Curcumin, The Pain Killing, Cancer Crushing Beast from the East

What is Curcumin?

Those look like yams.

Curcumin is the most bioactive (any effect in the organism) curcuminoid present in the rhizome, Curcuma longa, a plant similar to ginger. (1)  Curcuma longa is actually a fancy word for the spice turmeric.  Turmeric is a member of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family,  supplements, cosmetics, food science, and naturopathic medicines use it frequently . The targeted benefits of these products come from this curcuminoid. Mainstream science says curcumin is neuroprotective (brain cell protecting) , anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer), antioxidant, improves wound healing, and optimizes many other bodily processes.

Curcumin sounds amazing, what’s the catch?

The benefits of curcumin seem as though they may be too good to be true. In fact the case if you happen to be trying to derive these benefits from a standard form of curcumin.  Unfortunately, curcumin can provide many amazing benefits but is absorbed poorly by the body.  However, methods have been developed to improve bioavailability (absorption) .

Curcumin nanoparticles (nanocurcumin),  are the latest method of getting around this. These tiny particles  are water soluble and can actually enter the bloodstream. This form of curcumin enters the whole body effectively providing all the beneficial qualities of this compound.

The oldest method, also from vedic medicine, is adding black pepper. This is why Indian food uses black pepper and turmeric together. The downside is that the compound that increases curcumins absorbstion, it also increases absorption of toxins. Cheaper supplement companies will use this method so always read labels.

Another method is combining it with phospholipids. This is better than the black pepper method and many quality supplement companies use this method. The point is just dont buy turmeric or curcumin by itself, its essentially useless.

How does Curcumin do all this?

health and fitness communities worldwide are discussing Curcumin’s  powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits on the body.

But let’s start from the top, brain stuff.

The neuropharmacological (effects on the brain) benefits in recent research may be the most exciting.  Curcumin has been shown to act as a brain maid, in that it prevents the growth of amyloid-beta fibrils; this provides a defense against the issues leading to cognitive degeneration in diseases such as Alzheimer’s. (2)

Curcumin has also displayed neuroprotective effects via multiple pathways.

Research has reported curcumin’s ability to decrease neural inflammation markers and down regulating inflammation related proteins.  Conversely it upregulates proteins associated with autophagy, a beneficial cellular cleaning process.

It also increases expression of acetylcholine related proteins which lead to enhanced acetylcholine activity. This results in decrease of toxicity induced memory loss and learning deficit, with enhancement of cognition under normal circumstances. Essentially earning its place in the class of compounds known as nootropics.

Curcumin further protected against resperine induced oxidative stress. Haitham S. Mohammed et al. noted specific reduction in oxidative stress within the cortex and hippocampus with the use of nanocurcumin.

Hippocampal neuron growth and mitochondrial function restoration  have also occur. These observed brain cell protecting effects protect against neurotoxicity induced brain damage, cognitive impairment, promote recovery from pre-existing neurological stressors, normalize hippocampal mitochondria function, and induce hippocampal  growth . (3,4,5)

Ok,  So kickass cognition and brain gains, what about the rest?

Curcumin’s protective and healing effects are not limited to the brain. It can protect and enhance healing of the liver, kidneys, and inner blood vessel lining wounds.  The compound acts as a free radical scavenger. Those damn free radical just go around breaking the body down. It also supercharges multiple antioxidant and protective proteins; therefore, scientists refer to curcumin as a bifunctional antioxidant. You could also call is a weapon of mass construction (healing) and free radical destruction.(6)

Curcumin, like body armor, for the inside

Curcumin activates the transcription factor Nrf2 which regulates phase II detoxification, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective genes.  These properties  protect the liver and kidneys from environmental (like alcohol in my environment) toxins. In addition it can reverse epigenetic changes due to stress and other factors . (8)

Curcumin has also protected against the progression of irreversible liver damage. This was in an in vivo cirrhosis model, with drug induced liver toxicity . (9) In addition to the nephro/hepato (kidney/liver) protective and healing benefits, it has also displayed enhanced blood vessel repair in diabetic impaired wound healing models.  Diabetes mellitus can cause dysfunctional blood vessels which leads to chronic wounds and inhibits healing.  It also accelerates the wound healing process and restores function of blood vessel cells that were impaired. (10,11)

So what the cutting edge curcumin?

nanoparticle curcumin

Curcumin has tremendous benefits.  However, its poor absorption creates difficulty in delivering this compound to the cells of the human body.  This renders many supplements inactive.  The poor absorption is due to curcumin’s inability to dissolve in water.  The technology of nanoparticles solves the issue.  These tiny particles of curcumin are being made via wet milling, solid dispersion,  freeze drying, and other synthetic chemistry techniques.

This form of  nanocurcumin  is  significantly more effective than regular curcumin.  This is due to the its greater water solubility.  This led to greater absorption in both oral and injection administrations.  The nanoparticles also crossed the blood brain barrier and displayed brain protecting activity in vitro.  In March of 2018 Anna Rita Bilia and colleagues conducted a double-blind placebo trial testing the its effectiveness with orally administered curcumin(n) in psoriasis patients.  This study found that the group treated with this form of curcumin had significant reductions in Psoriasis Area Severity Index and healthier cholesterol levels. (5,12)

All Hail King Curcumin!

