Can Curcumin Replace Medication?

Turmeric is the yellow root from Asia that gives the well-known curry spice its yellow color. However, turmeric is more than a spice. Because it has long been an essential remedy in Ayurveda, the thousand-year-old Indian art of healing. In the meantime, various studies have found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, also works in some medications.

Can you take turmeric and curcumin instead of medication?

When you buy turmeric, it’s best to buy it in bulk. Because the deep yellow powder is helpful for so many ailments – both therapeutic and preventive – that you can incorporate it into your daily menu. For specific complaints, however, it makes more sense to take curcumin – the isolated active ingredient complex from turmeric – in capsule form. In many different articles, we have reported on the existing studies on the impressive health benefits of turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin.

With all the good effects of the yellow powder, one naturally wonders whether one could take it instead of some medicines. Because while drugs often have numerous side effects, the spectrum of side effects of curcumin is also much milder, if there are any undesirable side effects at all. It is often the case that the typical side effects of curcumin drugs are reversed.

So while many drugs can damage the liver, curcumin has a liver-protective effect, while drugs weaken the immune system, curcumin has an immune-boosting effect, and while some drugs increase blood sugar levels, curcumin helps regulate it.

Curcumin instead of antidepressants?

Fluoxetine is a world-renowned antidepressant that is also used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, and binge eating. Its side effects can be so severe that patients often discontinue the drug, e.g. B. in sleep disorders, anxiety, nervousness, nausea, fatigue, severe skin rashes, or suicidal thoughts.

Curcumin also has antidepressant effects. In 2014, Indian researchers, therefore, conducted a study in which they compared the effects of curcumin with the effects of fluoxetine on depression. 60 patients diagnosed with depression received either 20 mg of fluoxetine, 1000 mg of curcumin, or a combination of both daily for six weeks. The patients who had taken both drugs fared best. What was interesting, however, was that those who took only curcumin did just as well as the patients who took only fluoxetine. In the case of depression, curcumin could therefore also be included in the therapy.

Curcumin instead of blood thinners?

A wide variety of medications are prescribed to thin the blood. However, some initial studies indicate that turmeric or curcumin also has an anticoagulant effect. Since curcumin is considered safe in doses of up to 8 g (according to a review from 2019), the side effects (internal bleeding) known for the usual anticoagulants are not to be expected with curcumin.

Unfortunately, the dosage of turmeric for this purpose in humans is not known, so one cannot simply swap standard blood-thinning medications for turmeric or curcumin. However, as a preventive measure, you can always use turmeric or curcumin preparations to improve blood quality.

Curcumin instead of Metformin?

Curcumin can be helpful in diabetes or the precursors of diabetes. In a 2009 study, cell studies showed that curcumin has 400 to 100,000 times the potential of metformin for some mechanisms of action. Metformin is a drug that is commonly prescribed for diabetes. It inhibits the absorption of sugar from the intestine and also the formation of new glucose in the liver. Curcumin is said to be able to lower blood sugar levels in a very similar way. It is also known that curcumin can improve the long-term complications of diabetes.

A 2013 review also suggested that curcumin could be included in diabetes therapy because it helps regulate blood sugar levels.

And in 2012, it was found that taking 1500 mg of curcumin per day (for 9 months) reduced the risk of developing pre-diabetes into actual diabetes. See the first link in this section for details on curcumin in diabetes.

Curcumin instead of statins?

Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) are usually prescribed for high cholesterol levels. These should not only lower the cholesterol level but also have a positive effect on the condition of the blood vessel walls and thus reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis or prevent more deposits from forming on the blood vessel walls.

The entirety of all blood vessel walls is called the vascular endothelium. If the vascular endothelium is healthy, it prevents blood platelets from clumping, releases anti-inflammatory substances, dilates the vessels, and fights emerging oxidative stress. In short, the blood vessels can ideally keep themselves healthy. However, once there is damage to the vascular endothelium (which is often the case with diabetes), then a large part of the endogenous endothelium protection described is missing, and cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attacks) can occur.

However, since statins can contribute to the development of diabetes, it is not always beneficial to give statins to diabetics of all people. Other side effects of statins include muscle weakness and pain, eye problems, and liver and kidney damage. An alternative to statins would therefore be a good idea, especially for diabetics.

Since curcumin has a positive effect on blood sugar levels and also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which in turn could protect the blood vessels, in 2008 72 types 2 diabetics were examined to see whether curcumin could be recommended instead of statins. The subjects took either a standardized curcumin supplement (150 mg each), the statin atorvastatin (10 mg once daily), or a placebo twice daily for eight weeks.

At the beginning of the study, the vascular condition of all patients was equally poor. After eight weeks, however, the situation improved significantly – just not in the placebo group. However, in the statin and curcumin groups, inflammatory markers decreased and levels of malondialdehyde (a biomarker of oxidative stress) also decreased.

According to the researchers, the effect of curcumin was comparable to that of the statin used (atorvastatin). Atorvastatin is among the strongest statins available. Please note that this is not about the cholesterol-lowering effect, for which one could take curcumin instead of statins, but “only” about the vascular-protecting effect.

However, a study appeared in the Nutrition Journal in 2017, which stated that people who received turmeric and curcumin experienced a natural cardiovascular protective effect, in the course of which LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides could be reduced. However, it is not yet clear what dosage, type of preparation, and frequency of administration are necessary for reliable blood lipid reduction. Pure turmeric powder is probably not enough and one should resort to preparations with increased bioavailability. In previous studies, mostly 900 to 1000 mg of curcumin was prescribed.

