June 29, 2015

Curcumin's Growing Reputation as an Effective Treatment for Many Conditions

Over three years ago, in an April 2012 post, I described my decision to start taking curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. Since then, I've written about 20 posts on the subject.

Coconut Oil and Curcumin: Fad and Fact
Many earlier posts grew out of my frustration at seeing all the hoopla about coconut oil as a "cure" for Alzheimer's -- and then Parkinson's disease (PD) -- when no studies existed to support those claims. Curcumin, the subject of thousands of studies, was ignored.

What a difference a few years make.

The coconut-oil-for-Alzheimer's bandwagon has run out of steam. Dr. Mary Newport, the band leader, clearly abandoned her promotions of this "miracle" last year (http://bit.ly/1v8lxsY). The first real study on coconut oil and Alzheimer's is finally underway, and we may see a report later this year.

Recent Reports on Curcumin
A review of the turmeric/curcumin research appeared this May in the journal Molecules. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette picked up that story, and it spread from there. The information below comes from that report.

Multiple studies show that turmeric -- particularly its active ingredient curcumin -- can help prevent or treat many ailments, including:
  • many cancers
  • inflammatory conditions
  • autoimmune problems
  • neurological ailments including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes and diabetes neuropathy
Interest in turmeric and curcumin began decades ago when researchers started asking why India posts some of the lowest rates of colorectal, prostate and lung cancers in the world (those rates in America are up to 13 times higher). They noted that Indian peasants have one of the world's lowest rates of Alzheimer's. Why?

India's advantages were attributed largely to curry powder as a dietary staple. Curry combines spices, with turmeric a main ingredient. Another component is black pepper, which enhances curcumin's ability to cross the blood/brain barrier and "get into our systems."

PubMed, the National Institutes of Health's research database, lists almost 11,000 studies involving turmeric and/or curcumin. Most focus on their effectiveness to treat multiple medical conditions. No other botanical has been more carefully examined.

Studies suggest that "chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and most chronic diseases are closely linked, and that antioxidant properties of curcumin can play a key role in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammation diseases."

Turmeric/curcumin may not work for everyone. Researchers also caution that the spice may delay -- not prevent or cure -- a medical ailment.

Curcumin and Me
The growing interest in curcumin has generated an increasing, often confusing, variety of commercial products. When researching drugs or supplements, I usually check ConsumerLab.com, which posted its most recent curcumin review on March 30, 2015.

I'd been taking the supplement offered by Doctors Best, deemed the least expensive of all approved extracts by ConsumerLab. I recently switched to the "longvida optimized curcumin" by Vitamin Research Products. The longvida brand of curcumin received favorable reports after a small study at Ohio State University.

Has it worked? Who the hell knows. You typically take curcumin to slow down the progression of a disease, not to make you feel better. My PD does appear to be progressing relatively slowly, which could be due to many factors, including just dumb luck. Leon, our Parkinson's support group leader, has been living with PD for 28 years. He's doing remarkably well, and I'm sure he hasn't been using curcumin.

Would Curcumin Work For You?
I had planned to list major ailments plaguing us old folks -- various cancers, diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression -- with links to studies showing curcumin's potential for dealing with each. But I'm trying to shorten my blog posts. And for the second day in a row, I didn't get my afternoon nap.

Here's what I suggest: Pick a few words that describe your health issue. Go to www.google.com, enter those words in the search box, add the word "curcumin," and hit "ENTER." It might help narrow the search to click on "search tools" at the top right; then go to "any time" and click on the dingbat symbol and select "past year."

I used that process for a "depression curcumin" search and got several helpful hits right away.

Good luck!

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