In looking for some alternative painkillers to NSAIDs, that may have a lower risk of side effects, I’ve come across Curcumin; the compound in Turmeric that gives it it's colour and medicinal value.
About 3% of raw Turmeric powder is actually curcumin, and a very small fraction of this is bioavailable. The ‘bioavailability’ refers to its biological activity, which is the result of a combination of several factors; its absorption into the blood stream, its chemical interaction within cells, and the rate by which it's removed from the system by various clearance mechanisms.
Here are some articles that discuss evidence for the medical benefits of Curcumin:
On the various products available, the labelling can be quite misleading. Its important to know how much actual curcumin there is in each capsule + how much piperine (to increase bioavailability). To avoid buying raw turmeric or an insufficient dose of curcumin, be aware of wording such as ‘organic turmeric curcumin’ or ‘standardised equivalent’. These products would have no medicinal value beyond placebo.
There are some products that use so called ‘nano-curcumin’, - particles that enclose the curcumin molecule in ways that can increase water solubility and improve bioavailability. But this can add to the confusion, because at present this is not a standardized product. The nano particles involved are still experimental and competing companies are secretive about their formulations, leading to uncertainty over amount of curcumin in the supplement and how this affects its bioavailability. There is also doubt as to whether these are any better compared to the proven Curcumin + Piperine combination.
This article helps to untangle some of the confusion surrounding curcumin preparations. It discusses some of the brand names and various additional ingredients used to increase curcumin bioavailability.
It concludes that a simple combination of Curcumin (~x20 concentrated extract from Turmeric) + Piperine (~x20 concentrated extract of black pepper) is probably the most cost effective way of achieving the medical benefits.
It will be interesting to keep abreast of new innovations with nano-curcumin, but at present it seems more practical and cheaper to use native curcumin with piperine.
In regard to Piperine, the labeling should be clear on how much each dose contains. If this figure is not given or is below 10mg per 500mg dose, then one is probably losing out on the availability of curcumin. Much beyond 10mg is not necessarily and advantage, and too much will start to increase side effects with interactions to other medications in the system.
True to my DIY supplement philosophy, I thought it best to just source the raw materials and make up my own capsules. I therefore know exactly what’s in them, and can make these available to patients who may wish to try them.
For its anti inflammatory effects, one could try a dosage that is typically 250mg Curcumin for each 200mg tablet of ibuprofen. Ie x2 capsules per dose.
For other general health benefits, a smaller dose may be suitable eg 1-2 capsules per day.
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