What is Curcumin?
Quite simply curcumin is the compound in turmeric that gives it that distinctive colour and is the most studied of all the compounds in turmeric (and there are over 300!). Curcumin is most famous for its anti-inflammatory properties by blocking causes of inflammation –which is why everyone seems to be putting some curcumin or turmeric in everything these days -in almost a religious way!
We like to think of curcumin like putting money into our anti-inflammation war cache. Every time we have some Jamu I like to think I’m preparing my immune system for combat with inflammatory triggers such as stress, processed foods, and alcohol.
There really are so many benefits to taking curcumin such as pain relief, gut support, immune system defence and general health and wellbeing its no wonder it almost sounds too good to be true!
Here we have simplified some of the REALLY great things that curcumin has been scientifically proven to be beneficial as;
1. Powerful anti-inflammatory – we talk about this SO much because inflammation is now thought of as being linked to just about EVERY western disease such as metabolic syndrome, some cancers, heart disease and many chronic diseases thought to be caused by chronic low-level inflammation. Basically – if you live in the Western world, consume ‘average’ western food and are exposed to our environment your body is constantly trying to supress inflammation. Whilst this is a natural process and some inflammation is good, over a long period of time inflammation damages our body. Which part of your body gets damaged by inflammation is how these diseases are expressed. For me, I had rhuemetoid arthritis, IBS and psoriasis which are all linked to inflammation. Because curcumin is a ‘Bio-active’ compound it actually works to block some of the compounds that cause inflammation in our bodies – often better than traditional anti-inflammatories (and without many of the side-effects).
2. Great anti-oxidant – similar to the effect of blocking inflammatory compounds curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant in the body “mopping up” those free radicals that are associated with everything from skin aging to heart disease. Not only that curcumin has a double whammy of supporting your body to make enzymes that also act as antioxidants! POWERFUL STUFF!
3. Improved Brain function and lower risk of brain disease. Facts are simple here – India and cultures that consume high levels of curcumin n their diets have some of the lowest levels of Alzheimer’s in the world. Curcumin can support people who already are diagnosed with brain disorders due to its anti-inflammatory properties and low side effects but also as a preventative for brain disease and even just to improve the memory and function is great news to my family!
4. Curcumin can prevent and support many cancers – again there is value in people already diagnosed with particular cancers and those wanting to prevent cancer in taking curcumin regularly.
5. People with Arthritis respond well to curcumin – don’t just take my word for it! Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers (being caused by inflammation) in particular do well on regular curcumin supplements.
There are a few things to remember about curcumin and turmeric.
1. There isn’t much curcumin in raw turmeric (only about 3%) which is why curcumin supplements are so popular.
2. Curcumin on its own is poorly absorbed in the gut. Pepperine (the main compound in black pepper) increases this absorption by over 2000%
Before you rush out and buy some curcumin pills or powder with added pepper (and we aren’t against these products), don’t forget about the 300+ other compounds in turmeric. Just because science hasn’t studied their benefits as much as curcumin alone – you might be missing out. In fact there are increasing amounts of studies showing that these other compounds taken as whole turmeric not only increase the effect of curcumin and add other beneficial qualities such as anti-oxidants.
Pills and powders also can make it easier to overdose on concentrated products. Whilst curcumin overdose is very rare and not serious unless you have kidney issues or are pregnant taking large amounts of pills and poweders isn’t appealing to me and I always feel like a bit of a ‘science experiment’ taking so many. As humans and scientists we also have a tendency to hone in on the component of something, like curcumin in turmeric and think that if we concentrate it and take huge quantities of it we will have found some sort of magic bullet.
I don’t find Jamu to be like that. Firstly, its enjoyable to drink and because you are getting an amount of curcumin more in line with regular consumption of turmeric it rarely causes problems with over use. Secondly, the majority of our turmeric is grown organically and locally and NEVER imported. I often look at different turmeric powders and shudder thinking about where those ingredients may have originated.
I’m sticking with ancient wisdom and a recipe handed down for generations in Jamu. Its no wonder every village in Bali has a “jamu delivery” – we are only starting to understand some of the benefits of this wonderful combination of plants and herbs.