Curcumin is a naturally occurring compound found in the spice turmeric that has been used for centuries as an Ayurvedic medicine treatment for such ailments as allergies, diabetes and ulcers. To date it is one of the most studied natural compounds in modern medicine. Now curcumin and turmeric have been linked with lowering high cholesterol, acting as a steroid-like anti-inflammatory on arthritis and a variety of immune disorders, preventing Alzheimer’s, and inducing cell death in cancerous cells. From Dr. Andrew Weil to Dr. Joseph Mercola, from Dr. Oz to Deepak Chopra, physicians and dieticians have been recommending curcumin to their patients for years.
There’s been some research suggesting that curcumin that is isolated from turmeric or other food products may not be as readily available or absorbed in the body. Researchers at Ohio State University and other facilities have been studying this problem.
“There’s a reason why this compound has been used for hundreds of years in Eastern medicine. And this study suggests that we have identified a better and more effective way to deliver curcumin and know what diseases to use it for so that we can take advantage of its anti-inflammatory power,” said Nicholas Young, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State and lead author of the study.
In fact, there is growing evidence that turmeric, or curcumin, should be eaten at the same time as black pepper, to increase absorption into the body. From Andrew Weill’s website we read: Neither curcumin nor turmeric taken orally is well absorbed unless taken with black pepper or piperine, a constituent of black pepper responsible for its pungency. When shopping for supplements, make sure that the one you choose contains black pepper extract or piperine. (If you’re cooking with turmeric, be sure to add some black pepper to the food.).
Turmeric contains about 3% curcumin and it may be difficult to ingest enough in curries or smoothies to get to medicinal levels. Another method to get higher doses is to look for a high quality organic turmeric extract that contains at least 95% curcuminoids, and then follow the instructions for dosing.