Many home cooks know curcumin from Indian cuisine, where, in curry powders and pastes, it is responsible for the dishes’ rich yellow color. Curcumin and its derivatives, which all belong to the curcuminoids, are the biologically active constituents of the spice plant Curcuma longa, or turmeric.
The substance is not just a spice and colorant – it is also a well-known active, used in the Ayurvedic diet and traditional Asian medicine. Its bioactivity arises from interaction with numerous cellular processes and from the scavenging of free radicals. “Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant,” explains Rachela Mohr, business development manager at WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS. “It has been proven to support the immune system and also has an anti-inflammatory effect.”
At Dr. Wolz, a medium-sized manufacturer of food supplements from Geisenheim am Rhein (Germany), the many therapeutic and preventive opportunities offered by curcumin were well-known – but so was the fact that curcumin is not readily absorbed by the human bloodstream.
“It had previously not been possible to fully exploit the therapeutic benefits of curcumin, because the fat-soluble substance only has very limited bioavailability,” said Dr. Georg Wolz, owner and managing director of the company that bears his name. He explained that reasons included poor water solubility, limited absorption, fast metabolism and rapid excretion. “90% of natural turmeric, or curcumin, that is taken orally is excreted again,” stated Dr. Wolz regretfully.