Curcumin is what gives Turmeric its bright yellow-orange colour. It has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties in laboratory studies. However, very few good human trials have been completed, and we do know that it is poorly absorbed. Mouse studies have shown that it reduces the immune response in colitis and arthritis, as well as in traumatic brain injury. Attempts to improve the absorption and bioavailability for humans are underway, including:
a. Pairing curcumin with black pepper (piperine)1
b. Curcumin pytosomes complexed with phosphatidyl-choline (Meriva2 or BCM-95)
c. Curcumin nanoparticles (Theracurcumin)3
d. Water-soluble curcumin (polyvinyl pyrrolidine)4
If one of the above strategies is not employed, then too little curcumin will be absorbed and even doses of up to 4000 mg may be wholly ineffective (8-16 grams would be only slightly effective). If using curcumin for intestinal purposes then absorption from the intestines into the blood is not necessary; hence one can simply use turmeric at a dose of 2-4 g daily without any of the aforementioned enhancements5. In one human study, oral supplements of curcumin were shown to significantly reduce post-operative pain and fatigue after gallbladder surgery6. The analgesic effect was comparable to 2g of oral acetaminophen. A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin does have anticancer effects7. It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. The best effects are seen on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells. A 2013 study that combined curcumin with chemotherapy to treat bowel cancer cells in a laboratory showed that the combined treatment killed more cancer cells than the chemotherapy alone8. We need to have more clinical trials in larger numbers of cancer patients to be sure, but early indications are very promising.
Aside from the possibility of stomach upset at higher doses, curcumin appears to be very safe. I currently recommend curcumin supplementation to any of my patients with inflammation or colitis. For enhanced-absorption curcumin, the daily dose should be 200-600 mg per day.
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Remedy’s Rx (KLO at Lakeshore)
Prescription Health Studio (540 West Ave, just off Pandosy)
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Abaco Health (Gordon at Cook Rd)
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Nolan’s Pharmasave (Vernon)
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