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Curcumin

Curcumin, the primary bioactive substance in turmeric, and has anti-inflammatory properties and decent evidence for indications from chronic pain to depression. It has poor bioavailability alone, necessitating special formulations to be efficiently absorbed.

Our evidence-based analysis on curcumin features 339 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Curcumin

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is a yellow pigment found primarily in turmeric, a flowering plant of the ginger family best known as a spice used in curry. It’s a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to increase the amount of antioxidants that the body produces.

Curcumin and the curcuminoids found in turmeric can be extracted to produce supplements that have a much higher potency than turmeric. However, curcumin is absorbed poorly during digestion, so a myriad of different formulations have been created to improve its bioavailability.

What are Curcumin’s benefits?

Supplementation of curcumin reliably reduces markers of inflammation and increases the levels of endogenous antioxidants in the body. More research is needed for many areas of health, but what research there is supports a small to moderate improvement in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and pain and function in osteoarthritis. A reduction in LDL-cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure is possible, but the research is less consistent and more is needed.

What are Curcumin’s side effects and drawbacks?

Doses of up to 8 grams of curcuminoids aren’t associated with serious adverse effects in humans. However, long-term studies that are more comprehensive in their assessments are needed. High doses of curcumin may produce nausea and gastrointestinal complaints. Use of curcumin with piperine may cause adverse drug reactions, as piperine greatly increases intenstinal permeability. The different formulations of curcumin have not all been tested for safety to the same degree.

What is the difference between turmeric and curcumin?

Turmeric is a popular root/spice, and curcumin is a highly potent chemical in turmeric, but hardly the only one. Curcumin and the curcuminoids are present in turmeric at around 22.21-40.36mg/g in the rhizomes and 1.94mg/g in the tuberous roots, so turmeric is less potent as a source of curcumin than an extract and anti-inflammatory. However, some studies suggest that turmeric has benefits, and it's possible that it has benefits that curcumin alone doesn't, but more research on this is needed.

Have a specific health issue? If you are looking for exact health benefits, dosage, and when to take, and are also worried about side effects and potentially wasting money, you need our scienced-based Supplement Guides.

?? Want a quick summary of curcumin's potential benefits?

We've analyzed over 100 studies to summarize the research on curcumin's potential health benefits.

How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

By itself, curcumin is poorly absorbed. Among the methods devised to address the issue, the two most common (and most often tested) are to pair curcumin with piperine (a black pepper extract) or to combine it with lipids (BCM-95®, Meriva® …).

To supplement curcumin with piperine, take 500 mg of the former with 20 mg of the latter, thrice a day (i.e., 1,500 mg of curcumin and 60 mg of piperine per day).

To supplement BCM-95®, a patented combination of curcumin and essential oils, take 500 mg twice a day (i.e., 1,000 mg/day).

To supplement Meriva®, a patented combination of curcumin and soy lecithin, take 200–500 mg twice a day (i.e., 400–1,000 mg/day).

