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Effects of curcumin

In this blog article you will learn the difference between turmeric and curcumin & what effects curcumin has and why they are relevant for athletes.

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Turmeric and curcumin - what's the difference?

You are certainly familiar with turmeric, the yellow-orange spice. There are numerous recipes for turmeric lattes, also known as golden milk, turmeric shots and turmeric tea using the root. And even before that, turmeric was an important part of traditional Asian and especially Indian cuisine. The reason for this is that turmeric contains the secondary plant substance curcumin, which not only gives it its color, but also its many potentially health-promoting effects. Turmeric and curcumin are therefore often equated in everyday life. However, the root only consists of around 5% curcumin. In addition, the polyphenol is also poorly absorbed, especially in its raw, natural form. So is there any point in consuming turmeric in this way? And what are the actual benefits of the advertised plant substance curcumin?

What is curcumin good for?

Curcumin has many of these effects - especially in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. But which effects have also been scientifically proven? Do you know about antioxidants, for example?

These statements come from the articles in the list of sources at the bottom - you can find out more there

Curcumin as antioxidant

Antioxidants are substances that can neutralize free radicals. Sounds complicated, but it's not at all. All kinds of stress factors affect your cells on a daily basis, for example sunlight, mental stress, suboptimal nutrition, sport, poor sleep and much more. This stress causes what is known as oxidative stress. Substances oxidize, so to speak, and then look for new reaction partners, sometimes in an aggressive manner. This disrupts the cell balance and metabolism.

Ideally, your body can maintain a good balance, but if several stressors come together, the level of stress can be so high that the cell is fundamentally disrupted and even dies. Curcumin has proven to be a powerful antioxidant1 and is therefore often used to maintain or restore balance. Curcumin may be particularly recommended for people who also have problems with their mitochondria, the energy power plants. It is precisely here, in the mitochondria, that the majority of free radicals are produced. In this context, it has even been shown that curcumin not only neutralizes free radicals, but can also promote the body's own neutralizing systems and enzymes, in particular the enzymes SOD (superoxide dismutase) and catalase2.

Does curcumin reduce inflammation?

Many common diseases are increasingly associated with inflammation. It is now recognized that atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory process of the blood vessels and that neurodegenerative diseases are often associated with inflammation. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and the like may therefore have inflammatory processes as a (partial) cause. What does curcumin have to do with this? In fact, quite a few studies describe the anti-inflammatory effect of the plant substance, also in relation to these diseases. Curcumin appears to primarily regulate inflammatory pathways and thus inhibit the formation of pro-inflammatory substances3.

The best way to understand this is probably with a concrete example: so-called prostaglandins have a largely pro-inflammatory effect and are produced in greater quantities during inflammation. They are produced by the enzyme COX (cyclooxygenase). You may be familiar with this enzyme, as it is the starting point for many medications, including Aspirin®. Curcumin can also inhibit this enzyme or cause it to be formed less1,4.

In the case of osteoarthritis, i.e. inflammation of the bones and joints, an analysis of various studies has shown that curcumin can reduce joint pain and the consumption of painkillers5. In addition, basic research shows that inflammatory pathways are inhibited and thus diseases such as osteoarthritis could be influenced. Of course, more studies are needed before a definitive statement can be made, but the results so far indicate that curcumin helps with diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Let's summarize briefly: Curcumin has many possible effects, especially antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects are significant for the everyday and therapeutic use of the plant substance. So curcumin is definitely healthy.

Curcumin - potential future opportunities?

It goes even further! The plant substance curcumin has potential anti-cancer effects - at least this has been largely confirmed in basic and preclinical research. In recent years, intensive research has been carried out on curcumin in connection with cancer. It has been shown, for example, that curcumin can induce cell death, which is usually impaired in malignant cells6. Curcumin is already being used for research purposes in conjunction with some chemotherapeutic agents. Who knows, perhaps we will soon know even more and will soon be able to use curcumin as an additional treatment.

Is curcumin safe?

Whenever we talk about effects, we also have to talk about side effects and tolerability and safety. In general, turmeric and curcumin are considered non-toxic, safe substances7,8. In particular, oral intake, i.e. as turmeric capsules, turmeric powder or liquid turmeric, is safe. Caution is advised during pregnancy, as the substances have not yet been sufficiently tested on humans. Turmeric and curcumin are not a problem, at least in pregnant animals.

How much curcumin a day is optimal?

Because the substance is safe, doses of 12 g per day have already been administered and tolerated. However, this amount is of course not recommended for everyday use. The recommended dosage varies greatly depending on the form of intake. For example, you may need to take several grams of turmeric powder, whereas a few hundred milligrams of liposomal or micelle-based curcumin will have the same effect. What do liposomal or micelle technology mean? Don't worry, you can find out more about these special technologies below.

Which curcumin is the best?

Let's finally get to the question of all questions: "What is the best way to take turmeric or curcumin?" There are actually very different ways to take it, which also differ greatly in their absorption capacity. Did you know that the active ingredient curcumin is normally poorly soluble in water and not particularly stable, which means that almost nothing is normally absorbed9. Researchers were faced with this problem and tried to improve this bioavailability - for example with piperine, micelles or liposomes. But what is the best way to absorb curcumin?

