Optimal Health Medical Blog

The Blog of Dr. Henry Sobo



Turmeric is  a spice which has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties.  It contains the polyphenol curcumin which has been studied extensively, furthering our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie its health benefits.  Curcumin is used worldwide in many different forms.

 It has been traditionally used in Asian countries as a medical herb.
 In India, turmeric is used in curries. In Japan, it is served in tea. In Thailand, it is used in cosmetics.  In Malaysia, it is used as an antiseptic. In Pakistan, it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent. In the United States, it is used in mustard sauce, cheese, butter, and  as a preservative.
It has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and these together are a powerful combination given that free radicals called oxidants, and chronic inflammation, are felt to be the basis of  the development of so many diseases.  It has been shown to act not only as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance [], but also as an antimutagenic (anti-tumor growth) , antimicrobial [,], (anti-infectious) and anticancer agent [,]. Consequently the list of conditions it has been used for continue to expand as it has been showing efficacy in Metabolic syndrome, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. It helps muscle soreness due to exercise-induced inflammation, enhancing recovery and enabling continued activity. It is also felt that due to its inherent properties curcumin in small doses provides health benefits for people that do not manifest overt symptoms or have  diagnosed health problems. These benefits are  attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to prevent disease.
 Curcumin may be one the most researched plant substances in the world . There are many studies confirming its use in  inflammatory conditions [], metabolic syndrome [], pain [], and to help in the management of degenerative eye conditions [,]. In addition, it has been shown to benefit the kidneys []. While there appear to be countless therapeutic benefits to curcumin supplementation, most of these benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [,].  A practical problem arises in that ingesting curcumin by itself does not work as well because  of  poor bioavailability, due to poor absorption, and rapid metabolism and elimination in the system.There are  bioavailability enhancers, including piperine  the major active component of black pepper [] that delivers more of the active ingredient after its ingestion. Fortunately, the issue of poor bioavailability can be resolved by adding substances such as piperine to curcumin for production of supplements . Piperine has been shown to enhance the bioavailability of curcumins by as much as  2000% in [].

Research continues  regarding the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, as these are the two primary mechanisms that explain the many the effects of curcumin on various conditions. [,]. Curcumin improves systemic markers of oxidative stress []. It can increase the activities of the antioxidant  superoxide dismutase (SOD) [,,].  Curcumin’s effect on free radicals is carried out by several different mechanisms. It can scavenge for free radicals []. It modulates the activity of enzymes such as GSH, catalase, and SOD which nutralize  free radicals [,].  Curcumin is a lipophilic compound, which makes it an efficient scavenger of peroxyl radicals, similar to what is felt to be the antioxidant mechanism of Vitamin E.

Oxidative stress has been implicated in many chronic diseases, and its pathological processes are closely related to those of inflammation, in that one can be easily induced by another.  []. Inflammation has been identified in the development of many chronic diseases and conditions [,,. These diseases include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral injury, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, allergy, asthma, bronchitis, colitis, arthritis, renal ischemia, psoriasis, diabetes, obesity, depression, fatigue, and acquired immune deficiency syndromeAIDS [].

Tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) is a major mediator of inflammation in many diseases. TNF is activated by many triggers including bacteria, various viruses; environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, ultraviolet radiation, physical, mechanical, and psychological stressors . It is also induced by high glucose and fatty acids. Consequently it is felt that anything which diminishes the production of TNF may have therapeutic potential  against many diseases. Curcumin has been shown to block TNF activation by several different inflammatory stimuli []. It is felt that curcumin suppresses  inflammation through even more mechanisms that have been proven to date making it a topic of continuing research into it as a general  anti-inflammatory agent [].

A study by Delecroix et al. showed  that 2 curcumin and 20 g  helps muscle soreness after an intense workout in elite rugby players [].

In addition to acute physical stresses, people may suffer from  anxiety or depression which may still benefit from curcumin.  In a randomized double blind cross-over trial, 30 adults received curcuminoids (1 g/day) or a placebo for 30 days. Results as measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)  showed that curcumin has  potential anti-anxiety effects in healthy people [].

Indeed it seems that the more it is studied the more benefits become proven!

Does cucumin have any side effects?

Curcumin has a long established safety record.
Curcuminoids have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) [].  Its safety is also confirmed by the JECFA (The Joint United Nations and World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives) and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).  Many trials on healthy subjects have documented the safety and efficacy of curcumin.  Studies have repeatedly shown it to be well tolerated,  and safe even at high doses such as 4-8 gm/day.