Curcumin - Top 10 Benefits & Side Effects [Study-Backed Guide]

Updated: Jan 18

Curcumin is an exciting compound found in turmeric.


It has shown promising results when it comes to health.


The benefits of curcumin are vast, being a potent antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory.


Click to skip to the benefits below or scroll down.


Top 10 Benefits Of Curcumin:

  1. May Help Delay Ageing

  2. May Help Fight Against Depression

  3. May Help With Arthritis

  4. May Help Prevent & Treat Cancer

  5. May Help Prevent & Treat Diabetes

  6. May Help With Alzheimer's Disease

  7. May Help Lower Risk Of Heart Disease

  8. May Help Improve Brain Health & Lower Risk Of Brain Diseases

  9. Curcumin Is A Potent Antioxidant

  10. Curcumin Is A Potent Anti-Inflammatory


You can skip to different sections of this article below.



Turmeric Spice

What Is Curcumin

Turmeric is a flowering plant.


It is a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.


Turmeric is usually consumed as a root, or in its powder form.


Curcumin is a compound found naturally in turmeric.


It is also a food colouring and a flavouring.


Turmeric is consumed the most in India, followed by other countries such as Pakistan, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh.


India is also the most significant producer and exporter of turmeric worldwide.


Curcumin belongs to a group of compounds known as curcuminoids.


It is the major curcuminoid found in turmeric.

1) May Help Delay Ageing

Curcumin may help prevent and treat various diseases and conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and many more.


For this reason, curcumin may be a beneficial anti-ageing compound and has therefore become very popular as an anti-ageing supplement. (Source)


Because oxidation and inflammation are thought to play a role in the ageing process, curcumin may possess benefits beyond disease prevention. (Source)


Summary:

Due to curcumins multiple benefits, its role in anti-ageing and longevity may be vast.


Curcumin may be a promising anti-ageing supplement.

2) May Help Fight Against Depression

Curcumin may be of benefit to those with depression.


In one study, 60 people with depression were randomized and put into three groups. (Source)


In this study, one group took Prozac; another group took one gram of curcumin, and the third group took both curcumin and Prozac.


After six weeks, supplementing with curcumin led to improvements similar to that of Prozac. The group that took both curcumin and Prozac obtained the best results. (Source)


Based on the results of this study, curcumin may be a beneficial anti-depressive supplement.


A reduction in levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area with a role in learning and memory, also has a link to depression.


Curcumin can increase serum BDNF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes and positively affecting those with depression. (Source)


Dopamine and serotonin are essential neurotransmitters in the brain; there is evidence that curcumin can help to increase these chemicals. (Source, Source)


Summary:

One study looking at those with depression found the best effects were those who took curcumin with Prozac. Therefore, curcumin has shown to have a positive effect on those with depression.


Curcumin seems to have a positive effect on those with depression.

3) May Help With Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition.


Most of the time, arthritis results from inflammation of the joints, but there are several types.


Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory; this means there could be a possibility of treating arthritis with curcumin.


Several studies are showing this to be true.


In one study of rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug in improving arthritis symptoms. (Source)


Other studies have also looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and noted improvements in various symptoms. (Source, Source)


Summary:

Arthritis is a common condition characterized by joint inflammation. Studies show that curcumin can help treat arthritis symptoms and is, in some cases, more effective than common anti-inflammatory drugs.


Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and may help those with arthritis.

4) May Help Prevent & Treat Cancer

Cancer is an awful disease characterized by unrestricted cell growth within the body.


There are many different forms and types of cancer; however, they still have many things in common.


Many types of cancer appear to be affected by curcumin. (Source)


Studies conducted on curcumin has found it to affect cancer growth, development and spread. (Source)


Multiple studies indicate that curcumin can reduce cancerous cells' growth in the laboratory and inhibit tumour growth in animal studies. (Source, Source)


Curcumin can contribute to some types of cancerous cells' death.


It also reduces angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels in and near tumours) and reduces metastasis (the spread of cancer). (Source)


Whether curcumin can treat cancer in humans has yet to be adequately studied.


