Curcumin: An Old Spice Performs New Tricks

Curcumin is one of the main components of the Indian spice turmeric, and gives the spice its characteristic yellow color. Aside from its use in cooking, curcumin/turmeric also holds a position of esteem in the ancient Indian medical tradition called Ayurveda, where it is most frequently recommended to treat gastrointestinal disorders.

In recent decades, this old spice has drawn the attention of a large crop of US-based scientific researchers, who have focused on its powers to address illnesses including cancers, liver disease, and Alzheimer’s. A 2007 review of research concluded that curcumin could protect against skin, oral, intestinal and colon cancers by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, by restricting blood supply to tumors, and by other mechanisms as well. As a researcher at the M. C. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has put it: “The reason curcumin is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signalling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer.”

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has also been adopted as a potential therapeutic agent by scientists investigating difficult-to-treat liver disease. Preliminary research published in 2010 found that curcumin blocks several types of inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis (=scarring of tissue and destruction of liver function). The study authors suggest that the botanical, as a natural substance with few side effects, may ultimately prove a better treatment than currently available medications for some liver disease.

Frequently, supplement research looks for refinements and synergies in investigating the medicinal powers of traditional botanicals like curcumin. That’s been the case with a recent study involving Vitamin D3 and derivatives of curcumin known as curcuminoids. This combination of supplements, remarkably enough, proved helpful in clearing the kind of plaque in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Of course the University of California researchers who conducted this study are now looking for further confirmation of D3/curcuminoids as a preventive and as a therapy for Alzheimer’s.

NYBC stocks Curcumin (Jarrow) in two formats:

Curcumin 500mg/60

Curcumin 500mg/120

As new studies of Curcumin have emerged, NYBC also began stocking additional forms from Vibrant Health, which add bioperine (black pepper extract) for enhanced absorption:

Curcuminoids 1000 mg/30c w/bioperine

Curcuminoids 1000 mg/60c w/bioperine


Surh YJ, Chun KS. Cancer chemopreventive effects of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007.
Champeau, R. Vitamin D, curcumin may help clear amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s. Press release, UCLA, July 15, 2009.
Baghdasaryan, A et al. Curcumin improves sclerosing cholangitis in Mdr2-/- mice by inhibition of cholangiocyte inflammatory response and portal myofibroblast proliferation. Gut, 2010.


Alzheimer’s and Curcumin

Curcumin is the yellow pigment in turmeric, a spice well-known in Indian cuisine. It contains antioxidants that endow it with anti-inflammatory activity, which has been recognized for centuries by the Ayurvedic medicine tradition of India. Curcumin has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies in recent decades, most dealing with cancer, but some also addressing Alzheimer’s Disease.

One of the leading research groups on curcumin and Alzheimer’s is based at the University of California at Los Angeles, so we were interested to check in and see their current posting about this research:

Many spices as well as fruits and vegetables have polyphenolic antioxidants that also have antiinflammatory acitivity. These compounds can give these food their color. We have found that the yellow pigment in turmeric, curcumin, can act at multiple steps in Alzheimer pathogenesis to stop and even reverse damage.

Curcumin is the Asian version of aspirin. Our wonder drug aspirin was originally purified from willow bark extracts that were used in European and American Indian traditional medicines to control inflammation. Eventually aspirin was synthesized by German chemists and developed by Bayer as one of the most successful drugs in the Western medicine cabinet. Today aspirin is used not only in pain remedies and other analgesic applications, but to control minor fever and inflammation and, at low doses, to prevent heart attack and stroke. Curcumin has been used in traditional Indian (Ayruvedic) and Chinese medicine for thousands of years largely because of its proven efficacy in treating conditions with inflammation. They also used it in foods as an effective food preservative, just as we use synthetic additives like BHA. These ancient civilizations have vast trial and error experience with many different herbal remedies and food preparations and they selected curcumin as a food additive and major tool for medicinal use based on efficacy–not superstition.

Curcumin and Alzheimer’s Disease. Our group has tested curcumin in several models for Alzheimer’s and found that it not only reduces oxidative damage and inflammation (as expected), but also reduces amyloid accumulation and synaptic marker loss and promotes amyloid phagocytosis and clearance. Curcumin worked to prevent synaptic marker and cognitive deficits caused by amyloid peptide infusion and a beta oligomer toxicity in vitro.

Read more, including references and information on clinical trials, on the UCLA research group’s website:

For additional information, see the NYBC entry


New findings on fish oil’s mechanism against Alzheimer’s

Here’s a Jan. 2, 2008 post on the website reporting on new findings on the mechsnism of action of fish oil as a deterrent to Alzheimer’s Disease.


Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and associate director of UCLA’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center, and his colleagues report that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil increases the production of LR11, a protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer’s patients and which is known to destroy the protein that forms the “plaques” associated with the disease.

The plaques are deposits of a protein called beta amyloid that is thought to be toxic to neurons in the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s. Since having high levels of LR11 prevents the toxic plaques from being made, low levels in patients are believed to be a factor in causing the disease.

The researchers examined the effects of fish oil, or its component DHA, in multiple biological systems and administered the oil or fatty acid by diet and by adding it directly to neurons grown in the laboratory.

“We found that even low doses of DHA increased the levels of LR11 in rat neurons, while dietary DHA increased LR11 in brains of rats or older mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Cole, who is also associate director of the Geriatric Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To show that the benefits of DHA were not limited to nonhuman animal cells, the researchers also confirmed a direct impact of DHA on human neuronal cells in culture as well. Thus, high levels of DHA leading to abundant LR11 seem to protect against Alzheimer’s, Cole said, while low LR11 levels lead to formation of the amyloid plaques.

 Quite an interesting supplement, fish oil. The first focus on its health benefits was directed at heart health and cardiovascular concerns. However, more recently there has been a lot of investigative energy devoted to the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive function and mood.

See, for example, the posts on “Depression” on this blog, which detail some of the recent findings about fish oil’s potential for addressing mood.

The New York Buyers’ Club stocks

DHA Max (Jarrow). See description here.

Folate, the feds, and you

Folate, a B vitamin, frequently appears in news about dietary supplement research. (Note: folic acid is the form found in supplements or fortified foods.)

For example, an article earlier this year offered this announcement: “Higher Folate Levels Linked To Reduced Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease. ” (JAMA and Archives Journals: 2007, January 9)

And you wouldn’t have to look too far to discover current research on folate deficiency associated with the potential for cardiovascular problems, or folate deficiency linked to higher rates of breast, pancreatic, or colon cancer.  

Of course, when folate was first identified and studied 70 years ago, the chief draw for researchers was its role in combating anemia and supporting the health of women during pregnancy. But since then, as understanding of the vitamin has grown, it’s come under scrutiny for many other reasons.

Indeed in 1996, the US federal government decided that the health benefits of folic acid were very clear–and yet too many Americans were not getting enough from their diets. The response? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published regulations requiring the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products–where you’ll find it today (check nutritional labels).

For more information on whether you’re getting enough folate in your diet, and who should consider supplementing, see the Office of Dietary Supplement fact sheet on FOLATE: