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Supplement Sunday: Curcumin

Curcumin is a component of the herb Curcuma longa, otherwise known as Turmeric. This herb has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. The active component curcumin is found in its root and gives it its vibrant yellow colour - hence why when I think of curcumin I immediately think of delicious golden milk lattes... yum!

What are the effects of Curcumin?

Curcumin is well known for 3 main effects:

  • anti-inflammatory

  • anti-oxidant

  • anti-cancer

Here is some of the research behind these mechanisms:


Curcumin modulates our inflammatory response by down-regulating some of our powerful pro-inflammatory mediators. This includes inhibiting a few key players of inflammation:

  • COX-2 : cyclooxygenase 2

  • LOX : lipooxygenases

  • iNOS : nitric oxide synthase

  • Cytokines: TNF-a, IL1, 2, 6, 8 &12

NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen (Advil), Naproxen (Aleve) and Aspirin are also COX-2 inhibitors, however they also inhibit COX-1 which has protective and "housekeeping" roles within our cells. They also come with side effects and increased risk profiles, meaning overuse may be harmful to our bodies in the long term. In comparison, curcumin is a natural selective COX-2 inhibitor which focuses on decreasing inflammation.


Our cells rely on oxygen to create energy- but this can be transformed into a reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are toxic to our cells. Free radical species are what cause this transformation. One of them : nitric oxide, is created via NOS (nitric oxide synthase). Curcumin is an NOS inhibitor and therefore decreases oxidation. It also improves anti-oxidation via other mechanisms in the body as well.


Curcumin inhibits TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor alpha) and has been shown to be involved in tumor initiation, promotion and progression. TNF-a activates a pathway that leads to the production of the pro-inflammatory mediators discussed above: COX-2, LOX and NOS, which have all been implicated in the pathogenesis of cancer. Curcumin inhibits the starting cascade as well as subsequent pathway indicated in tumor progression.

What health conditions can Curcumin be useful for?

Joint Health

  • In addition to decreasing inflammation within our joints, curcumin may also be able to prevent breakdown of our cartilage and prevent disease progression in osteoarthritis.

Heart Health

  • Curcumin has cholesterol and triglyceride lowering effects.

  • It also may act as a protectant against atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty substances settle in blood vessels and cause blockages of blood flow. Curcumin combats this via lowering lipids in the blood, decreasing the oxidation of lipids, and inhibiting platelet aggregation.

Brain Health

  • Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers have been linked to oxidation in our brain. Due to curcumin's anti-oxidant activity it has been indicated as a neuroprotectant, protecting against neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Curcumin also been indicated in counteracting the oxidative damage caused by TBI (traumatic brain injury) and may be used to support concussions.

Gastrointestinal Health:

  • Due to it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects it has been shown to inhibit & prevent liver fibrosis, as well as be useful in the treatment of pancreatitis .

  • It is also being studied for its effects in those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and has been shown to reduce symptoms.

Autoimmune disease:

  • Curcumin has been studied in rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis. Many studies have demonstrated positive effects on inflammation, immune regulation and therefore symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

  • RA: curcumin inhibits inflammation as well as inhibits the breakdown of collagen in our joints.

  • Psoriasis: studies have shown curcumin may decrease in the proliferation of skin cells which play a role in psoriasis.

  • IBD: the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin have been shown to ameliorate symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.

  • MS (multiple sclerosis) has not been studied extensively, but curcumin appears promising in future research due to its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.

Curcumin is a powerful botanical & supplement used in Naturopathic medicine

In case golden milk lattes are of interest to you :

Remember to always talk to a healthcare provider with questions regarding your own health :)


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