More curcumin benefits


I got a lot of questions following last week’s article on curcumin. This week I’ll address additional benefits of curcumin, dosing recommendations, and people that should actually avoid this supplement.

When should you take it?

The simple answer is that curcumin has so many benefits that most people should take it daily (I’ll list some exceptions below). It’s not just for pain relief, although it’s anti-inflammatory effects will definitely ease your daily aches and pains. While many studies tested it up to incredibly high doses of 8 grams, these formulations weren’t as bioavailable, so don’t assume you should take super high amounts of the supplement meriva that I recommended last week.

Meriva combines curcumin with a phospholipid to increase absorption. It’s still best to spread it out throughout the day for best results (twice a day versus once) since it is still metabolized quickly by the body.

A ton of benefits

As I mentioned last week, curcumin is not only an excellent pain reliever, it has been shown to offer protection against cancer, diabetes, and obesity. I wanted to briefly touch on some additional benefits that I didn’t have time to list last week:

  • Lowers blood pressure: As we get older, blood vessels are less able to dilate and contract to manage changes in blood pressure. This unregulated pressure stresses the heart and contributes to deadly heart disease. Curcumin improves endothelial function in blood vessels which keeps them more responsive, plus it significantly raises nitric oxide levels which helps dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

  • Treats diabetic neuropathy: A common side effect of diabetes is painful nerve damage, particularly in the feet and legs. It’s difficult to relieve the pain and treat the damage. Curcumin seems to reduce diabetic nerve pain and numbness and since it helps control blood glucose levels, it also slows the progression of the damage.

  • Improves DHA conversion: I’ve written many times that omega-3 fatty acids are vital for the brain, particularly DHA. People that prefer getting these fats from plants instead of fish or fish oils don’t get as much because the body converts much less ALA into EPA and DHA. Curcumin has been shown to increase the amount of DHA preserved in the brain as well as the amount synthesized from ALA. This is one of the contributing factors to the next two benefits.

  • Reduces depressive symptoms: Studies show curcumin can improve serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain and improve severe depressive symptoms.

  • Reduces anxiety: Curcumin was found to significantly decrease anxiety symptoms in obese people.

  • Increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): Studies have found that curcumin increases serum levels of BDNF, an important growth factor that protects neurons and encourages differentiation. BDNF is important for protecting the aging brain against neurological diseases and age-related cognitive decline.

  • Protection against Alzheimer’s disease: Curcumin is able to inhibit aggregation of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain and prevent neural inflammation. As I mentioned above, curcumin preserves DHA so combining it with fish oil can also slow Alzheimer’s progression.

  • Promotes autophagy: Autophagy is the process by which your body recycles old and damaged cells into component parts for new cells. This natural clean up mechanism improves longevity and prevents damaged cells from becoming cancerous.

  • Protects against weight gain: I mentioned last week how curcumin helps with weight loss. Many of the same mechanisms like improved insulin secretion, improved insulin sensitivity and increased adiponectin levels sets your body’s chemistry to defend against weight gain which also makes weight loss easier.

Side effects

I’m impressed with the overall safety and efficacy of curcumin, but anything that alters your body’s chemistry is never going to be side effect free (especially if you’re already taking another medication to effect those same processes). You can see a list of possible side effects on While it’s generally considered safe (and safer than many of the medications it can replace), it can negatively interact with certain medications and conditions. Here is a quick list of particular conditions to be aware of:

  • Pregnant women: This is the most important one, curcumin can stimulate the uterus or promote a menstrual period, which would put any pregnancy at risk. Absolutely do not take curcumin or turmeric supplements while pregnant.

  • Diabetes: As I mentioned previously, curcumin can lower blood sugar (which is a good thing), but if you’re also taking medications to lower your blood sugar, then you might put yourself at risk for dropping your blood sugar too low. Definitely consult your doctor about how to best take curcumin with your existing medications.

  • Gallbladder problems: Curcumin might make gallbladder issues like gallstones and bile duct obstructions worse.

  • Blood clotting: The curcumin benefits that protect against heart disease can cause other issues. One problem is that it might slow blood clotting. Don’t combine it with anti-coagulant and anti-platelet drugs. You should also not combine it with blood thinning medications like aspirin and NSAIDs.

  • Low blood pressure: Improving the endothelial function of blood vessels and increasing nitric oxide levels decreases heart disease risk and blood pressure. However, taking curcumin with blood pressure medications might cause your blood pressure to drop too low. This is another one where you should work with your doctor to see if you can be combine curcumin with existing medications.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Curcumin can cause increased production of stomach acid and can interfere with antacid medications like Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Nexium, or Prevacid. Definitely skip it if it makes reflux symptoms worse.

A great daily supplement

There are a few supplements I recommend people take on a daily basis and curcumin definitely makes the list. It also works synergistically with another supplement I highly recommend, fish oil. Add curcumin to reduce inflammation, protect against a host of diseases, defend against weight gain, and reduce the effects of aging.

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