It is a truly amazing compound with tons of interesting research from the past to present.  The benefits of the compound are a list that is too long to discuss in just one article.  Previously the benefits may have seemed questionable due to its poor absorption.

However, the use of new technology is a promising delivery system to unleash the healing potential from curcumin.  Nanocurcumin has proven benefits for the use through oral and injectable routes and may be applicable to other administration routes.

The pharmaceutical development of it may not be financially feasible due to its natural origins and widespread availability, this would prevent the opportunity to patent the compound for exclusive rights.  Though the health-conscious consumer has access to the compound and endless amounts of research.  This provides the opportunity for amazing health benefits for people who practice educated self health maintenance .

The Resources for this article can be found here


Its Wikipedia page 

Its PubChem page


  1. Gupta SC, Kismali G, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin, a component of turmeric: from farm to pharmacy. Biofactors. 2013;39(1):2-13. (PubMed)

  2. VOLUME 114, ISSUE 3, SUPPLEMENT 1, 227A, FEBRUARY 02, 2018. Binding Behavior and Energetics between Curcumin and Amyloid-β Aggregates at the Molecular Scalen. Tye D. Martin, Angelina J. Malagodi, Eva Y. Chi, Deborah G. Evans

  3. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. Volume 128, Supplement 1, 20 November 2018, Page S99. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 227 – Neuroprotective efficacy of curcumin in lead (Pb) induced inflammation and cholinergic dysfunction in mice. Jitbanjong Tangpong

  4. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience. January 2018, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 129–139| Neuroprotective Effect of Curcumin Against Cerebral Ischemia-Reperfusion Via Mediating Autophagy and Inflammation Lifa Huang : 15 December 2017

  5. Journal of Bionanoscience, Volume 12, Number 2. Formulated Curcumin Nanoparticles Mitigate Brain Oxidative Stress Induced by Reserpine in Rats. Authors: Mohammed, Haitham S.; Khadrawy, Yasser A.; Monem, Ahmed Soltan; Amer, Hanaa M.; El-Sherbini, Tharwat M.; Abd El Rahman, Mohamed K.Nasri H, Abedi-Gheshlaghi Z, Rafieian-Kopaei M. Curcumin and kidney protection; current findings and new Acta Persica Pathophysiol. 2016; 1(1):e01

  6. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Volume 143, 1 January 2018, Pages 854-865. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Research paper. Activation of anti-oxidant Nrf2 signaling by enone analogues of curcumin. Author links open overlay panelLorraine M.DeckaLucy A.HunsakerbThomas A.Vander Jagtb1Lisa J.WhalenaRobert E.RoyerbDavid L.Vander Jagtb.

  7. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 123, January 2019, Pages 169-180. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Curcumin restores hepatic epigenetic changes in propylthiouracil(PTU)Induced hypothyroid male rats: A study on DNMTs, MBDs, GADD45a, C/EBP-β and PCNA. Author links open overlay panelSures KumarBunkerAbinashDuttaJyotsnaraniPradhanJagneshwarDandapatG.B.N.Chainy, P.G. Department of Biotechnology, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, 751004, Odisha, India. Received 16 February 2018, Revised 10 October 2018, Accepted 22 October 2018, Available online 24 October 2018.

  8. Mediators of Inflammation. Volume 2018, Article ID 5491797, 9 pages. Research Article. Evaluation of Hepatoprotective Effect of Curcumin on Liver Cirrhosis Using a Combination of Biochemical Analysis and Magnetic Resonance-Based Electrical Conductivity Imaging.

  9. Eun Jung Kyung,1 Hyun Bum Kim,2 Eun Sang Hwang,2 Seok Lee,2 Bup Kyung Choi,3 Jin Woong Kim,4 Hyung Joong Kim,3 Sang Moo Lim,5 Oh In Kwon,6 and Eung Je Woo3. 1College of Medicine, Chung-Ang University, Seoul 06974, Republic of Korea. 2Department of East-West Medical Science, Kyung Hee University, Yongin 17104, Republic of Korea. 3Impedance Imaging Research Center (IIRC), Kyung Hee University, Seoul 02447, Republic of Korea. 4

  10. Department of Radiology, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwangju 61469, Republic of Korea. 5Department of Nuclear Medicine, Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, Seoul 01812, Republic of Korea. 6Department of Mathematics, Konkuk University, Seoul 05029, Republic of Korea. Correspondence should be addressed to Jin Woong Kim; and Hyung Joong Kim; Received 1 September 2017; Accepted 11 April 2018; Published 17 May 2018

  11. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. Volume 181, April 2018, Pages 23-30. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. The effect of combined photobiomodulation and curcumin on skin wound healing in type I diabetes in rats. Author links open overlay panel Hasan Soleimani

  12. Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. RESEARCH ARTICLE. Curcumin reverses diabetes‐induced endothelial progenitor cell dysfunction by enhancing MnSOD expression and activity in vitro and in vivo. Sheetal Kadam

  13. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology banner. Curcumin nanoparticles potentiate therapeutic effectiveness of acitrein in moderate‐to‐severe psoriasis patients and control serum cholesterol levels. Anna Rita Bilia Maria Camilla Bergonzi  Benedetta Isacchi  Emiliano Antiga  Marzia Caproni. 29 March 2018


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