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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
Curcumin is a bioactive component & a main ingredient of the spice turmeric. It is the most widely studied of all the phytochemicals which are  compounds made by plants and which can impact health. A statistical analysis of over 3 million studies showed curcumin to be the most frequently mentioned phytonutrient. Why is there so much interest? Because the array of potential beneifts is amazing. Read on to learn about the remarkable healing qualities of this natural substance which has been used for several thousand years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
Although many people think turmeric & curcumin are the same, there is a significant difference between the two re medicinal purposes. It is important to understand this difference when deciding which to use. Turmeric is a spice  made from the root of the turmeric plant & is a member of the ginger family. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. Turmeric contains several types of curcuminoids, which together are referred to as curcumin.
Most Turmeric supplements are basically only the spice and contain between 2% & 6% of curcumin. This is not a large enough dose to affect your health. But concentrated high quality curcumin can positively impact your health in many ways. The strength needs to be 500 mg or more of curcuminoids per capsule.
If you have any problem related to inflammation, you would likely benefit from a good curcumin supplement.
Chronic inflammation and free radical production are two major factors contributing to and maintaining many chronic disease states. Inflammation inciting chemicals are released in the body under various triggering circumstances. The release of these chemicals produces an inflammatory response such as pain or swelling. In fact the process of aging itself results in the production of increased inflammation inducing chemicals in the body.  This contributes to the progression of many degenerative diseases.
Chronic inflammation is implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, aortic valve stenosis, fibrosis, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin disorders, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, fatty liver disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, pancreatitis, anemia, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, to name only a few conditions.
In acute situations inflammation can be part of the body’s emergency healing responses, but when the response lingers and becomes chronic there are entirely different implications. When the body reacts with chronic inflammation it is in a state of self-defense against some ever present dis-ease. Some inciting factors may be poor diet with consequent nutritional imbalances, allergens, chronic stress, environmental chemicals and toxins, infections, immune imbalance, wrong drugs, adverse drug reactions, etc. The body becomes unable to shut off its’ response because the trigger offenses are not discovered and removed.
The above mentioned  triggers activate self -defense reactions in the body which consist of the production of various chemicals. These chemicals can be helpful for coping with an acute short term injury or illness. But the same substances can become destructive when produced long term because they continue to maintain a state of inflammation. Since these pro-inflammatory chemicals are emergency warriors out scouting for the unknown culprits causing a problem, they can attack anything in their path. This attack can spread to vital tissues such as blood vessels, joints, liver, intestines, brain, skin, and so on.
Cardiovascular disease is characterized by low grade inflammation of the vascular lining which leads to an inappropriate wound healing response of the blood vessels and the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque.
Alzheimer’s is thought to involve an immune system dysfunction leading to chronic inflammation of the brain. Alzheimer’s patients tend to have higher than average levels of some inflammatory enzymes and genes associated with chronic inflammatory reactions.
Those with chronic infections may have elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals promoting the infection.
Many studies are ongoing regarding the links of chronic inflammation to the development of various cancers.
There are many anti-inflammatory drugs in use and they have their place, but can also create significant side effects. While these synthetic drugs typically work against only one inflammatory pathway, curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammation by impacting multiple inflammation producing substances. In fact, Jack Challem refers to the ability of Curcumin “to reduce inflammation through at least 97 different biological mechanisms.” See his book, The Inflammation Syndrome:  Your Nutrition Plan For Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain- Free Living
In technical terms, some of the inflammation reducing effects of curcumin are the abilities to:
  • Suppress the activation of the NF-kB. NF-kB is a molecule which creates inflammation and is responsible for killing tissues, including tissues in the liver
  • Inhibit COX-2, the enzyme linked to most inflammation
  • Down regulates the pro-inflammatory enzyme, iNOS
  • Inhibit 5-LOX, another pro-inflammatory enzyme
  • Acts as a scavenger of nitric oxide
  • Is a potent scavenger of the very toxic superoxide
  • Down regulate the expression of cell surface adhesion molecules linked to inflammation. This can decrease the likelihood of blood platelets clumping together to form blood clots.
  • Inhibit the activity of TNF, one of the most pro-inflammatory cytokines (cell-signaling protein molecules). Also inhibits the activity of some of the other pro-inflammatory cytokines.
It is extraordinary that one substance could impact this many defense systems in the body.
You can also decrease inflammation in your body by:
  • The elimination of refined carbohydrates, fried foods, trans-fats, sugar, and alcohol
  • Taking a high quality multivitamin mineral
  • Sleeping 7-9 hours nightly
  • Decreasing chronic stress with regular walking, or other moderate exercise, yoga, meditation, other relaxing supportive activities.
