Last Updated: July 6, 2023

Curcumin is the primary bioactive substance in turmeric. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and there is decent evidence that it can alleviate various conditions, from chronic pain to depression. Curcumin has poor bioavailability on its own, and thus it is often combined with Black Pepper or with lipids.

Curcumin is most often used for

What is curcumin?

Curcuma longa, a flowering plant of the ginger family best known as a spice used in curry. It is a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to increase the amount of antioxidants that the body produces.[1]

Curcumin and the curcuminoids found in turmeric can be extracted to produce supplements that have a much higher potency than turmeric. However, orally ingested curcumin is poorly absorbed during digestion,[2][3] so a variety of different formulations have been created to improve its bioavailability.[4][5][6][7]

What are curcumin’s main benefits?

Supplementation with curcumin reliably reduces some markers of inflammation[8][9][10] and increases the levels of endogenous antioxidants in the body.[11][12][9] However, curcumin has a poor effect on markers of inflammation in people with chronic inflammatory diseases.[13]

More research is needed on curcumin in many areas of health, but the current evidence shows small to moderate improvements in the symptoms of depression[14][15][16] and moderate to large improvements in pain and function in osteoarthritis.[17][18][19][20][21]. Curcumin also shows promise for treating a type of inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis,[22][23][24] but further research is needed to clarify the optimal dose and route of administration.

Improvements in blood lipids,[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32] markers of glycemic control,[33][26][28][29][30] blood pressure,[26][34] liver enzymes,[35][36][37][38] and weight loss[39][40][41][42][43][44] have also been observed following supplementation with curcumin. However, the research on these outcomes is sometimes inconsistent and further high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to draw firm conclusions.

What are curcumin’s main drawbacks?

One of curcumin’s greatest drawbacks is that it is poorly absorbed when orally ingested by itself.[3]

In terms of potential adverse effects, doses of up to 8 grams of curcuminoids have not been associated with serious adverse effects in humans.[45] However, long-term studies that are more comprehensive in their assessments are needed to confirm this lack of adverse effects. Studies using high doses of curcumin have reported some mild adverse effects, including nausea, diarrhea, headache, skin rash, and yellow stool.[46][47][48] Use of curcumin with piperine (a black pepper extract) may cause adverse drug reactions because piperine greatly increases intestinal permeability.[49] Not all formulations of curcumin have been safety tested to the same degree.

How does curcumin work?

The potential beneficial effects of curcumin seem to be largely the result of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.[1][50] 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.[51][52]

