Turmeric Bites

By Farhana Rahman

 Turmeric on chopping board

Following on from my thoughts on on the golden root in my last blog post, here I break down some facts.

 

Turmeric – the low down:

 

1.     Curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric has been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, antioxidant, wound-healing, and antimicrobial activities.  Studies have noted benefit in a variety of conditions from numerous cancers, Crohn’s disease, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome to liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, psoriasis and even anxiety. 

2.   Most studies use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin alone, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day.  Curcumin makes up only about 2 to 6 percent of turmeric, so it would be difficult to reach these levels from diet alone.

3.   The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes curcuminoids as “Generally Recognized As Safe”.  Clinical trials have shown good tolerability and safety profiles, even at doses between 4000 and 8000 mg/day and of doses up to 12,000 mg/day of 95% concentration of three curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin.

4.     Turmeric can affect blood clotting pathways – it doesn’t mean turmeric has to be avoided in clotting disorders or if you’re on blood thinners, but taking curcumin supplements would not be advised.  It’s always best to speak to your doctor before starting any supplement.

5.   One of the major problems with ingesting curcumin by itself is its poor bioavailability – it has poor absorption, is metabolised quickly and eliminated rapidly.  Interestingly, Piperine is the major active component of black pepper and is associated with an increase of 2000% in the bioavailability of curcumin.  So keep adding that black pepper to your curry!

6.     However, the quality of data from studies on curcumin has been questioned – an article by Nelson et al notes ‘no double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial of curcumin has been successful’ - which would be the gold standard.  Interestingly, the same article states, ‘of course, we do not rule out the possibility that an extract of crude turmeric might have beneficial effects on human health’.

 

As always, we recommend a holistic approach.  We’d suggest incorporating turmeric in your diet if you don’t already, and being open to the benefits.  If considering supplementation, speak to your doctor beforehand but avoid if on blood thinners, if you have a clotting disorder, are pregnant or lactating.

 

References:

 

Aggarwal BB, Sung B. Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern targets. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009;30(2):85–94.

 

Basnet P, Skalko-Basnet N. Curcumin: An anti-inflammatory molecule from a curry spice on the path to cancer treatment. Molecules. 2011;16:4567–4598.

 

Gupta SC, Patchva S, Aggarwal BB. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. The AAPS Journal. 2013; 15(1): 195–218.

 

Han HK. The effects of black pepper on the intestinal absorption and hepatic metabolism of drugs. Expert Opin. Drug Metab. Toxicol. 2011;7:721–729

 

Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017 Oct; 6(10): 92.

 

Nelson KM, Dahlin JL, Bisson J, Graham J, Pauli GF, Walters MA. The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin. J. Med. Chem., 2017, 60 (5).

 

Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas P.S. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998;64:353–356.