Curcumin has been known for its health benefits for centuries. When was it “rediscovered” by manufacturers of nutritional supplements?
Dr. Georg Wolz: In the late 1990s, there was a real “vitamin boom” – the additional intake of vitamins, sometimes at very high dosages, was promoted. However, the hopes placed in vitamins did not come to fruition. Today, it is widely known that what makes fruit, vegetables and herbs so healthy are the secondary metabolites – whether lycopene from tomatoes, anthocyanins from red berries, catechins from green tea, resveratrol from grapes, glucoraphanin from broccoli, or curcumin from the turmeric root.
What health-promoting effects does curcumin offer?
Numerous studies – over 3,000 since 2010 alone – have shown that curcumin is a highly pleiotropic molecule, i.e. it has a variety of different effects. It is attributed with properties that are cholagogic (i.e. promote the flow of bile), antioxidant, antiseptic, pain-relieving, antithrombotic, antiproliferative, cytotoxic, antitumor, immunomodulating, antiviral and especially anti-inflammatory. Its main application fields thus include all types of inflammation, such as arthritis.
Manufacturers of dietary supplements are faced with the challenge of increasing the poor bioavailability of curcumin time and again. What convinced Dr. Wolz to opt for CAVACURMIN® from WACKER rather than alternative technologies?
To improve its bioavailability, curcumin had previously mainly been combined with the alkaloid piperine. While this raises the blood concentration, the effect only lasts for an hour and it then quickly returns to the original value. Moreover, piperine is a so-called “bio-enhancer” that, through inhibition or stimulation, can also influence the effect of medication. It also irritates the stomach lining. Increasing the bioavailability of curcumin with the aid of so-called “polysorbates” is likewise viewed critically by many, because it caused nausea and other side effects in more than half of study participants. Against this backdrop and based on available studies to date, WACKER’s CAVACURMIN® is the best solution for increasing bioavailability.
Should it be taken long term as a preventive measure or for a limited time due to acute illness?
Both. Anyone who shows one of the indications listed above (e.g. an inflammatory illness) should consider taking curcumin as a supplement. However, it also offers many positive effects in terms of prevention. For instance, there are many studies that confirm neuroprotective effects. So, taking curcumin regularly may help reduce the risk of dementia, for example. Due to curcumin’s effect on all stages of carcinogenesis, this natural product can contribute to cancer prevention, too. Not least thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, curcumin helps keep malicious silent inflammations in check. These are hidden inflammatory processes in the body that we only notice when they manifest themselves as an illness.
What must be kept in mind when taking curcumin?
Curcumin is very easy to digest. Only certain sensitive people may experience slight nausea or diarrhea. No serious side effects could be detected even after a one-time administration of high doses. However, extremely high doses should not be taken over prolonged periods to avoid liver damage. Nor should curcumin be used by pregnant women or by people suffering from biliary obstruction or gallstones. Due to the effect on thrombocytes, it should only be taken together with blood thinners (such as acetylsalicylic acid) after consultation with a doctor. On the other hand, curcumin has been shown to generate positive synergy effects with other plant secondary metabolites such as catechins (known, for example, from green tea), quercetin, genistein and resveratrol (known, for instance, from red wine).