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The Health Benefits of Turmeric

You might have turmeric in your spice cabinet, especially if you like to make curry. But turmeric may also deserve a spot in your medicine cabinet. This spice has been used medicinally in India and Southeast Asia for thousands of years, as everything from a heartburn reliever to a paste applied directly to the skin to heal rashes. It’s only relatively recently, however, that turmeric has begun to gain attention here in the US for its wellness benefits. A major reason for this is the difficulty in crafting a supplement that can actually deliver the bioactive components in turmeric. Keep reading to learn more about what makes turmeric so powerful—and why you might want to consider a turmeric supplement.
turmeric supplements curcumin
What Makes Turmeric So Powerful?
Turmeric contains three main bioactive components: Curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin, collectively called curcuminoids. Each has its own strengths, but unfortunately all share the same weakness—poor circulating bioavailability. However, when these are absorbed in the body, in addition to their own benefits they also produce metabolites that have considerable effects. This is a major reason why researchers have begun to pay more attention to turmeric, and to trying to understand how curcuminoids work within the body. In fact, it’s become the most widely studied nutritional herb, with more than 5,600 peer-reviewed studies published worldwide.
One of the major benefits of curcumin is its anti-inflammatory capability. Curcumin binds to many different kinds of cells within the body, helping to relieve inflammation and providing pro-oxidative benefits. Many believe chronic inflammation is at the root of illnesses ranging from diabetes to neurodegenerative diseases to various cancers. In one study, 4 grams of curcumin given before and after bypass surgery was shown to decrease the likelihood of having a heart attack by 17% after having cardiac bypass surgery. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are likely responsible for the benefits that turmeric supplements have for osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers. A 2014 study looking at patients with chronic OA pain in their knees randomly assigned participants to take turmeric supplements or ibuprofen. The researchers looked at subjects’ reports of pain, stiffness, and functioning over the course of the study. They found that supplementing with turmeric was as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain and inflammation. On top of that, they found that one of the main side effects reported by the ibuprofen group—abdominal discomfort—was not an issue with the patients taking turmeric.
Tetrahydrocurcumin is considered the most powerful of the curcuminoid metabolites. You won’t find it listed on the active ingredients list on a supplement; tetrahydrocurcumin is formed within your plasma when curcuminoids are ingested. It’s a powerful antioxidant, working almost like a trash collector to sweep up free radicals in your bloodstream. This can be a preventative against many different diseases. For example, research has found that tetrahydrocurcumin has neuroprotective properties, helping protect the brain from oligomeric amyloid-β-induced toxicity. These amyloids are what form the characteristic plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Similar benefits have been demonstrated for heart health; a study in Hypertension Research showed that tetrahydrocurcumin reduced the thickening and stiffening of the aortic walls and alleviated hypertension.
Why is Supplementing with Turmeric Difficult?
Turmeric’s bioactive components have such exceptional health benefits—helping reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, protecting the heart and brain, aiding your immune and digestive systems—that you might be wondering why everyone isn’t supplementing with it. The main problem is that as much good as curcuminoids do for your body, it’s difficult to actually make them sufficiently bioavailable.
In fact, curcuminoids have almost everything going against them when it comes to getting into your system. They are difficult to dissolve and for your intestines to absorb. When they are absorbed, they are metabolized or eliminated quickly. All of this makes getting an amount sufficient to receive turmeric’s benefits tough. You most often see turmeric supplements that are made with encapsulated powders—this type of formulation is unlikely to get enough curcuminoids into your blood stream for you to achieve an effect.
For patients interested in supplementing with turmeric, Dr. Tang recommends Curcum-Evail. This patent-pending supplement uses a proprietary emulsification process to make the curcuminoid components of turmeric highly bioavailable; it’s the only curcumin supplement currently available that produces tetrahydrocurcumin in vivo. Curcum-Evail uses natural, non-GMO ingredients including medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), lecithin, and Vitamin E. Taken as a softgel tablet, it’s easy to swallow—and easy to add to your daily routine. Want to learn more about supplementation? Curious about whether you’re taking the right supplements, and whether they’re working? Dr. Tang can give you individualized advice, as well as vitamin testing. Call Rejuvé at 408-740-5320 to make an appointment today!