You can also use curcumin if you need/want to take statins but don’t tolerate them well and get muscle pain from them. A 2017 review listed two clinical trials that showed curcumin could relieve statin-related muscle pain in as little as 4 to 5 days. In one study, patients took 200 mg of curcumin twice a day, and in the other, they took 2,500 mg of curcumin twice a day.

Another substance that protects you from muscle problems (myopathies) caused by statins is the coenzyme Q10.

Note: From a holistic point of view, achieving a healthy cholesterol level or healthy blood vessels requires several measures at the same time. It is therefore better not to rely on a single remedy – no matter how natural and how effective it seems to be, including curcumin alone.

Curcumin instead of cortisone?

The anti-inflammatory effect is the most well-known effect of turmeric and curcumin. The mechanism of action is said to be similar to that of glucocorticoids (cortisone). Cortisone is considered a strong anti-inflammatory drug that is used in numerous acute reactions (e.g. allergies, asthma attacks, relapses in autoimmune diseases, e.g. in MS, Crohn’s disease, etc.), but also permanently in chronic inflammatory diseases, e.g. B. in asthma, COPD, M. Basedow, and some rheumatic diseases.

Corticosteroids can have unpleasant side effects, especially with long-term use. Apart from water retention, a full moon face, a strong appetite, and thus obesity, cortisone can reduce the body’s own defenses, increasing the risk of infection and increasing the blood sugar level, which entails a certain risk of diabetes.

Cortisone is also harmful to bone health – in several ways: Cortisone reduces the effect of vitamin D, inhibits the absorption of calcium from the intestine, promotes the flushing of calcium with the urine, blocks osteoblasts (bone-building cells), and weakens the muscles (bones need strong muscles).

The positive side effects of curcumin

Could you now take curcumin instead of cortisone? Because curcumin regulates the blood sugar level, strengthens the immune system, and even has a positive effect on bone health. When it comes to bone health, there is an interesting controlled clinical study from June 2018. It was discovered in 100 patients that the daily administration of 110 mg of curcumin per kilogram of body weight over 6 months – compared to the placebo group – can inhibit the progression of osteoporosis. Bone density decreased in the placebo group over the course of the study, but increased in the curcumin group. (Note: The curcumin dose is very high and should only be wormed in slowly and after consultation with the doctor!)

The cortisone-typical side effects are therefore not to be expected from curcumin. On the contrary. Curcumin has very desirable side effects. But is the anti-inflammatory effect enough?

Anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin and cortisone

In 2016, two pharmacists, Professor Alexandra K. Kilmer and Jessica Hoppstädter from Saarland University examined the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. The turmeric substance affects – just like cortisone – a specific protein (GILZ), which plays a key role in inflammation in the human body. GILZ prevents inflammation, so it ensures that e.g. B. after infection, the initially helpful inflammatory reaction does not become chronic. Cortisone works against chronic inflammation by increasing GILZ levels in the body.

Curcumin can also stimulate the formation of GILZ. However, while cortisone stimulates other processes in the body that lead to the side effects typical of cortisone, this is not the case with curcumin. However, the experiments took place in the test tube, so it is not certain in which doses curcumin could be used instead of cortisone.

However, from various studies (in vitro, animal, and clinical studies) it is known that the anti-inflammatory effect is given at doses of 1125 to 2500 mg. Depending on the individual symptoms, it is now – as is so often the case with naturopathic remedies – to test for yourself what dose you personally need in order to experience relief. It is possible that normal curcumin preparations are not sufficient for severe inflammatory diseases due to their weak bioavailability, and here too more bioavailable preparations must be used (e.g. Curcumin Forte from effective nature with 185 times the bioavailability).

Why there are hardly any studies on this topic

Now that curcumin shows so much promise in terms of inhibiting chronic inflammation, can we expect more studies on this topic? Professor Kilmer gives little hope and explains in the Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung (DAZ): “The active ingredient manufacturers would have to submit large-scale clinical studies in order to receive approval as a drug. Due to the lack of patent protection, these can practically not be financed.” This is exactly the reason why the study situation for so many very effective food supplements is often so weak. The weak study situation is then put forward by the consumer centers as an argument for why the drug should not be used.

Turmeric and curcumin instead of drugs?

Of course, you’re not just taking turmeric or curcumin capsules instead of your medication right now. However, if you are not yet taking any medication, but your doctor has already given you initial indications e.g. For example, if you have diabetes or cardiovascular problems, talk to him about turmeric and curcumin. It is quite possible that you do not have to take any medication at all, but can start by taking curcumin capsules for a few weeks.

If you are already taking medicines, you can also talk to your doctor or naturopath about whether you can take turmeric/curcumin at the same time. This can often not only improve the effect of the drug but, as you have read above, often also reduce possible side effects. Also, over time, you may be able to stop taking your medication, or at least reduce the dose. Of course, you should also think about a healthy diet, enough sleep, good stress management, and lots of exercises!

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Written by Kelly Turner

I am a chef and a food fanatic. I have been working in the Culinary Industry for the past five years and have published pieces of web content in the form of blog posts and recipes. I have experience with cooking food for all types of diets. Through my experiences, I have learned how to create, develop, and format recipes in a way that is easy to follow.

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