WHAT IS CURCUMIN?
Curcumin is a phenolic acid and phytonutrient (a group of chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants and have multiple health benefits but are not considered essential to human health). It is the active component in the spice turmeric and is believed to act in a protective capacity throughout the human body. In this article I will be taking a detailed look at curcumin and discussing its main health benefits.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF CURCUMIN?
People were aware of the health benefits of curcumin as early as 1900 B.C. During this time turmeric was used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat various health disorders. However, despite this awareness, curcumin was not isolated from turmeric until the early 1800s and its chemical structure was not determined until 1910. During the second half of the 20th century research revealed that curcumin was the active component in turmeric and was responsible for the majority of its health benefits.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CURCUMIN?
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant (a substance that protects your body’s cells from the damaging free radicals which are released during oxygen related reactions. It is also believed to have a wide range of health boosting properties and it has been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years. However, no clinical trials on humans have been completed so more research is required before the health benefits of curcumin can be confirmed. The current available research suggests that curcumin has the following potential health benefits:
– Possibly acting as an antibacterial (a substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria).
– Possibly acting as an antidepressant.
– Possibly acting as an anti-inflammatory (a substance that prevents unnecessary inflammation in the body).
– Possibly acting as an antiviral (a substance that inhibits the growth of viral infections).
– Possibly boosting liver health (by detoxifying the liver, improving liver function and treating liver diseases).
– Possibly preventing Alzheimer’s disease (a mental disorder which leads to the loss of memory, thought and speech).
– Possibly preventing atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques form in the artery walls and restrict the flow of blood which ultimately increases your heart disease risk).
– Possibly preventing the replication of the human immunodeficiency virus (a virus that is often abbreviated to HIV and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) which ultimately destroys the immune system).
– Possibly preventing various types of cancer (including breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer).
– Possibly strengthening the immune system.
– Possibly reducing blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (a type of cholesterol which causes blockages in the arteries and increases your heart disease risk) and increasing blood levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (a type of cholesterol that collects LDL cholesterol from the blood and artery walls and then transports it to the liver for excretion).
– Possibly treating arthritis (inflammation of the joints).
– Possibly treating cataracts (clouding on the lenses of the eyes).
– Possibly treating diabetes (by reducing blood glucose levels).
– Possibly treating indigestion and abdominal pain.
– Possibly treating inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis (a skin disease characterised by red, itchy, scaly patches).
– Possibly treating kidney disease.
– Possibly treating multiple sclerosis (a nerve disorder which leads to depression, impaired mobility, muscular weakness and vision problems).
HOW MUCH CURCUMIN DO YOU NEED?
Since curcumin is not classed as an essential nutrient no official recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been established. The doses used in studies range from 100 milligrams (mg) per day to 8,000mg per day and doses of up to 12,000mg per day are not believed to have any adverse effects.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN CURCUMIN?
As discussed at the beginning of this article, curcumin is the key component in turmeric. A 100 gram (g) serving of turmeric contains approximately 5g of curcumin. Turmeric can be consumed as a root, as a powder or even as a tea.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CONSUMING TOO MUCH CURCUMIN?
As discussed above, taking up to 12,000mg of curcumin per day is not believed to have any adverse effects. However, exceeding this limit can lead to a number of unpleasant overdose symptoms which include:
– Gallstones (small, hard stones that are formed in the gall bladder).
– Liver damage.
– Stomach irritation.
– Stomach ulcers.
In addition to the overdose symptoms discussed above, curcumin may also have further adverse effects when high levels are consumed. However, more research is required before these additional overdose symptoms can be confirmed. The list below outlines these potential curcumin overdose symptoms:
– Possibly acting as a carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer).
– Possibly interfering with various medications including blood thinning medications (by causing excessive bleeding), chemotherapy drugs (by interfering with their cancer fighting abilities) and diabetes medications (by causing blood glucose levels to fall to dangerously low levels).
– Possibly causing uterine contractions in pregnant women which can lead to miscarriage or premature birth.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF FAILING TO CONSUME ENOUGH CURCUMIN?
Curcumin is not classed as an essential nutrient so there are no reported deficiency symptoms associated with its consumption.
Although the research on curcumin is still in its provisional stages, the potential health benefits of this nutrient are massive. Adding turmeric to your cooking certainly won’t do any harm but it will give your food a unique flavour and potentially give your health a significant boost.
20 Health Benefits of Turmeric (Health Diaries)
Benefits of Curcumin (Curcumin.net)
Curcumin Dangers, Problems & Side Effects (Livestrong)
List of Phytochemicals in Food (Wikipedia)
Turmeric (Curcumin) (Natural Remedies Review)