Curcumin may prevent cancer from forming, especially those of the digestive system such as colon cancer.


One thirty-day study in men with colon lesions, supplementing with 4 grams (4,000mg) of curcumin per day reduced the number of lesions by 40%. (Source)


Curcumin may be beneficial to use alongside conventional treatment.


More research is needed; however, the preliminary research is promising.


Summary:

There is evidence suggesting curcumin can prevent cancer from forming and may even be able to treat cancer, more research is needed to prove this.


Curcumin seems to be a promising anticancer compound, more research is needed.

5) May Help Prevent & Treat Diabetes

Studies suggest that curcumin can reduce blood glucose and reduce symptoms of other diabetes-related side effects. (Source)


There is also some evidence that curcumin may help prevent diabetes.


However, there should be more research into curcumin for a better understanding of its effects.


Some research shows that curcumin could stabilize blood sugar levels and help make diabetes more manageable. (Source)


Summary:

There is evidence suggesting curcumin can be useful for those with diabetes.


There is evidence suggesting curcumin can be beneficial for those with diabetes.

6) May Help With Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurological disease globally and one of the leading causes of dementia.


However, there is not an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease yet.


Preventing this disease from occurring could be one of the best steps in the battle against Alzheimer's.


Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier. (Source)


Inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer's disease, and curcumin has beneficial effects on both of these processes.


Another critical feature of Alzheimer's disease is a buildup of protein tangles in the brain called amyloid plaques.


Studies show that curcumin can help clear these amyloid plaques, reversing its effect on cognition and brain function. (Source)


Whether curcumin can slow or reverse the progression of Alzheimer's disease in humans is currently unexplored and needs to be adequately studied.


Summary:

Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and leads to various improvements in Alzheimer's disease.


Curcumin can lead to various improvements in those with Alzheimer's disease.

7) May Help Lower Risk Of Heart Disease

The number one cause of death globally is heart disease. (Source)


There has been much research on this condition, and there are many variables.


Curcumin may help reverse many of the steps involved in the heart disease process. (Source)


One of the most significant benefits from curcumin regarding heart disease is improving endothelium function (the lining of your blood vessels).


Endothelial dysfunction is a significant heart disease factor and involves the endothelium's inability to regulate crucial systems such as blood pressure, blood clotting, and other heart disease factors. (Source)


There are several studies which show that curcumin has a benefit on endothelial function.


One study found that curcumin is as useful as exercise on improving endothelial function, and another study showed that curcumin works just as well as the statin Atorvastatin. (Source, Source)


Also, curcumin can reduce overall inflammation and oxidation within the body, which is also a heart disease factor.


A study on people undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery took either a placebo or 4 grams (4,000mg) of curcumin per day, for a few days before and after their surgery.


The group that took curcumin before and after their surgery had a 65% reduced risk of experiencing a heart attack in the hospital. (Source)


Summary:

Curcumin plays several roles in decreasing the risk of heart disease. It improves endothelial function and is a potent anti-inflammatory. It has other beneficial effects, too, such as being a powerful antioxidant.


Curcumin seems to play several roles in decreasing the risk of heart disease.

8) May Help Improve Brain Health & Lower Risk Of Brain-Related Diseases

Previously it was thought that neurons did not multiply and divide after childhood.


However, current research suggests this does happen.


Neurons can form new connections with other neurons, and in certain parts of the brain, they can also multiply and divide.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth hormone, is a significant promoter of this process. (Source)


Some brain diseases have links to decreased levels of BDNF, such as Alzheimer's disease and depression. (Source, Source)


Curcumin can increase levels of BDNF. (Source, Source)


Doing this may help delay and possibly even reverse many brain diseases and age-related reductions in brain function. (Source)


Curcumin may also improve memory; this is likely due to its effects on BDNF.


However, studies in humans will be needed to confirm this.


Summary:

Curcumin increases levels of BDNF, which leads to increased growth of neurons and can reduce the risk of brain dysfunction and disease.