Curcumin also provides a high level of antioxidant activity, having both the ability to eliminate free radicals and to help heal the damage they have created.
Free radicals are toxic by- products of cell metabolism. They are created by the very act of living, but are increased by smoking, alcohol, pesticides, various toxins, infections, nutritional deficiencies, stress, UV light, etc. Free radicals can alter DNA thereby contributing to cancer development, can damage chromosomes, can damage the protective membranes of cells, and can even can cause the death of cells. Free radicals are associated with almost all disease processes and states such as cancer, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, brain and vision deterioration, and the general aging process itself.
But just how powerful is the antioxidant activity of curcumin? Scientists at the National Institutes of Health developed the ORAC Scale (oxygen radical absorbance capacity). This scale measures the antioxidant capacity of foods and supplements.   It is believed the higher foods and supplements rank on this scale, the more effectively they neutralize free radicals. High quality curcumin has an ORAC value of 1,500,000 per 100 grams while the turmeric spice value is only 127,068.  Other high ORAC foods are various other spices,wild blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, prunes, walnuts, artichoke, dark chocolate, and red wine. Here is a list of healthy foods sorted from the highest to the lowest ORAC values.
In its action as a free radical scavenger curcumin scavenges nitric oxide and is a potent scavenger of superoxide (a very toxic substance produced in the body). Since nitric oxide has vasodilating properties, low levels in the body are important in protecting the organs from damage from too little blood flow, but excess levels are undesirable and irritating.
                                                               SOME STUDIES
There have been hundreds of research studies involving curcumin over the past 10-20 years. The top three conditions most frequently studied relative to curcumin are cancer, ovarian cancer, and pituitary-related conditions. Sometimes adding curcumin to traditional chemotherapy or radiotherapy has made treatment resistant cancer cells more responsive to the treatment.  Curcumin has also been studied for its effects on cervical cancer, colon cancer, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD),etc.
Here are some of the studies available at the National Library of Medicine.  You can add other search terms to the word curcumin to refine your search. 
These studies have examined the role of curcumin as an:
  • Anti-carcinogen
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiviral - Studies suggest curcumin inhibits hepatitis C virus replication, & has antiviral activity against influenza virus, adenovirus, coxsackie virus, and HIV.
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antioxidant
 YOu can see the studies reviewed here in layman's language as well.  You can see the research has revealed curcumin’s health benefits reach far and wide. Many animal studies have suggested a variety of benefits which have not yet been studied in humans. Some of the effects listed below are anecdotal or from folk medicine uses and some have been researched.
Various conditions addressed by the use of curcumin are:
  • Arthritis. In studies Curcumin worked as well as cortisone for Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis and post-operative inflammation. In double-blind studies of post -surgical or post- trauma patients curcumin 400 mg/day worked better for reducing inflammation than the non- steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine phenylbutasone 100 mg/day. In another study Curcumin 1200 mg/day worked better for reducing inflammation than Phenylbutasome 300 mg/day.
  • Inflammation and inflammation induced pain in general.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative Colitis-per double blind placebo controlled study. Those who used Curcumin had a lower relapse rate than those who took placebo
  • Cancer, of:  breast, prostate, stomach, colon, ovaries, pancreas, bladder & skin- a large number of animal studies suggest may help prevent or treat. Numerous human studies are ongoing.
Dr. Ralph Moss noted that in Sri Lanka (where daily curcumin intake is high) the cancer mortality rate per 100,000 is 26.1 for females and 29.3 for males. In America the  cancer mortality per 100,000  is 138.6 for women and an astounding 206 for men. He adds that this difference is probably not due to genetic or hereditary factors, for two reasons: 1) the population of Sri Lanka has a wide diversity of ethnic backgrounds, and 2) the cancer rates of emigrants from Sri Lanka to North America and Europe rise considerably within just a generation or two.  
  • Colon polyps - Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a hereditary condition charaterized by the development of numerous benign polyps in the colon from the teen years onward.  Polyps continue to multiply  as FAP patients age. Eventually the polyps become malignant, usually when patients reach their 50s. Before malignancy, polyps can be removed during colonoscopy, although this may not be practical with patients who have very high polyp counts. Once malignancy begins, the colon has to be removed.
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and COX-2 inhibitors can sometimes reverse the progression of polyps, but  these drugs commonly produce  adverse side effects when taken regularly. Since studies have supported curcumin as an anti inflammatory, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine  tested the effects of curcumin and quercetin (a plant flavanoid found in apples and onions) on five FAP patients with positive benefits obtained.