Curcumin with piperine from black pepper

Have you ever heard that you should add a little black pepper to your turmeric shot to improve absorption? The reason is the piperine contained in pepper, a substance that slightly increases the absorption of curcumin. However, it is far-fetched to believe that a little pepper in the turmeric shot is of any use. Pepper contains around 2-5% piperine, turmeric only 5% curcumin. What's more, the pungent piperine irritates the digestive tract and is therefore not always well tolerated. The benefits are therefore limited.

Does micelle technology increase curcumin bioavailability?

Micelles are particles that can trap ingredients inside them. They are water-soluble on the outside and fat-soluble on the inside. This makes them perfect for curcumin, which is known to be poorly soluble in water. The micelle technology actually seems to increase bioavailability. The extent of this effect varies from study to study, so it is difficult to say10. The big disadvantage of micelles? Polysorbate 20 or 80 is required for formation and stability, an additive to which some people are allergic. The tolerance of micellar curcumin is therefore significantly impaired in some people - especially those with many existing allergies. Is there a better option than micelle-based curcumin?

Liposomal curcumin - currently the best option?

Similar to micelle curcumin, liposomal technology also attempts to improve the poor water solubility. How? Our cell membrane, i.e. the cell envelope, consists of phospholipids. These are substances that are fat-soluble on one side and water-soluble on the other. Liposomes take advantage of this by packaging the curcumin in a shell that closely resembles the structure of the cell membrane. Phospholipids are used to ensure high bioavailability11.

The big advantage: in contrast to micelles, polysorbate 80 can be dispensed with in liposomes and preserved naturally instead.

Is curcumin in nanoparticles the future?

One technology also appears to be promising in research - curcumin in nanoparticles. Nanoparticles may already tell you something in the context of the last few years. The small shells, which can penetrate virtually any membrane, have been shown in trials to lead to increased absorption and distribution throughout the body. However, the technology is still fairly new and there are always downsides, especially when it comes to the tolerance of the particles. It is therefore still uncertain whether the future lies in this technology.

For now, I definitely recommend liposomal curcumin, which has proven to be very well tolerated and bioavailable.

Capsules, powder or liquid - how should I take curcumin?

Capsules, liquid or powder - which is best? I am clearly in favor of liquid curcumin, which is also the best tolerated and can be absorbed well in liposomal form. Powder is often unstable and reacts unintentionally even before it is ingested. Capsules are largely broken down in the stomach, where the ingredients are released. Liposomal, liquid curcumin can be partially absorbed by the mucous membrane and is also much less complicated to take.

The relevance of curcumin for athletes

As you could read in this article, curcumin helps with inflammation and oxidative stress - as athletes are regularly exposed to oxidative stress through their hard or long workouts and there is a risk of inflammation, curcumin can be a support for your cells here.

This article is based on study-based research & careful quality check


1 Menon, V. P. & Sudheer, A. R. (2007). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 595, 105–125.

2 Abrahams, S., Haylett, W. L., Johnson, G., Carr, J. A. & Bardien, S. (2019). Antioxidant effects of curcumin in models of neurodegeneration, aging, oxidative and nitrosative stress: A review. Neuroscience, 406, 1–21.

3 Ferguson, J. J. A., Abbott, K. A., & Garg, M. L. (2021). Anti-inflammatory effects of oral supplementation with curcumin: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition reviews, 79(9), 1043–1066.

4 Rao C. V. (2007). Regulation of COX and LOX by curcumin. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 595, 213–226.

5 Chin K. Y. (2016). The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis. Drug design, development and therapy, 10, 3029–3042.

6 Reuter, S., Eifes, S., Dicato, M., Aggarwal, B. B., & Diederich, M. (2008). Modulation of anti-apoptotic and survival pathways by curcumin as a strategy to induce apoptosis in cancer cells. Biochemical pharmacology, 76(11), 1340–1351.

7 Soleimani, V., Sahebkar, A., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2018). Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its major constituent (curcumin) as nontoxic and safe substances: Review. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 32(6), 985–995.

8 Lao, C. D., Ruffin, M. T., 4th, Normolle, D., Heath, D. D., Murray, S. I., Bailey, J. M., Boggs, M. E., Crowell, J., Rock, C. L., & Brenner, D. E. (2006). Dose escalation of a curcuminoid formulation. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 6, 10.

9 Hassanzadeh, K., Buccarello, L., Dragotto, J., Mohammadi, A., Corbo, M., & Feligioni, M. (2020). Obstacles against the Marketing of Curcumin as a Drug. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(18), 6619.

10 Hegde, M., Girisa, S., BharathwajChetty, B., Vishwa, R., & Kunnumakkara, A. B. (2023). Curcumin Formulations for Better Bioavailability: What We Learned from Clinical Trials Thus Far?. ACS omega, 8(12), 10713–10746.

11 Cuomo, J., Appendino, G., Dern, A. S., Schneider, E., McKinnon, T. P., Brown, M. J., Togni, S., & Dixon, B. M. (2011). Comparative absorption of a standardized curcuminoid mixture and its lecithin formulation. Journal of natural products, 74(4), 664–669.