Used for centuries in India to treat indigestion, turmeric was considered just another culinary spice in the West until researchers discovered it contained a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound called curcumin. Since then, studies in-vitro and in mice have established curcumin’s ability to fight inflammation and inhibit human colon cancer cells. A recent pilot study of five people with ulcerative proctitis and five with Crohn’s disease found that daily treatments with a standardized dose of curcumin (550 mg twice a day for one month, then three times a day for ulcerative proctitis; 360 mg three times a day for one month and then four times a day for Crohn’s disease) over a two- or three-month period brought significant improvement in both groups. The researchers say the results warrant a full-blown double-blind, placebo-controlled study. In the meantime, it couldn’t hurt for anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other intestinal issues to add a dose of curcumin to their daily supplement intake. Hate swallowing pills? Try adding yellow curry and other turmeric-rich dishes to your diet for a tummy-friendly boost.
India has a low incidence and prevalance of Alzheimer’s, which may be related to genetics or a particular intake of specific foods. Some people attribute the low incidence of Alzheimer’s to a high intake of turmeric in Asia. As turmeric contains an average of 5-10% curcumin, the daily intake of curcumin is approximated in India is thought be about 125 mg. Importantly in cooking curries, curcumin is often dissolved and extracted into fat, eg. ghee, which may increase its bioavailability.
There is a lot of confusion about curcumin bioavailability versus absorption. Curcumin is absorbed, but not necessarily bioavailable. Further GI and liver glucuronidation or sulfation “tagged curcumin” which interfere with bioavailability it some tissues also leadds to its rapid removal by the kidneys. Unliked tagged curcumin, free curcumin readily crossed the blood brain barrier and is relatively stable.
In summary curcumin is easily absorbed but not necessarily very bioavailable to the brain (such as dissolved in cooking oils or formulated). It is stable in fatty tissues such as the brain, but not in blood.