Curcumin can improve brain health and reduce the risk of brain-related diseases.

9) Curcumin Is A Potent Antioxidant

Is it thought that oxidative damage could be a major promoter of the ageing process, therefore reducing oxidative damage could help slow the ageing process.


Free radicals are molecules which are highly reactive and have unpaired electrons.


These free radicals react with essential substances in the body, such as DNA.


Antioxidants, like curcumin, are remarkably beneficial because they protect the body from these free radicals.


Curcumin is a potent antioxidant due to its chemical structure, and it can effectively neutralize free radicals. (Source, Source)


Also, curcumin can boost the body's production of antioxidant enzymes. (Source, Source)


Curcumin has two main effects against free radicals.


It can block these free radicals directly, and also stimulate the body's natural antioxidant defences.


Summary:

Curcumin is a potent antioxidant. It has two main effects against free radicals; it directly blocks them and stimulates the body's free radical defences.


Curcumin is a potent antioxidant and protects against free radicals

10) Curcumin Is A Potent Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is an essential process in the human body.


It provides an essential role in fighting pathogens, like bacteria and viruses, and repairing physical damage to the body, like wounds and broken bones.


Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria and viruses could spread much more effortlessly.


Short-term (acute) inflammation is beneficial, and a significant part of the body's defence systems, however, long-term (chronic) inflammation can become a significant problem.


Chronic inflammation may be a significant aspect of many diseases.


This chronic inflammation could play a significant role in cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's disease and various other conditions. (Source, Source, Source)


Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and may help reduce this chronic inflammation.


Curcumin is so potent that it matches some anti-inflammatory drugs' effectiveness, without causing the same side effects. (Source, Source, Source)


It blocks a molecule called NF-kB, which travels into the cells' nuclei and turns on inflammation-related genes.


NF-kB may play a significant role in many chronic diseases. (Source, Source)


Summary:

Chronic inflammation may be a significant aspect of many chronic diseases. Curcumin can suppress many of these molecules known to play significant roles in inflammation and, therefore, be beneficial in these chronic diseases.


Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and protects against chronic diseases.

Side Effects Of Curcumin

Turmeric is a widely used spice and is also a widely used traditional medicine.


Curcumin, along with other curcuminoids, is the main active ingredient in turmeric.


Generally, both curcumin and turmeric have minimal side effects; however, they can still occur.


Common side effects of curcumin observed in studies are mostly gastrointestinal-related: (Source)

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhoea

  • Gastroesophageal reflux

  • Dyspepsia

  • Distension

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Yellow stool

  • Stomach ache

  • Headache

  • Rash


Individuals with bile duct obstruction, liver disease and other similar conditions should avoid turmeric and curcumin due to its ability to increase bile secretion.


Curcumin and turmeric may also interact with some medications due to its effects on cytochrome P450 enzymes, OATP and P-glycoprotein transporters. (Source)


Those taking medication with significant side effects, such as cancer or immunosuppressant medicines, should use curcumin and turmeric with caution.


Remember, food supplements are unregulated and may not guarantee quality and safety.


People looking to use curcumin should get their supplements from a trusted source to ensure quality and safety.


Summary:

Curcumin seems to be generally safe. However, those taking other medications or those with biliary or gastrointestinal conditions should take curcumin or turmeric with caution.


Further Reading: Curcumin Side Effects & Interactions [Full Guide]


Other Sources: Karger


Curcumin is generally safe with minimal side effects, be sure to consult a doctor first.

Other Curcuminoids

A curcuminoid is a linear diarylheptanoid.


Curcuminoids are known as phenols and produce a yellow colour.


Turmeric powder is about 1-6% curcuminoids. (Source)


Turmeric naturally contains a mixture of three types of curcuminoids: (Source)

  • Curcumin (~85%)

  • Demethoxycurcumin (~15%)

  • Bis-demethoxycurcumin (~5%)


In one study, all three of these curcuminoids reduce oxidative damage.


