Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric, and is also found in limited amounts in ginger. It is an anti-inflammatory molecule, and similar to fish oil, it seems to be a metabolic syndrome band-aid. It has poor bioavailability and black pepper greatly enhances absorption.


Curcumin is the yellow pigment associated with the curry spice, turmeric, and to a lesser extent ginger. It is a small molecule that is the prototypical ‘curcuminoid’, and has effects similar to other polyphenols but unique in a way as it is a different class of polyphenol (relative to the other classes of ‘flavonoid’, ‘stilbene’, etc.)

It exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects, and these anti-inflammatory effects may be protective against some form of cancer progression based on very preliminary research.

Other areas of interest as it pertains to curcumin are alleviating cognitive decline associated with aging, being heart healthy by both electrical means and reducing lipid and plaque levels in arteries, and both reducing the risk of diabetes and being a good treatment for the side-effects associated with diabetes.

It has a poor oral bioavailability (a low percentage of what you consume is absorbed) and thus should be enhanced with other agents such as black pepper extract, called piperine. This is unless you want the curcumin in your colon (as it is a colon anti-inflammatory and can help with digestion), in which case you wouldn’t pair it with an enhancement.

Doses up to 8g curcuminoids in humans have been shown to not be associated with much adverse effects at all, and in vitro tests suggest curcumin has quite a large safety threshold.

Things to Know

Also Known As

Turmeric extract, Curry Extract, Curcuma, Diferuloylmethane, JiangHuang, Curcuma Longa, 1, 7-bis-{3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl}-1, 6-heptadiene-3, 5-dione

Do Not Confuse With

Turmeric (Spice it comes from), Curry (meal preparation using Turmeric), Tree Turmeric (a term for Berberis Aristata)

Things to Note

  • Curcumin is fat soluble
  • Limited in vitro evidence suggests that curcumin may cause DNA damage and suppress the immune system at high concentrations. How these findings translate to actual impact on human health is unknown at this time

Goes Well With

  • Other curcuminoids (Curcumin, Demethoxycurcumin, Bimethoxycurcumin, Cyclocurcumin)
  • Piperine (increases bioavailability)
  • Genistein and soy isoflavones (synergistic protection from prostate cancer)
  • Fish Oil, particularly DHA, in breast cancer prevention
  • Garcinol, from Garcinia Indica, and cancer prevention
  • A wide variety of chemotherapy pharmaceuticals

How to Take

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

For any systemic purpose (requiring absorption from the intestines), then an oral supplementation of curcumin in the range of 80-500 mg would be required assuming an enhancement. Curcumin is poorly absorbed inherently, and one of the following is mandatory:

  • Pairing curcumin with black pepper (piperine)
  • Curcumin phytosomes complexed with phosphatidylcholine (Meriva or BCM-95)
  • Curcumin nanoparticles (THERACURMIN)
  • Water-soluble curcumin (polyvinyl pyrrolidone)

If one of the above enhancements are not used, then too little curcumin will be absorbed and even doses of up to 4,000mg may be wholly inactive (8-16g would only be slightly active).

If using curcumin for intestinal purposes, then absorption from the intestines into the blood is not necessarily required. Due to this, one can simply use turmeric at the dose of 2-4 g daily or take curcumin supplementation without any of the aforementioned enhancements.

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