Curcumin is usually taken together with food.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Curcumin has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-a Minor Moderate See all 28 studies
Some reducing effects have been noted, but they seem to be unreliable and not overly potent
grade-b Notable Very High See all 8 studies
Although the exact enzyme that increases is not overly reliable (SOD, glutathione, and catalase), all three enzymes have individually been noted to be increased and they tend to do so to a large degree.
grade-b Notable Very High See all 8 studies
Curcumin seems to be more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms of depression. It may take 2-3 months to see any outcomes. Skepticism is warranted though, as the studies comparing curcumin to placebo were not well designed and produced effect sizes not too far apart, even though the differences were statistically significant.
grade-b Notable Very High See all 6 studies
There appears to be a decrease in disease states or conditions characterized by inflammation associated with curcumin ingestion, does not appear to be too discriminatory in which inflammatory states it benefits
grade-b Notable Very High See all 15 studies
There decreases in pain associated with curcumin at higher doses which extend to post-operative, arthritis, and general pain symptoms. In particular, curcumin has been researched for osteoarthritis the most, but many of these studies are of low quality and funded by industry, so caution is warranted.
grade-b Notable Very High See all 13 studies
Supplementation with curcumin resulted in a notable, consistent reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms across many studies. Of the osteoarthritis symptoms, it seems to be most effective for pain and physical function, while it's less clear if it reduces stiffness. Caution should be taken due to many of the studies not being high quality.
grade-b Minor Very High See all 4 studies
Is somewhat more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms of anxiety, specifically state and trait anxiety.
grade-b Minor Low See all 29 studies
The reduction in glucose is likely small and inconsistent overall, and most likely to be meaningful for people with type 2 diabetics. It is unlikely that plain turmeric has notable effects, and high potency curcuminoids are more likely to have an effect.
grade-b Minor High See all 14 studies
May decrease blood pressure, but more contextual evidence is required, such as enough studies to properly compare effects in hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and healthy people.
grade-b Minor High See all 19 studies
May decrease C-reactive protein if elevated. Studies are somewhat inconsistent, but an effect in those who will benefit most is likely.
grade-b Minor Very High See all 7 studies
Prooxidative biomarkers appear to be reduced following long term supplementation of curcumin
grade-b Minor Low See all 27 studies
Possible increases in HDL-C
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 27 studies
A small reduction in people with high cholesterol levels is possible, but studies are inconsistent.
grade-b Minor Very High See all 7 studies
A decrease in lipid peroxidation results following curcumin ingestion chronically
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 16 studies
No significant influence on liver enzymes associated with curcumin supplementation in most people, however, a small reduction is more likely in people with elevated liver enzymes.
grade-b - Moderate See all 12 studies
An effect is possible in type 2 diabetics but studies are not generally supportive.
grade-b - Very High See all 15 studies
Some studies have found reductions but, even in type 2 diabetics, evidence is inconsistent.
grade-b - Very High See all 28 studies
More robust evidence suggests no significant influence of curcumin on total cholesterol, although there may be a potential role in people with elevated lipids.
grade-b - Very High See all 15 studies
It's unclear if the reductions found in some studies are genuine effects or random variance.
grade-c Notable Very High See 2 studies
In persons with osteoarthritis, the performance on a treadmill test after eight months was significantly increased (more than twice the distance covered with curcumin relative to control).
grade-c Notable - See study
80mg of a bioavailability enhanced curcumin supplement has been reported to increase nitric oxide in serum by 40% or so, which is significantly larger than many other dietary supplements.
grade-c Minor Very High See all 4 studies
Curcumin has been implicated in increasing adiponectin concentrations.
grade-c Minor Very High See all 5 studies
An increase in blood flow has been noted with curcumin supplementation
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Decreases in cell adhesion factors have been noted, which may underlie therapeutic benefits towards atherosclerosis of curcumin supplementation.
grade-c Minor - See study
Rate of cognitive decline may be lesser with dietary inclusion of curcumin, but requires more evidence
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Appears to be associated with a reduced risk for colon cancer
grade-c Minor - See study
A decrease in DNA damage has been noted to be secondary to reducing arsenic toxicity
grade-c Minor - See study
A decrease in edema has been noted with curcumin supplementation
grade-c Minor - See study
A decrease in postoperative fatigue has been noted with curcumin supplementation
grade-c
Minor
- See all 13 studies
May increase postprandial insulin concentrations, and a decrease, when taken chronically, is possible but unreliable from studies.
grade-c Minor Very High See all 3 studies
Curcumin has been found to increase insulin secretion in insulin resistant persons, suggesting benefits to pancreatic tissue.
grade-c Minor - See study
In insulin resistant persons, curcumin can increase insulin sensitivity.
grade-c Minor Very High See all 3 studies
A reduction in IL-1b has been noted in osteoarthritic patients, which is thought to underlie the benefits to joint health seen with curcumin.
grade-c Minor Very High See all 5 studies
A slight decrease in IL-6 concentrations has been noted, practical relevance unknown.
grade-c Minor - See study
May increase intestinal motility
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Appears to promote kidney function in instances where function is normally hindered
grade-c Minor - See study
Symptoms of mucositis have been noted to be decreased with curcumin supplementation
grade-c Minor - See study
A slight increase in MPO concentrations has been detected.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Appears to be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer in one study, but another study failed to find clinical implications in people with prostate cancer in remission.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Has been noted to decrease prostate specific antigen levels following supplementation
grade-c Minor - See study
A reduction in proteinuria has been noted in persons with kidney impairment given curcumin
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis reduced with supplementation of curcumin
grade-c Minor - See study
An increase in vascular function has been noted with curcumin supplementation
grade-c - Moderate See all 5 studies
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - Very High See all 8 studies
No apparent effect in studies.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on heart rate seen with curcumin supplementation
grade-c - High See all 4 studies
Inconsistent evidence from 3 studies. Much more research is needed.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on protein carbonylation has been noted with curcumin ingestion
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
No apparent effect in 5 studies.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on stomach ulceration detected
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on pain associated with pancreatitis
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
No apparent effect in studies.
grade-c - - See study
In postmenopausal women, curcumin supplementation does not improve VO2 max.
grade-c - High See all 4 studies
Inconsistent evidence from 3 studies. Much more research is needed.
grade-d Notable - See study
A notable effect was found in one study in obese people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, but much more research is needed.
grade-d Notable - See study
One study found a notable reduction in symptoms from 200 mg of curcumin daily, taking one week before until 3 days after menstrual bleeding. Much more research is needed to confirm curcumin's efficacy.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
A reduction has been noted in two studies, but more research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was a modest reduction in one study in type 2 diabetics, but much more research is needed.
grade-d Minor High See all 3 studies
Mixed evidence suggesting a possible small reduction in people with non-alcohol fatty liver disease.
grade-d Minor - See study
An increase was found in one study in type 2 diabetics.
grade-d Minor Moderate See 2 studies
A notable effect has been found in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease but studies are inconsistent and lacking.
grade-d Minor - See study
A decrease in people with type 2 diabetes has been noted in one study.
grade-d Minor - See study
An increase has been noted in patients with major depression.
grade-d Minor - See study
Possible reductions of symptoms associated with Crohns Disease
grade-d Minor - See study
One study noted a small reduction in symptoms, Much more evidence is needed.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
A small improvement in one study and a large improvement in another. Much more evidence is needed.
grade-d Minor High See all 3 studies
A small reduction is possible, but much more evidence is needed.
grade-d Minor High See all 3 studies
Some studies note a small increase in antioxidant capacity, but much more research is needed.
grade-d Minor High See all 3 studies
A small decrease in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has been noted. Much more evidence is needed.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect in studies.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect in studies.
grade-d - Low See all 3 studies
It's unclear if it has much of an effect from the limited research.
grade-d - High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect in 2 short-term studies.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
Limited and mixed evidence.
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No significant influence on iron absorption seen with low levels of dietary turmeric intake.
grade-d - High See all 3 studies
Inconsistent evidence from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
grade-d - - See study
A decrease in people with type 2 diabetes has been noted
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
No apparent effect in one study using turmeric.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study in prostate cancer patients.
grade-d - Very High See all 3 studies
No effect observed in the studies so far.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in prostate cancer patients who had temporarily ceased androgen deprivation therapy.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
A notable reduction was found in coronary artery disease patients in a small pilot study, but not in another study in type 2 diabetics that used turmeric. Much more research is needed.

