author: Dr. Kevin Curran

published: 6-12-2015

Background on turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa ) is a colorful member of the ginger family. This tropical plant is native to Southeast Asia and has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine since the 7th century. India is mostly responsible for its cultivation and popularization. A spice made from the root of turmeric provides the unique flavor and yellow color to Indian curry dishes.

Along with its role as a spice, turmeric has also gained popularity as a natural remedy for arthritis, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular health.  Due to its pleasing taste and health benefits, there’s been a huge resurgence in the use of this plant as a botanical supplement.

In this article, we describe the science behind the use of turmeric for inflammation and other health issues. At the end of the article, we describe factors involved when choosing your turmeric and we review a few popular brands.

turmeric supreme benefits

The turmeric plant has rhizomatous roots that are dug up and ground into turmeric powder.

Turmeric for inflammation

The turmeric root contains a large amount of curcumin. Curcumin is a biologically active phenol compound, it is the chemical component in turmeric that delivers the health benefits. Curcumin acts as an anti-oxidant and serves to reduce inflammation.

As an anti-oxidant, curcumin helps reduce the detrimental effects of free radicals (Fujisawa, 2004).

The use of turmeric for arthritis, osteoarthritis and other inflammation ailments is well supported by clinical trials (Davis, 2006; Funk, 2006; Kuptniratsaikul, 2009). As an anti-inflammatory agent, curcumin has shown the ability to lower the levels of three proteins (COX-2, AP-1 and NF-kB), which would normally cause swelling, pain and inflammation (Davis, 2006; Handler, 2007). This anti-inflammatory activity is the likely reason that turmeric has shown positive clinical results with cardiovascular, diabetic and cancer patients (Dorai, 2001; Goel, 2008), however, many of these clinical trials need to be repeated with larger data sets.

Turmeric and Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that cripples memory and destroys mental functions. This disease can become so severe that it prevents people from enjoying their regular life. In the early stage, a person may appear healthy but toxic changes are happening in their brain. Brain cells accumulate protein deposits, which then form amyloid plaques and tau tangles. These unwelcome changes prevent the brain cells from performing their regular jobs. Soon, mental powers go downhill.

In the past decade, we have seen a healthy debate about the role of turmeric and inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that an inflammatory response in the brain may be partially responsible for the amyloid plaques and tau tangles that appear in the brains of people suffering from the disease. As discussed earlier in this article, turmeric can act to reduce inflammation. Therefore, scientists speculate that eating turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (Begum 2008; Ma 2013; Ringman 2012).

Interestingly, India has a very low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. This could be related to Indian genetics. However, it is intriguing to note that Indians also eat a lot of turmeric-rich foods, such as curry.

It is possible that the reason so few Indians develop Alzheimer’s is because they also eat a lot of turmeric.

Recent clinical data

In February 2016, a group of Chinese scientists published an interesting result in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. First, they demonstrated their new model system for Alzheimer’s disease, a rat that displays the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Then, to test the ability of turmeric to reduce Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, they injected curcumin into the rat and measured brain cells and their behavior. The scientists observed a reduction in neuron deterioration and oxidative stress in the rats that received curcumin treatment (Huang, 2016).

In general, the authors concluded that brain and loco-motor ability improved in Alzheimer’s rats after treatment with curcumin. This finding corroborates with an article by Corpina, which summarizes the manner turmeric acts as a nootropic, stimulating the growth of new brain cells in lab mice.

What factors should you look for when deciding on the best turmeric supplement?

Turmeric and curcumin supplements are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. However, you do not want to use turmeric if you are currently taking blood thinners. Drugs that slow blood clotting can interact with turmeric and potentially have serious health consequences.

Another concern is bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the ease with which a compound will absorb into your body. In Phase I clinical trials, dietary curcumin (turmeric extract) displayed poor bioavailablity. This means that curcumin won’t readily absorb into your body without assistance. This is common with certain compounds, it means that an agent of absorption should be combined with your turmeric supplement.

Here, we review two options from two separate companies. Both companies are well respected and grow their herbs under organic conditions. They differ mostly in the manner they help turmeric absorb into our body. Gaia uses black pepper, while Organic India uses ginger.

Remember to bookmark this page! We will keep updating this article with the latest health reports and new clinical results regarding the benefits of turmeric.

Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme Extra Strength

Gaia Herbs is a favorite at EthnoHerbalist. Gaia grow their plants under strict organic standards in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Gaia also verifies each supplement with DNA bar coding and full spectrum phytochemical analysis. These verification steps ensure each bottle contains a potent extract of the plant advertised on the outside of the bottle.