    • All subjects received supplements containing 480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg of quercetin three times each day for six months
    • The number and size of polyps were evaluated at the beginning and end of the study
    • Results showed a 60 percent decrease in the number of polyps, on average
    • The average size of polyps was reduced by more than 50 percent.  About halfway through the study, researchers found that one subject had not been taking his supplements. A check of his polyps showed their number had increased. But after restarting the daily supplement regimen, the number of polyps dropped by the end of the trial period.
  • Stomach pain & heartburn-but not good for stomach ulcers as may increase acid production
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach bloating & intestinal gas -as per double blind placebo controlled study
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Gallbladder disorders-stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile. Avoid if gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages.
  • Liver problems.   Curcumin may prevent alcohol-related liver disease Curcumin has serious potential to help with liver fibrosis which otherwise leads to cirrhosis. It works by suppressing hepatic inflammation and attenuating oxidation stress, and inhibiting HSC activation of hepatic stellate cells.” Turmeric can help regenerate the liver,  click here for more on this groundbreaking new research.
  • Alzheimer’s disease-Studies are ongoing.  One study showed improved symptoms in 3 out of 3 Alzheimer’s patients  
Studies have shown that curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may be powerful enough to break up the amyloid plaques in the brain that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) injected curcumin into aging mice with advanced amyloid accumulation in the brain. As reported last month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers observed that curcumin was able to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to beta amyloid. This binding effectively blocked amyloid plaque aggregation.
 In response to the success of this study, the UCLA Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center has already started planning a clinical trial with human subjects to study curcumin as both a preventive and a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Supporting the body’s natural detoxification pathways
  • Supporting healthy cardiovascular, liver, lung, and kidney function
  • Supporting healthy cells
  • Supporting optimum immune function
  • Headaches
  • Lung infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Coughs and colds
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Leprosy
  • Fever
  • Menstrual problems
  • Endometriosis
  • Depression
  • Neuro-protection after central nervous system injury
  • Water retention
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia, Curcumin  helps to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and reduce LDL (“bad”) levels. In a small study of human volunteers, researchers reported a highly significant (29%), increase in HDL among subjects who consumed one-half gram (500 mg) of Curcumin per day for seven days. Subjects also experienced a decrease in total serum cholesterol of more than 11%, and a decrease in serum lipid peroxides of 33%. Further human studies are needed, but these preliminary findings are promising. 
  • Blood Clots-since may act as a blood thinner stop taking 2 weeks before surgery & avoid is taking prescription blood thinners.
  • Tumors
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin Cancer
  • Psoriasis
  • Diabetes prevention- reduced percentage of prediabetics becoming diabetic
  • Diabetes- may help lower blood sugar, so would need to adjust diabetes meds to avoid too low blood sugar
  • Diabetes Wounds (external)
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • HIV Treatment
  • Sprains
  • Rheumatism
  • Burns
  • Edema
  • Parasites
  • Uveitis (inflammation of iris of eye) as effective as      corticosteroids in study of 32 people with chronic uveitis
The question is: Can a single component of a spice heal, cure, and offer relief from this many health consequences? Research suggests yes! Curcumin can do many of these things.
No adverse effects, at the recommended doses, have been reported in the clinical studies. However the safety during pregnancy and breast feeding has not been established.  It is also possible to be allergic to curcumin as it is with other spices and foods.  If allergic you should avoid as you might have some sort of negative symptom.
Alzheimer’s rates in India (where curcumin is widely consumed in curry dishes) are among the lowest in the world and so are cancer rates. But for most of us here in the west it’s not really practical to sharply increase our dietary intake of curry.  Curcumin supplements can be found in health food stores and through many Internet sources.
The clinical usefulness of curcumin has been limited by its poor absorption rate, and its rapid metabolism & elimination. It is important to use high quality supplements which have improved absorption.
But curcumin users should be aware of these precautions:
  • Indigestion is one of the conditions curcumin is used to address, but large doses my cause ulcers in some patients
  • Curcumin has been shown to lower cholesterol by prompting the liver to discharge bile, but this can be a problem for anyone with an obstruction of the biliary tract
  • Curcumin thins the blood, so it should not be taken with anti-coagulants or anti-inflammatory drugs.
                                                     MORE STUDIES
Here are just a few of the many studies or reviews of studies on Curcumin:
For more information about Turmeric/Curcumin can be found in the following books:
We hope this information is useful and will help maintain your health.  An ideal minimum supplement program might include a good daily multivitamin mineral, an Omega-3 fish oil product with plenty of EPA and DHA, Vitamin D, and Curcumin.
Peace, Health and Many Blessings.
Priscilla Slagle M.D. and The Way Up Staff.
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PRISCILLA SLAGLE, M.D. or Cathy Jones, Assisitant
Email: thewayup@dc.rr.com                          
Phone: 1 (760) 322-7797
Fax: 760-322-7608