Types Of Curcuminoid's (chemical structure)

How To Improve Absorption Of Curcumin

Unfortunately, curcumin does not absorb well into the bloodstream.


As a result, most curcumin will travel through the digestive system and not have the desired effects.


However, a compound found in black pepper improves curcumin absorption.


Studies suggest combining the piperine found in black pepper with curcumin enhances its absorption by around 2,000%. (Source, Source)


Taking 20mg of piperine with 2 grams (2,000mg) of curcumin significantly increased its absorption. (Source)


There is a couple of theories about how piperine improves curcumins absorption.


Firstly, piperine may make it easier for curcumin to pass through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. (Source)


Secondly, it may slow the livers breakdown of curcumin, increasing serum levels. (Source, Source)


Summary:

Piperine found in black pepper can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.


Piperine found in black pepper can significantly improve absorption of curcumin.

Dosage Of Curcumin

Most studies typically use around 500-2,000mg curcumin.


The average Indian diet provides around 2,000-2,500mg of turmeric (equal to around 60-100mg of curcumin) per day.


Turmeric spice contains around ~3% curcumin, compared to around ~95% found in most curcumin extracts.


One study of older adults associated turmeric consumption to better brain health. (Source)


There is no official guide on curcumin dosage; however, the following may be a good start. (Source, Source)


  • For General Wellbeing: 500 mg of ~95% curcumin once daily.

  • For Arthritis: 500 mg of curcumin twice daily.

  • For High Cholesterol: 700 mg of ~95% curcumin twice daily.


Although research suggests curcumin is safe for consumption, there is still not enough evidence to support its long-term safety.


For this reason, we cannot recommend curcumin for long-term consumption.


1.4mg per pound (0-3mg/kg) of body weight is an acceptable daily intake. (Source)


Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any supplements, extracts or herbs.


Summary:

Studies suggest that curcumin in dosages of 500-2,000mg per day may be useful. However, long-term studies are currently lacking.


Studies suggest a dosage of curcumin around 500-2,000mg is effective and safe.

Other Effects Of Curcumin

There are multiple purported benefits of curcumin that have preliminary research; however, there is still insufficient evidence to back up these claims.


Therefore, more research is needed to confirm the effects listed below.


  • Antiviral Effects: Curcumin has displayed antiviral effects against several viruses in the lab; however, more research in humans needs to confirm this. (Source, Source)

  • Antibacterial Effects: Curcumin has also displayed antibacterial effects against various bacteria in the lab; more research needs to confirm this same effect in humans. (Source, Source)

  • Antifungal Effects: Curcumin also displays antifungal effects; more research needs to confirm this happens in humans. (Source, Source)

  • Lower Triglycerides: There may be reductions of triglycerides with curcumin, but they seem unreliable and not very potent. (Source)

  • Reduce Anxiety: Curcumin is slightly more effective than placebo in reducing anxiety symptoms; more research needs to confirm this. (Source)

  • Reduce Pain: There may be a decrease in pain when supplementing with curcumin at higher doses. However, many of these studies are of low quality and funded by industry. (Source)

  • Reduce Blood Pressure: Curcumin may decrease blood pressure, but more evidence is required to confirm this. (Source)

  • Reduction In C-Reactive Protein (CRP): Curcumin may decrease CRP in those with elevated levels. However, studies are inconsistent, but an effect on those with elevated levels is likely. (Source)

  • Reduction in HbA1c: Some studies have observed decreases in HbAc1 when taking curcumin; however, the evidence is inconsistent. (Source)

  • Increases HDL-C: There is a possible increase in HDL-C when taking curcumin; more research needs to confirm this. (Source)

  • Increases Nitric Oxide: Supplementing 80mg of bioavailability-enhanced curcumin increases serum nitric oxide by around 40%; again, more research needs to confirm this. (Source)

  • Increases Blood Flow: Supplementing with curcumin may improve blood flow; more research needs to confirm this statement. (Source)

  • Increases Adiponectin: Supplementing with curcumin may also increase adiponectin levels. (Source)

