Curcumin – the active compound found in turmeric that gives it its vibrant bright yellow-orange colour – has emerged as another super-ingredient touted for supporting our health. Nutritionist Lucy Stewart takes a look at how this super-ingredient is one that might actually live up to the hype.
Curcumin has been used therapeutically in Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties for thousands of years and science has to begun backing this up with over 10,000 published articles citing the many health benefits of curcumin, across a wide range of health areas.
What is it?
Turmeric comes from the herbaceous Curcuma longa plant, which grows in India and other Southeast Asian countries. There are several chemical compounds found in turmeric, known as curcuminoids, the active compound of which is curcumin.
The curcumin content of turmeric, however, is not very high and most of the scientific research around its health benefits use a high-potency curcumin extract at dosages that would be very hard to achieve by just adding turmeric to your foods. Fortunately, curcumin is available in supplemental form. Some products also include black pepper, which has been shown to enhance the absorption and utilization of curcumin in the body.
What are the benefits?
Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
Curcumin as an anti-inflammatory
As an anti-inflammatory, curcumin works at a molecular level by lowering the levels of enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. Osteoarthritis is a common disorder characterised by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints which can lead to joint pain and inflammation. Many studies have shown that curcumin can help to relieve joint pain and increase joint mobility associated with mild osteoarthritis.
A super-sized dose of antioxidants
Oxidative damage is believed to be a significant contributor to ageing and ill health. Oxidative damage occurs when free radicals (highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons) react with other substances in our body, damaging cells or creating abnormal ones. Antioxidants work to protect our body by neutralising these free radicals. Thanks to its antioxidant actions, curcumin may protect tissues, cells and structures from damaging effects of free radicals.
Supplemental curcumin can interact with certain medications, so always consult with your healthcare professional before taking it.
This article was brought to you by Oriental Botanicals