The New York Times on turmeric (curcumin) for joint pain

Our hometown newspaper, The New York Times, has featured a report on turmeric (also known by its most active medicinal ingredient, curcumin) for joint pain. The recommending physician is Dr. Minerva Santos, director of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York:

“I use a lot of turmeric in my practice,” she said. “It’s an amazing spice. Usually what I do is I make sure nothing else is going on, that it’s just plain old inflammation from wear and tear.”

While many people may encounter turmeric only in curry dishes and South Asian restaurants, Dr. Santos advises her patients to find it in health food stores in pill or capsule form. She recommends a dose of 1,000 milligrams a day. The benefit of buying it in a bottle, she said, is that it’s usually combined with a compound called piperine, which aids absorption.

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

Read the full story at


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.

Curcumin and cancer chemoprevention

“Cancer chemoprevention” is a term that’s received a great deal of attention in recent years. It refers to the use of nontoxic natural or synthetic chemicals to halt the development of cancer.

Many research studies have focused on the cancer chemopreventive properties of botanical substances. One of the most extensively investigated of these plant-based substances is curcumin, a yellow coloring ingredient well known due to its derivation from the Indian spice turmeric. (Curcumin/turmeric has also been used medicinally for centuries in the Indian botanical tradition called Ayurveda.)

A 2007 review article on curcumin and cancer chemoprevention summarized the state of scientific research, while also calling for further study to define more exactly the cancer prevention benefits and mode of action of curcumin:

Curcumin has been shown to protect against skin, oral, intestinal, and colon carcinogenesis and also to suppress angiogenesis and metastasis in a variety animal tumor models. It also inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells by arresting them in the various phases of the cell cycle and by inducing apoptosis. Moreover, curcumin has a capability to inhibit carcinogen bioactivation via suppression of specific cytochrome P450 isozymes, as well as to induce the activity or expression of phase II carcinogen detoxifying enzymes. Well-designed intervention studies are necessary to assess the chemopreventive efficacy of curcumin in normal individuals as well as high-risk groups. Sufficient data from pharmacodynamic as well as mechanistic studies are necessary to advocate clinical evaluation of curcumin for its chemopreventive potential.

Reference: Surh YJ, Chun KS. Cancer chemopreventive effects of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:149-72.

We also note a 2005 laboratory study suggesting that curcumin could have a therapeutic value in treating primary effusion lymphoma, a difficult to treat type of cancer usually associated with AIDS/HIV:

Uddin, et al. Curcumin suppresses growth and induces apoptosis in primary effusion lymphoma. Oncogene (2005) 24, 7022–7030.

Note: NYBC stocks Curcumin 500mg/60 (Jarrow) and the larger size Curcumin 500mg/120 (Jarrow. Common dosage recommendations range from 1-2g per day in divided doses up to 3g per day.

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


Curcumin: a basis for its immune system support and anti-cancer activity?

We’re always fascinated by research that reveals a deeper basis for understanding the health benefits of traditional botanicals. For centuries people have exploited the health-bestowing properties of certain traditional herbs–but now Western lab science intervenes to pinpoint a mechanism behind the health benefit. Here’s a tidbit about curcumin from the iHealth Tube Newsletter, an online resource for alternative/complementary medicine:

The health-boosting activity of curcumin may be due to the molecule’s ability to stabilize cell membranes and increase the cell’s resistance to infection, according to a new study.

The research, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society, may help scientists understand how curcumin works inside the body. Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy and colleagues at the University of Michigan used solid-state NMR spectroscopy to show that curcumin physically alters the cell membrane at an atomic level.

Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow color, has increasingly come under the scientific spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its potential benefits for reducing cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and for its potential protection against cancer.

According to Ramamoorthy, curcumin can induce a negative curvature of the membrane, which would explain the potential anti-cancer activity of the compound, since other studies have shown that such changes may increase the activity of proteins such as tBid, which play an important role in apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Using solid-state NMR spectroscopy, Ramamoorthy and his co-workers report that molecules of curcumin insert themselves into cell membranes and make the membranes more stable and orderly. This makes the cells more resistant to infection by disease-causing microbes, they added. The study, supported by funds from the National Institutes of Health, also revealed that curcumin exerts this strong effect on the membrane structure at low concentrations.

Journal of the American Chemical Society 131(12):4490-4498, 2009


Curcumin and diabetes-related kidney disease

Curcumin, a component of the Indian spice turmeric, is known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, and has recently been studied for its potential effectiveness against a wide range of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s just one study from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s list of newly fund research: “Efficacy/mechanism of curcumin in diabetic nephropathy.” This study seeks to understand mechanisms and efficacy of curcumin against diabetes-related kidney disease.

For more information on this supplement, see the NYBC entry


Curcumin – there’s more to this extract of turmeric than just the spice!

Curcumin is an extract of the kitchen spice turmeric, the main ingredient in curry. It’s also among those traditional botanicals that in very recent times have been the subject of new scientific interest. (Several National Institutes of Health studies of curcumin have been conducted or are currently underway.)

Here’s a capsule history from the NYBC entry on Curcumin:

“…Curcumin’s use dates back to the time of Egyptian pharaohs and Indian rajas more than 6,000 years ago. A tall, stemless, perennial plant cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in India, China and Indonesia, turmeric is what gives curry its unique flavor and color; but in addition to its kitchen uses, curcumin has been used by traditional medicine for liver disease (particularly jaundice), indigestion, urinary tract diseases, blood purification, inflamed joints (rheumatoid arthritis), insect bites, dermatological disorders and as an atherosclerosis preventative. Although the chemical structure of curcumin was determined in 1910, it was only during the mid 1970s and 1980s that the potential uses of curcuminoids in medicine began to be extensively studied.”

There’s more about the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin in the NYBC web entry, where you also find information on dosing recommendations. Note that curcumin has also been studied in recent decades for its anti-cancer properties, as well as for its usefulness to people with HIV.