Benefits of Gaia turmeric supreme

Gaia offers a well regarded turmeric supplement called, Turmeric Supreme. This extra strength turmeric capsule includes 482 mg. of turmeric extract (Curcuma longa) combined with 7 mg. of black pepper extract (Piper nigrum). The black pepper, also called piperine, helps to ‘heat up’ the digestive system. This peppery heat allows more curcumin to absorb into your body (Shoba, 1998).

Organic India Turmeric

Some people are sensitive to black pepper in their stomach. If eating even a mildly peppered meal causes you stomach discomfort, then you may want to try a turmeric supplement with a different agent of absorption. In this scenario, we recommend Organic India Turmeric, a turmeric capsule produced by Organic India. Organic India is a respected Indian herbal company that has been awarded organic certification status by SGS as per USDA, EU and NPOP standards.

Organic India Turmeric combines 450 mg. of turmeric extract (Curcuma longa) with 50 mg. of ginger root (Zingiber officinale). The ginger plant facilitates absorption (Majeed, 1996) but won’t irritate the stomach lining for people with sensitivity to pepper in their diet. We recommend this option if you want to use turmeric but you know that pepper upsets your stomach.

Simply Organic Turmeric Root Spice

Perhaps you want turmeric in your life but you’d prefer to eat the spice with your meals instead of taking a pill. That makes a lot of sense, especially since turmeric carries such a warm, appealing flavor. Lots of foods taste better with turmeric spice, I add a dash to coffee.

At EthnoHerbalist, we’re big fans of Simply Organic spices. They launched in 2001 and have always been committed supporters of organic agriculture. All of their products are 100% certified organic, as determined by QAI (quality assurance international). Also, Simply Organic contributes 1% of their revenue to provide support for organizations that encourage organic agriculture.

Their turmeric root spice comes in a 2.38 ounce glass container (this is the regular spice bottle size). The turmeric is also kosher, with an estimated 4% curcumin.

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Citations

Begum, Aynun N., et al. “Curcumin structure-function, bioavailability, and efficacy in models of neuroinflammation and Alzheimer’s disease.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 326.1 (2008): 196-208.

Davis JM, Murphy EA, Carmichael MD, Zielinski MR, Groschwitz CM, Brown AS, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP. “Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage”. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol.

Dorai T, Cao YC, Dorai B, Buttyan R, Katz AE. “Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. III. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo”. Prostate. 47(4) 2006:293-303.

Fujisawa S, Atsumi T, Ishihara M, Kadoma Y. “Cytotoxicity, reactive oxygen species — generating activity and radical scavenging activity of curcumin and other related compounds”. Anti-Cancer Res., 24, (2004) pp. 563–570.

Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Kuscuoglu N, Wilson J, McCaffrey G, et al. “Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis”. Arthritis Rheum. Nov;54(11)2006:3452-64.

Goel A, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB. “Curcumin as ‘Curecumin’: from kitchen to clinic”. Biochem Pharmacol. 75(4) 2009:787-809.

Handler N, Jaeger W, Puschacher H, Leisser K, Erker T. “Best turmeric supplement: Synthesis of novel curcumin analogues and their evaluation as selective cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) inhibitors”. Chem Pharm Bull. Jan;55(1) 2007:64-71.

Huang, Han-Chang, et al. “Antioxidative and Neuroprotective Effects of Curcumin in an Alzheimer’s Disease Rat Model Co-Treated with Intracerebroventricular Streptozotocin and Subcutaneous D-Galactose.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Preprint (2016): 1-13.

Kuptniratsaikul V, Thanakhumtorn S, Chinswangwatanakul P, Wattanamongkonsil L, Thamlikitkul V. J. “Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis”. Gaia turmeric supreme extra strength reviews, Alternative Complementary Medicine. Aug;15(8) 2009:891-7.

Ma, Qiu-Lan, et al. “Curcumin suppresses soluble tau dimers and corrects molecular chaperone, synaptic, and behavioral deficits in aged human tau transgenic mice.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 288.6 (2013): 4056-4065.

Majeed, M., Badmaev, V., & Rajendran, R. U.S. Patent No. 5,536,506. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 1996.

Ringman, John M., et al. “Oral curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease: tolerability and efficacy in a 24-week randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study.” Alzheimer’s research & therapy 4.5 (2012): 1-8.

Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, & Srinivas, P. S. “Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers; turmeric supreme benefits”. Planta medica, (64) 1998, 353-6.