  • Increases Insulin Secretion (in those with insulin resistance): Curcumin supplementation may increase insulin secretion in insulin-resistant people, suggesting benefits to pancreatic tissue. (Source)

  • Increases Insulin Sensitivity (in those with insulin resistance): Curcumin may increase insulin sensitivity in those with insulin resistance. (Source)

  • Increases Intestinal Motility: Curcumin may help to increase intestinal motility. (Source)

  • Increases Vascular Function: Supplementing with curcumin may increase vascular function. (Source)

  • Increases Lipoprotein Lipase Activity: In a study on type 2 diabetes, there is an increase in lipoprotein lipase activity with curcumin supplementation. (Source)

  • Increases Serum BDNF: In a study on people with major depression, there was an increase in BDNF when taking curcumin. (Source)

  • Decreases LDL-C: In people with high cholesterol, taking curcumin may reduce LDL-C, but studies are inconsistent. (Source)

  • Decreases Lipid Peroxidation: Chronic supplementation of curcumin may reduce lipid peroxidation. (Source)

  • Decreases Cell Adhesion Factors: Supplementing with curcumin may decrease cell adhesion factors; this may be the reason for therapeutic benefits towards atherosclerosis. (Source)

  • Decreases Rate Of Cognitive Decline: Taking curcumin may help reduce the rate of cognitive decline, but this requires more evidence to confirm. (Curcumin)

  • Decreases DNA Damage: In one study on arsenic toxicity, taking curcumin can reduce DNA damage. (Source)

  • Decreases Oedema (Edema): Supplementing with curcumin can help reduce oedema. (Source)

  • Decreases Fatigue: Taking curcumin may reduce postoperative fatigue. (Source)

  • Reduces Liver Enzymes (in those with elevated enzymes): In people with normal liver enzymes, there is no change; however, in people with elevated liver enzymes, there is a small reduction. (Source)

  • Reduces Total Cholesterol (in those with elevated total cholesterol): In ordinary people, supplementing with curcumin does not seem to affect cholesterol, in those with elevated cholesterol, there may be a reduction. However, more research needs to confirm this. (Source)

  • Reduces Weight: Some studies show a weight reduction, but this could be random variation. It is still unclear. (Source)

  • Reduces IL-1b: With curcumin supplementation in osteoarthritic patients, a reduction in IL-1b may occur. (Source)

  • Reduces IL-6: Curcumin may reduce IL-6. However, more research is needed to confirm this. (Source)

  • Reduces Free Fatty Acids: There was a modest reduction in one study on type 2 diabetics taking curcumin, but more research is needed to back this up. (Source)

  • Reduces Leptin: There may be a reduction in leptin; more studies need to back this up. (Source)

  • Reduces Symptoms Of Crohn's Disease: There may be a reduction of symptoms associated with Crohn's disease and curcumin intake. (Source)

  • Improves Functionality In Elderly: In one study on people with osteoarthritis, supplementing with curcumin improved treadmill performance significantly after eight months compared to the control group. (Source)

  • Improves Kidney Function: Curcumin may improve kidney function in those with reduced kidney function, more research needs to back this up. (Source)

  • Improves Symptoms Of Mucositis: Supplementing with curcumin has shown to decrease symptoms of mucositis. (Source)

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is curcumin used to treat?

A: Curcumin is commonly used for conditions involving inflammation, such as arthritis. It is also used for many other conditions, diseases and as a spice and food colouring.


Q: Are turmeric and curcumin the same thing?

A: Turmeric is a plant and spice, it contains around ~1-6% curcuminoids (mostly curcumin). Curcumin is usually taken in the extracted form.


Q: What are the side effects of curcumin?

A: Curcumin seems to be generally safe and well tolerated. Common side effects are gastrointestinal-related and include; constipation, diarrhoea, gastroesophageal reflux, dyspepsia, distension, vomiting, nausea, yellow stool, stomach ache, headache, and rash.


Q: Is it safe to take curcumin daily?

A: Long-term safety studies are lacking. However, studies suggest curcumin is safe for short-term usage.

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