This is the tea that my mom makes on a daily basis as part of her cancer treatment.



As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. With the plethora of studies completed on curcumin, there is overwhelming proof showing that it is an effective therapy to improve health outcomes, especially in inflammatory conditions. When most chronic conditions stem from oxidative stress leading to chronic systemic inflammation, it would be negligible not to consider curcumin as a therapy option. Although the doses mentioned above were used within the study cohorts, it is always recommended to work with your doctor or functional care practitioner to see if those curcumin doses would be beneficial for you. If you haven’t had a chance to work with a functional medicine practitioner or a licensed naturopathic doctor, click on the links provided to find a practitioner near you.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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