Curcumin Benefits: How Supplements Fight Cancer, Joint Pain & Obesity
Nearly every day, a patient or two asks me which supplements I consider most important. The answer really depends on the individual’s overall health and lifestyle, things such as diet, exercise, medications, sleep habits, and similar considerations. But as a rule, I most often recommend the following:
4 Basic Dietary Supplements
- A good multivitamin
- An omega-3, good-fat supplement
- Vitamin D3
I’ve written about omega-3s and vitamin D3 in earlier newsletters, so today I’d like to explain why I think curcumin is so essential. Supported by findings from literally thousands of studies, here is a brief summary of why curcumin is shaping up as the supplement of the decade. Curcumin can do the following:
- Combat cancer stem cells (where cancer begins) as well as multidrug-resistant cancer
- Reduce out-of-control inflammation & joint pain
- Help maintain healthy cells and neutralize damaging free radicals
- Protect against the ravages of aging
- Enhance heart health and inhibit the formation of LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Prevent blood platelets from sticking together, which improves circulation and minimizes the likelihood of blood clots
- Counteract damage caused by radiation
- Protect against Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions
- Help maintain healthy, pain-free joints
- Support healthy kidneys and liver
- Encourage the body’s own detoxification efforts and help eliminate such health-damaging contaminants as heavy metals
A Closer Look at Curcumin and Turmeric
The name curcumin may not be a household word — yet. But turmeric, the bright yellow spice from which it’s derived, has been used for centuries as both a medicine and a spice in Indian cooking, especially dishes known as curry.
Curcumin is the most active ingredient in turmeric, a plant related to ginger. A few years ago, I learned that some of our most devastating chronic health conditions, including arthritis and Alzheimer’s, are far less common in India and Asia. Upon reflection, I realized that our traditional diets could play a role. Americans tend to consume processed, prepared, low-nutrition food and beverages that spur inflammation, while people in India and Asia often eat fresh foods seasoned with spices that appear to protect them from some of our worst diseases. Now scientists have verified the role curcumin plays in providing that protection. Here are some examples:
Curcumin and Cancer
Research shows curcumin is powerful and versatile when it comes to health (and cancer, in particular). Very promising research results are verified and updated continually, so expect to hear more about curcumin and cancer in the near future.
Curcumin vs. drugs
A recent review study of more than 700 clinical trials involving curcumin and cancer found curcumin to be as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in treating cancers of the prostate, colon, breast, liver, esophagus, and mouth.
Recent research shows that curcumin seems to inhibit skin-cancer formation and delay the development of associated tumors.
Curcumin and Joint Pain
Cancer is not the only health issue that may benefit from curcumin. If you suffer from painful joints, whether caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin could help.
Joint pain relief
Studies repeatedly show that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory abilities work as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the costly, dangerous injectable drugs carrying the FDA’s “black label” warnings. Not only is curcumin effective, but it also comes without the worrisome side effects experienced by more than half of those who take pharmaceutical painkillers.
A patient I’ll call Richard discovered that curcumin supplements provide better pain relief for his arthritic knees than prescription-grade pain relievers do. After a long career in nursing, Richard was very savvy about conventional medicine. But when the prescription pain medicine his doctor was prescribing caused stomach bleeding, Richard came to me for what he described as “something different.” “I know a traditional doctor is just going to give me another drug that will work for a while,” he said. “Then the side effects will kick in, and I’ll have to switch to something else. It really is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I need to find a pain remedy that doesn’t knock me out, make me sick, or cause bleeding problems. My knees have been hurting so badly, I’ve had to take a medical leave from my job. But I’d really like to get back to work.”
Since he was already taking an omega-3 essential fatty acid supplement, I recommended Richard start with 500 mg of curcumin three times daily. Before the week was over, Richard called to say that the curcumin provided such outstanding pain relief that he was able to return to work. “I have to admit that after years in conventional medicine, I was skeptical about trying something a traditional MD might not recommend,” Richard summed up. “But this experience really showed me that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss remedies just because they’re considered ‘alternative.'”
Today, Richard is back at work, and he has even resumed jogging, thanks to curcumin. Richard’s story is just one of many examples of the power of curcumin to relieve aching joints. Arthritis is not the only inflammatory disease that may be eased by curcumin. Even the pain of simple injuries responds to curcumin.
