As a spice, turmeric refines every curry. But the yellow tuber and its active ingredient curcumin are also said to help with inflammation and digestive problems so turmeric supplements should be taken with caution.
Curcumin, the active ingredient from the turmeric root, is said to have many positive effects on health: it is said to be able to alleviate Alzheimer’s, strokes, digestive problems, cancer, chronic inflammation, and joint pain. Turmeric, also known as turmeric, is an integral part of every curry mixture as a powder and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years for gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, bloating, flatulence, constipation, and inflammation of the intestinal mucosa.
Effect despite poor bioavailability
Whether fresh or dried and ground into a powder, turmeric root contains only about six percent of the polyphenol curcumin. Since this is not water-soluble, only about one percent of this small amount gets from the digestive tract into the blood. In addition, curcumin is quickly broken down in the body by enzymes. And yet curcumin shows a noticeable effect in naturopathy, for example in osteoarthritis and rheumatism. Here it can reduce inflammation and reduce the need for painkillers and cortisone.
Hardly any scientific evidence for the effects of curcumin
When using turmeric in naturopathy, however, doctors rely primarily on their practical experience, because there are hardly any scientific studies that prove the effect of curcumin on humans. The problem is that the molecule reacts with all sorts of substances in laboratory tests. In the Petri dish, it looks like curcumin is working against serious diseases. Even cancer cells could turn off curcumin in the petri dish. And it also shows a promising effect in some animal experiments. However, such positive results cannot be extrapolated to humans. Here, the effects of curcumin have not yet been properly proven. Although numerous clinical studies have examined the effects of turmeric on humans, most have been inconclusive. Either the number of participants was too small, there was no comparison group, or the investigations were terminated prematurely.
Effect of turmeric on indigestion proven
However, it has been scientifically proven that turmeric can relieve mild gastrointestinal complaints such as flatulence and a feeling of fullness. In India, turmeric has been used successfully for thousands of years to treat gastrointestinal inflammation. Naturopaths also report good experiences with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases and irritable bowel syndrome.
Turmeric capsules: Do not overdose on the active ingredient
If you don’t like the fresh turmeric root and spice, you can also take turmeric extracts in capsule form. However, there are a few things to consider: the dose should not be more than 180 to 200 milligrams of curcumin per day. In order to increase the so-called bioavailability, i.e. the amount of the active ingredient in the bloodstream, various methods are used to increase the stability of the curcumin and its solubility. This includes, for example, the addition of piperine (the active ingredient in black pepper).
Preparations in which the curcumin is embedded in a so-called nano-fat emulsion are considered to be particularly bioavailable. The fat coat encloses the non-water-soluble active ingredient and ensures it is better absorbed through the gastrointestinal mucosa. This way it gets better into the blood and to where it is needed – for example in aching joints. Nevertheless, caution is advised with curcumin preparations in capsule form, because too high a dose can lead to nausea and abdominal pain.
Warning against no-name preparations from the Internet
Experts warn against taking cheap curcumin capsules of unknown origin because the dosage of the active ingredient extract is often not clear, it fluctuates or the active ingredient is even missing completely. The other ingredients are often not listed in full for these products. In addition, preparations that are not subject to the European guidelines for food supplements are often contaminated with heavy metals.
Curcumin side effects and risks
Anyone taking anticoagulants, chemotherapy drugs, or medication for liver diseases should never use curcumin preparations alone. Because curcumin can affect the effectiveness of drugs and lead to massive liver damage. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and people who suffer from gallstones should also avoid turmeric extracts, as they promote bile production and, in the worst case, can trigger gallbladder colic. However, this warning does not apply to the spice turmeric.