One of the best supplements that you can take is curcumin. Curcumin comes from the turmeric plant root that looks similar to ginger root and a wild carrot. The root has a brownish-reddish outer layer that when peeled away reveals an orange looking inner area from which curcumin is extracted.

Curcumin, whose active ingredients are curcuminoids, is the active and strongest component of turmeric. It has been used in India for centuries as a spice and for medicinal purposes. The fact that few people in India develop degenerative medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease may partly be attributed to its health enhancing actions.

Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects

Reducing inflammation in your body is the best action you can take to live longer and healthier. Inflammation is most likely the root cause of many degenerative diseases. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, resulting in pain and swelling of the joints. Heart disease starts with inflammation of the arteries, resulting in clogged arteries and heart attacks. Alzheimer’s starts with inflammation of nerve cells. Cancers may be the result of inflammation and the inefficiency of our immune system. Even diabetes causes its many medical problems through inflammation.

Curcumin is thought to fight degenerative diseases, including many cancers, by its effect against inflammation.[1] Its anti-tumor actions have been observed for many cancers including colon, breast, head and neck, lung, and prostate cancer.[2] All have a unified mechanism of action: decrease in inflammatory compounds.[3]

Curcumin has powerful anti-oxidants effects

Your body is bombarded every day with external toxins that can potentially harm the cells of your body. You fight off these compounds from injuring your cells through your immune system. As you grow older, your immune system is not very efficient and the result is inflammation. Inflammation releases other toxic elements called free radicals which injure your cells even further.

Anti-oxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals so they are less likely to cause injury. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that keeps your tissues healthy partly by neutralizing these toxic tree radicals and preventing degenerative destruction of your tissues, which could lead to many, including the above mentioned medical conditions.

Curcumin improves blood flow

One of the most important benefits of curcumin is to help improve blood flow to your entire body. It goes without saying that if you have good blood flow to your body parts, they will be healthier. Poor blood flow results in poor health to them.

Poor blood flow can lead to many degenerative conditions. Stroke is an obvious condition of lack of circulation to the brain, leading to its devastating effects. If you decrease blood flow to your arteries, cardiovascular problems can worsen. If to the genital organs, poor sexual performance is seen. If reduced to the brain, diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease can worsen. If decreased blood flow occurs in the kidneys, kidney disease develops.

One way curcumin improves blood flow is by improving the bioavailability of the metabolic regulator nitric oxide. This molecule signals your blood vessels to relax for greater blood flow.[4]

Curcumin help prevent heart disease

The relaxation of your blood vessels by curcumin can result in better perfusion of the heart and less hypertension, a known producer of heart disease. The less hypertension, the more your entire cardiovascular system is protected from the age induced effects of hardening of the arteries, called arteriosclerosis.

This effect is very prominently seen in postmenopausal women who don’t take estrogen. It has been known for years that estrogen offers protection from cardiovascular disease. This is partly due to the decrease in blood flow in the heart seen in menopausal women, which places them at higher risk for cardiac events.

Reversing this age-induced decrease in blood flow with curcumin may be beneficial. In fact, one study found that curcumin was equal to exercise for improving blood flow in post-menopausal women.[5] Another study found that “regular endurance exercise combined with daily curcumin ingestion may reduce” the age-related heart problem that can occur from increased blood pressure, especially when combined with exercise.[6]

Curcumin improves diabetes

If you are diabetic or even pre-diabetic and have blood sugar problems, the excess high levels of sugar can lead to reduced blood flow to your organs. The complications from diabetes are due to poor circulation in the tiny vessels, called your microcirculation. The poor flow in these vessels has lead researchers to conclude that the degenerative problems that diabetics get are caused by micro vascular disease.

Curcumin’s ability to increase flow helps reduce these problems. For centuries curcumin has been used by traditional Balinese healers to lower blood sugar in diabetics. Recent studies now show that at least part of this effect is due to improving blood flow to their organs.[7]

Curcumin improves sexual function

Reduced blood flow is considered the main problem for erectile dysfunction (ED) in males. Studies have shown that drugs like Cialis and Viagara are not the only remedies for these problems. Curcumin is also helpful, and may even be more effective and lasts longer than them through its effect on nitric oxide levels, which improves blood flow in that area.[8]

In women going through menopause, one of the reasons why menopause reduces libido is due to a decrease in blood flow due to lack of hormones.

Curcumin reduces cancers

As mentioned previously, curcumin has been observed to have actions against many different cancers, including cancers of the colon, breast, head and neck, lung, and prostate.[9] This may be at least partly due to its effect to decrease inflammation.

Recently, this research went a step further and suggested curcumin may protect against spread of cancer (metastasis). Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center recently discovered that curcumin has the ability to turn off colon cancer cells ability to move and metastasize to other parts of the body. They suggested that this action could be exploited for “novel therapeutic approaches in colon cancer therapy”.[10]

Take Turmeric Curcumin

Turmeric comes in many forms from spices, such as those used in India, to supplements. All have curcumin in them to various extent. The active ingredient is curcuminoids, and sometimes it is best to get pharmaceutical grade curcumin to make sure you are getting enough to provide for you adequate anti-inflammatory actions.

You could eat the spice curry or grind up the turmeric root to get the benefits of curcumin, but you’d have to eat a lot of it to help.[11] It is estimated that you would have to ingest around 1 ounce of ground up curry spice to get 500 mg of curcumin, which is the amount in a capsule of Turmeric Curcumin (TrueMD brand) per day.[12] Most people wouldn’t care to do this, so it is easier to just take the supplement.

The recommended amount to take is 500 mg of curcumin, taken twice a day. Make sure your preparation contains around 95% of the active ingredient, curcuminoids, per assay. Many preparations do not assay the active ingredients adequately, so you may be eating just the ground up turmeric root with poor concentration of the curcuminoids, so beware and read the label.

[1] Killian, P, et. al., “Curcumin Inhibits prostate Cancer Metastasis in vivo by Targetint the Inflammatory Cytokines CXCL1 and -2”, Carcinogenesis, Aug, 2012.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Boonla O, et. al. “Curcumin improves endothelial dysfunction and vascular remodeling in 2K-1C hypertensive rats by raising nitric oxide availability and reducing oxidative stress.” Nitric Oxide. 2014;pii: S1089-8603(14)00294-8.
[5] Akazawa N, Choi Y, Miyaki A, Tanabe Y, Sugawara J, Ajisaka R, Maeda S. “Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.” Nutr Res. 2012;32(10):795-9.
[6] Suqawara j, et al, “Effect of endurance exercise training and curcumin intake on central arterial hemodynamics in postmenopausal women: pilot study.”Am J Hypertens. 2012 Jun;25(6):651-6.
[7] Meng B, Li J, Cao H. “Antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities of curcumin on diabetes mellitus and its complications.” Curr Pharm Des. 2013;19(11):2101-13.
[8] Abdel Aziz M, Rezq A, Atta H, Fouad H, Zaahkouk A, Ahmed H, Sabry D, Yehia H. “Molecular signalling of a novel curcumin derivative versus Tadalafil in erectile dysfunction.” Andrologia. 2014 Jul 25
[10] Radhakrishnan VM, et. al. “pTyr421 cortactin is overexpressed in colon cancer and is dephosphorylated by curcumin: involvement of non-receptor type 1 protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTPN1).” PLoS One. 2014 Jan 22;9(1):e85796.
[12]Livestrong Article