What else is Curcumin known as?
Note that Curcumin is also known as:
  • Turmeric extract
  • Curry Extract
  • Curcuma
  • Diferuloylmethane
  • JiangHuang
  • Curcuma Longa
  • 1 7-Bis(4-hydroxy-3-3methoxyphenyl)hepta-1 6-diene-3 5-dione
Curcumin should not be confused with:
  • Curry (meal preparation using Turmeric)
  • Tree Turmeric (a term for Berberis Aristata)
Update History
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  6. ^Yallapu MM, Jaggi M, Chauhan SCCurcumin nanoformulations: a future nanomedicine for cancer.Drug Discov Today.(2012-Jan)
  7. ^Yu H, Huang QImproving the oral bioavailability of curcumin using novel organogel-based nanoemulsions.J Agric Food Chem.(2012-May-30)
  8. ^Ferguson JJA, Abbott KA, Garg MLAnti-inflammatory effects of oral supplementation with curcumin: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Nutr Rev.(2021-Aug-09)
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  10. ^Gorabi AM, Razi B, Aslani S, Abbasifard M, Imani D, Sathyapalan T, Sahebkar AEffect of curcumin on proinflammatory cytokines: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Cytokine.(2021-Jul)
  11. ^Alizadeh M, Kheirouri SCurcumin reduces malondialdehyde and improves antioxidants in humans with diseased conditions: a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Biomedicine (Taipei).(2019-Dec)
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  17. ^Wang Z, Singh A, Jones G, Winzenberg T, Ding C, Chopra A, Das S, Danda D, Laslett L, Antony BEfficacy and Safety of Turmeric Extracts for the Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.Curr Rheumatol Rep.(2021-Jan-28)
  18. ^Wu J, Lv M, Zhou YEfficacy and side effect of curcumin for the treatment of osteoarthritis: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Pak J Pharm Sci.(2019-Jan)
  19. ^Dai W, Yan W, Leng X, Chen J, Hu X, Ao YEffectiveness of Curcuma longa extract versus placebo for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Phytother Res.(2021-Nov)
  20. ^Hsiao AF, Lien YC, Tzeng IS, Liu CT, Chou SH, Horng YSThe efficacy of high- and low-dose curcumin in knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Complement Ther Med.(2021-Dec)
  21. ^Kristopher Paultre, William Cade, Daniel Hernandez, John Reynolds, Dylan Greif, Thomas Michael BestTherapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic reviewBMJ Open Sport Exerc Med.(2021 Jan 13)
  22. ^Goulart RA, Barbalho SM, Lima VM, Souza GA, Matias JN, Araújo AC, Rubira CJ, Buchaim RL, Buchaim DV, Carvalho ACA, Guiguer ÉLEffects of the Use of Curcumin on Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease: A Systematic Review.J Med Food.(2021-Jul)
  23. ^Goulart RA, Barbalho SM, Rubira CJ, Araújo AC, Lima VM, Rogerio Leoni B, Guiguer ELCurcumin therapy for ulcerative colitis remission: systematic review and meta-analysis.Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol.(2020-Dec)
  24. ^Ting Zheng, Xin Wang, Zongran Chen, Anqi He, Zicheng Zheng, Gang LiuEfficacy of adjuvant curcumin therapy in ulcerative colitis: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsJ Gastroenterol Hepatol.(2020 May)
  25. ^Si Qin, Lifan Huang, Jiaojiao Gong, Shasha Shen, Juan Huang, Hong Ren, Huaidong HuEfficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsNutr J.(2017 Oct 11)
  26. ^Azhdari M, Karandish M, Mansoori AMetabolic benefits of curcumin supplementation in patients with metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Phytother Res.(2019-May)
  27. ^Fen Yuan, Hui Dong, Jing Gong, Dingkun Wang, Meilin Hu, Wenya Huang, Ke Fang, Xin Qin, Xin Qiu, Xueping Yang, Fuer LuA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials on the Effects of Turmeric and Curcuminoids on Blood Lipids in Adults with Metabolic DiseasesAdv Nutr.(2019 Sep 1)
  28. ^Chien YJ, Chang CY, Wu MY, Chen CH, Horng YS, Wu HCEffects of Curcumin on Glycemic Control and Lipid Profile in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis and Trial Sequential Analysis.Nutrients.(2021-Feb-21)
  29. ^Damoon Ashtary-Larky, Mahnaz Rezaei Kelishadi, Reza Bagheri, Seyedeh Parisa Moosavian, Alexei Wong, Sayed Hossein Davoodi, Pardis Khalili, Frédéric Dutheil, Katsuhiko Suzuki, Omid AsbaghiThe Effects of Nano-Curcumin Supplementation on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease: A GRADE-Assessed Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical TrialsAntioxidants (Basel).(2021 Jun 24)
  30. ^Tian J, Feng B, Tian ZThe Effect of Curcumin on Lipid Profile and Glycemic Status of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.(2022)
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  33. ^de Melo ISV, Dos Santos AF, Bueno NBCurcumin or combined curcuminoids are effective in lowering the fasting blood glucose concentrations of individuals with dysglycemia: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsPharmacol Res.(2018 Feb)
  34. ^Hadi A, Pourmasoumi M, Ghaedi E, Sahebkar AThe effect of Curcumin/Turmeric on blood pressure modulation: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Pharmacol Res.(2019-Dec)
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