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Curcumin — a yellow pigment found primarily in turmeric (a flowering plant of the ginger family best known as a spice used in curry) — is a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to increase the amount of antioxidants that the body produces.
Curcumin and the curcuminoids found in turmeric can be extracted to produce supplements that have a much higher potency than turmeric. However, curcumin is absorbed poorly during digestion, so a myriad of different formulations have been created to improve its bioavailability.
How does curcumin work?
The potential beneficial effects of curcumin seem to be mainly the result of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These properties are mediated by curcumin’s direct or indirect interaction with (and modulation of) various molecular targets, including transcription factors, enzymes, cell cycle proteins, receptors, cell surface adhesion molecules, growth factors, and protein kinases.
What are curcumin’s main benefits?
Supplementation with curcumin reliably reduces markers of inflammation and increases the levels of endogenous antioxidants in the body. More research is needed on curcumin for many areas of health, but the available research supports small to moderate improvements in the symptoms of depression and anxiety and in pain and function in osteoarthritis. Reductions in LDL cholesterol, blood-glucose, and blood-pressure are possible, but the research on these outcomes is limited and less consistent.