How to Use Curcumin?
Curcumin is the name given to a collection of compounds called curcuminoids, which are the active anti-inflammatory compound found in the super-spice turmeric.
Turmeric is the best known curry spice with brain benefits. This yellow, ginger-like plant plays an essential role in curry spice blends. A variety of studies using turmeric have suggested that it slows cognitive decline and benefits cognitive function. The challenge is that it is generally poorly absorbed, and the quantities needed to show a benefit are big, as in you’d need to eat about 3 heaping tablespoons of turmeric every day. When I lived and worked as a volunteer in various hospitals in India, including at a leprosarium near Calcutta, I likely ate this amount daily. That was when I ate curry- flavored meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If eating this quantity curry spice isn’t realistic for you, the benefits of turmeric are also available as a supplement, called curcumin. The same brain benefits of consuming 3 heaping tablespoons of turmeric daily can be had replicated by taking a single 500-1000 mg capsule of curcumin daily, without any meaningful side effects (apart from occasional stomach distress noted with dosages higher than I normally recommend). However, most inexpensive forms of curcumin have very poor absorption and may cause some stomach distress as well. To enhance its absorption, a few nutraceutical companies have added black pepper (bioperine) in supplement form to curcumin; but black pepper may have some modest negative gastro-intestinal side effects itself, and the level to which it increases absorption is controversial, some scientist claiming it has at most a minimal effect. However, studies have shown that combining curcumin with medium-chain triglycerides and lecithin have been shown to increase its absorption dramatically compared to a dry standard form of curcumin. Some studies suggest a nearly 30-fold increase in absorption.
Curcumin is not only a powerful anti-inflammatory, it also provides antioxidant, anti-thrombotic, and cardiovascular protective benefits. Because of these powerful properties, curcumin is commonly used to decrease arthritis symptoms by lowering joint inflammation, is it being studied in cancer prevention and treatment studies, especially at the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center, plus is being studied to help decrease memory loss by researchers at Columbia University and at UCLA.
One study (1) found that curcumin could preserve cardiac function after ischemia and reperfusion. “Curcumin has potential as a treatment for patients who have had a heart attack,” researchers concluded. We think it’s got a lot more than just “potential”—both of us take it every day.
And as I noted in some detail in my book, The Better Brain Solution, it appears very promising in preventing cognitive decline. If you have any of these concerns, then you should discuss with your doctor if Curcumin may be a good option for you.
Smart Curcumin tips:
- Look for dosages that range from 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily.
- I recommend curcumin that has proven to be well absorbed.
Steven Masley, MD