Literally thousands of studies have examined the many benefits of curcumin over the past three-plus decades, for concerns ranging from arthritis, diabetes and IBS to cancer, insomnia and Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, we are quite well aware of the yellow-gold substance’s ability to manage inflammation, and impact the body (and mind) in a host of ways. But what we’ve been much slower to realize is how to most effectively deliver this powerful substance where we want it.
But before delving too deep into the current research, let’s take a step (or two) back. Curcumin is a compound found naturally in the spice turmeric (roughly 3% of turmeric is comprised of curcumin). Right off the bat, this fact alone dismisses the thought of relying on a general turmeric supplement to provide us with the same benefits as curcumin. Unfortunately, extracting curcumin from turmeric and stuffing the powder into a capsule will also offer few (if any) of the aforementioned benefits. Curcumin is a fat-soluble substance, meaning it does not dissolve efficiently in water. This matters because when you swallow a curcumin capsule and it dissolves in your gut, very little of it will get absorbed through the intestines and reach the blood stream. In an attempt to bypass this issue, a number of labs have tried a number of different curcumin formulations, with varying levels of success.
There. Now that we’re all up to speed, we can jump ahead to an article published in the European Journal of Nutrition. In the study, subjects took one of four curcumin supplements: i) a standard curcumin extract, ii) an extract combined with turmeric essential oil, iii) curcumin encapsulated in a water-and-fat-soluble shell called a phytosome (similar to the outer membrane covering our own cells), or iv) curcumin packaged within water-soluble, glucose-derived shells called cyclodextrins (that are easily dissolved by enzymes in the digestive tract). Perhaps not surprisingly, curcumin packaged within either the phytosome or cyclodextrin shells were absorbed the most quickly, and resulted in the highest blood levels of curcumin. Between the two, the cyclodextrin shell yielded the highest blood levels of any of the types, suggesting that this form may also provide the greatest benefit.
So, the bottom line is that, like most natural supplements, quality can make all the difference, both in how well a given product is tolerated as well as in its effectiveness. Because a supplement that can actually follow through on its promise of better health is worth its weight in gold.
Purpura M, Lowery RP, Wilson JM, Mannan H, Münch G, Razmovski-naumovski V. Analysis of different innovative formulations of curcumin for improved relative oral bioavailability in human subjects. Eur J Nutr. 2017
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By. Dr. Erik Boudreau, ND