When my friend Jenny slipped, fell, and bruised her tailbone, she experienced ongoing pain and soreness for months afterward even though nothing was broken. “I was taking over-the-counter pain relievers, but they were causing stomach problems,” she explained. “Then one day I decided to experiment with curcumin and took three one morning before leaving for work. By mid-morning, I realized all my pain was gone, both tailbone and stomach!”
Within a few weeks, Jenny’s sore tailbone was pain-free, and her stomach problems were gone as well. “I really didn’t expect it to work as well as it did,” Jenny confessed. “But now I’ll never go back to over-the-counter pain relievers.”
Curcumin and Diabetes
Individuals with diabetes, prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome (Syndrome X) may benefit from taking curcumin, too.
Research and clinical trials
In one study, a group of nearly 250 adults with prediabetes was divided in half. One portion received curcumin supplements, while the other was given a placebo (a dummy pill with no medical ingredients). Nine months later, none of the participants taking curcumin had developed diabetes, but nearly 20 percent of those taking a placebo were diagnosed with the disease.
Patients who already have diabetes may find that curcumin supplements ease the mental and physical dysfunctions, such as difficulty focusing, caused by the disease. A recent study at Harvard University found that curcumin restored areas of the brain stem damaged by the disease in diabetic lab animals.
Curcumin and Heart Health
As I mentioned earlier, curcumin can manage inflammation. That’s important to anyone interested in maintaining a healthy heart because inflammation is a key factor in heart disease and a long list of other ailments.
Recent research shows that curcumin’s heart-health benefits extend beyond reducing inflammation. One recent animal study, for example, found that curcumin protected heart functions and strengthened the body’s own internal repair system following a heart attack.
Blood lipids (fats)
Curcumin can reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, further benefiting the heart and circulatory system. This may help you avoid energy-depleting statin.
Curcumin and Alzheimer’s
I would love to be able to say that curcumin can have a positive effect on this dreaded, memory-robbing condition, and maybe in a few years that will be true.
Scientists are demonstrating curcumin’s ability to enhance memory and reduce other age-related brain malfunctions in lab animals. The research is preliminary, and we need human clinical trials to verify these results.
Promising future research
Curcumin is shaping up as a rising star in the field of neurological diseases. As a result, I would encourage anyone who is concerned about memory loss to give curcumin a try.
Curcumin and Obesity
With no sign that the obesity epidemic is losing steam, scientists all over the world are searching for the magic bullet to help desperate dieters lose weight.
While there’s no substitute for a nutritious, whole-foods diet and regular, moderate exercise, several recent studies show that curcumin supplements can help suppress the development of fatty tissue.
A patient I’ll call Rebecca recently used curcumin to help her lose 60 pounds. After struggling with one fad diet after another, Rebecca finally followed my advice. She focused on a diet of vegetables and lean protein, and started a walking program, which resulted in a 20-pound weight drop in just two months. Then, like many weight-loss patients, Rebecca hit a plateau. Although she was still losing pounds, her progress became frustratingly slow. I suggested she give curcumin a try.A few weeks later, Rebecca called to tell me that curcumin seemed to be doing the trick. “Even on days when I eat something I shouldn’t, I’m still losing weight or at the very least maintaining earlier weight loss,” she explained. “That makes it easier to stick with my eating plan. I don’t feel like a complete failure if I have a cookie.” Even better, at the end of the year, Rebecca had achieved her goal of a 60-pound weight loss, and she was healthier than ever.
Until recently, curcumin supplements were not well absorbed. Fortunately, scientists have developed a form known as BCM-95®, which is absorbed 8 times better than conventional products. I use this revolutionary form of curcumin in both my Curcumin EX and Joint Renewal supplements.
As I tell my patients, herbal remedies are milder than pharmaceuticals, so it may take a few weeks to reach therapeutic levels in the bloodstream and for you to notice a difference in some symptoms. But please don’t make the mistake of taking these supplements for a day or two and quitting because nothing is happening. Be patient and wait a bit — they do pay off.
One caution: If you’re taking any blood-thinning prescription medications, including warfarin (the brand name for this drug is Coumadin) or Plavix, talk with your physician before adding curcumin to your daily regimen. Pregnant or lactating women should consult a health-care professional before taking any supplements.
Last Updated: August 21, 2018
Originally Published: March 13, 2013