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Curcumin

Supplementing for better joint health
A quick look at supplements proven to possibly help you with joint pain.
Curcumin update
The results of studies on curcumin for depression and osteoarthritis continue to impress, and while we need studies of better quality to verify these effects, the research has exploded and we may get answers sooner than later.

Things to Note

Also Known As

Turmeric extract, Curry Extract, Curcuma, Diferuloylmethane, JiangHuang, Curcuma Longa, 1, 7-bis-{3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl}-1, 6-heptadiene-3, 5-dione

Do Not Confuse With

Turmeric (Spice it comes from), Curry (meal preparation using Turmeric), Tree Turmeric (a term for Berberis Aristata)

Goes Well With

  • Other curcuminoids (Curcumin, Demethoxycurcumin, Bimethoxycurcumin, Cyclocurcumin)

  • Piperine (increases bioavailability)

  • Genistein and soy isoflavones (synergistic protection from prostate cancer)

  • Fish Oil, particularly DHA, in breast cancer prevention

  • Garcinol, from Garcinia Indica, and cancer prevention

  • A wide variety of chemotherapy pharmaceuticals

Caution Notice

  • Some test tube studies suggest that high concentration of curcumin can cause DNA damage as well as suppress the immune system

  • Curcumin is fat soluble

  • Limited in vitro evidence suggests that curcumin may cause DNA damage and suppress the immune system at high concentrations. How these findings translate to actual impact on human health is unknown at this time.

?? Want a quick summary of curcumin's potential benefits?

We've analyzed over 100 studies to summarize the research on curcumin's potential health benefits.

Click here to see all 339 references.