Turmeric: What You Don’t Know

Most probably you’ve read some advertisement about turmeric. It’s been touted to reduce inflammation, be an antioxidant, prevent and treat cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cognition issues, depression and anxiety. It’s been shown to have an anti-toxin effect from compounds like diesel exhaust, nicotine, some heavy metals, formaldehyde and more. It increases flexibility of the arteries.(1) It has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce the incidence of diabetes. (2) Cultures that ingest a lot of turmeric in their food have substantially lower amounts of some diseases and research has begun to narrow down what compounds in turmeric have these effects. 

Because it would be amazing to have an herb that dealt with, on a molecular level, the factors that cause inflammation, rather than just extinguishing it (although it does that, too). For example, Nuclear Factor kappa Beta (NF-kB) has been implicated in everything from Alzheimer’s to atherosclerosis to diabetes to psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. And that’s just one of 16 different inflammatory markers that turmeric deals with. 

What You DON’T Know

It’s well known that turmeric is not very bioavailable, meaning that you can’t absorb it well to cause the effects you’re looking for. Cultures that used it in cooking had a continuous, regular source of it in the diet and when you take it like that for decades, at some point you get enough of the active ingredients ingested that it improves health outcomes. But most of us didn’t grow up eating it all the time — we start when we’re 60 and read some article about it and think that maybe we’ll start taking that, which puts us behind the curve ball.

Poor bioavailability makes for low levels in the blood, and limited distribution in body tissues. It is rapidly metabolized, and has a short half-life. Worst of all, it gets conjugated in the liver and this conjugated form has much less activity. 

Knowing this, companies add compounds like black pepper, not telling you that you need about a teaspoon of black pepper to get it to be more bioavailable (yuck!). They try to make it more fat soluble, or try to make a chemical version of curcumin, or make it into nanoparticles. None of this works as well as we would like, which means you’re spending money on a supplement that, despite its claims of bioavailability, doesn’t really have any. 

The biggest issue seen in research is getting past the liver unconjugated. Unconjugated curcumin (one of the active components in turmeric and the one most studied) crosses the blood-brain-barrier, allowing it to deal with neuroinflammation, considered the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Conjugated curcumin won’t get there. In fact, this study showed that in the brain, regular curcumin was measured at only 1.4 ng/g while unconjugated curcumin was at 343 ng/g! (2) That is 245 times MORE! This same study saw increased amounts of to the heart, liver, kidneys and spleen as well. 

Unconjugated curcumin also showed a half-life of over 3 hours, compared to regular curcumin at only 1 hour. Additionally, it has been seen that unconjugated curcumin allows for a much higher concentration in the plasma — well above the threshold for having the effects we’re looking for. Unconjugated curcumin goes well above the requirement of 100 nmol/L, while conjugated didn’t get even close. 

This is a big deal. Not only are the amounts in the blood higher, but they also remain there for hours. You don’t get that with regular curcumin that gets conjugated by the liver. 

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How Do You Get Unconjugated Curcumin? And Why From Australia?

Simply said, you have to “protect” it from the liver and you do that by creating a “‘package” with the curcmin on the inside and, in this case, mucilaginous Fenugreek on the outside. The Fenugreek protects the curcumin from conjugation by the liver, to release it in the blood in the unconjugated form.  Only two companies in the world do this, and Mediherb in Australia is one of them. Why do we get our herbs from Australia? Because in Australia, herbs have to follow the same standards as pharmaceutical drugs. This means they are strictly tested for issues like heavy metals and aflatoxins, etc. They have to break down in the stomach within 30 minutes. And most importantly, they have to show measurable amounts of the active ingredients and THAT has to match the label claim. We don’t have standards even close like that in the United States. 

Mediherb’s Turmeric Forte is a powerhouse of an herb. A basic dose is 2 tablets a day, making one bottle be a month’s supply. No matter where you are in your health, effective and ACTUALLY bioavailable turmeric will make a difference for you. 

If you have any questions or want to learn more about how other whole food supplements can impact your health, schedule a patient screening now.

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References: 

  1. Campbell MS, Berrones AJ, Krishnakumar IM et al. J Funct Foods 2017; 29: 154-160
  2. Chuengsamarn S, Rattanamongkolgul S, Luechapudiporn R et al. Diabetes Care 2012; 35(11): 2121-2127 

Krishnakumar IM, Abhilash Maliakel, Gopakumar G et al. J Funct Foods 2015; 14: 215-225