Curcumin (Ker-cue-min)


Curcumin is a plant chemical found in turmeric root (Curcuma longa). (4) It can be used to make curries, teas, and other drinks, mustard sauces, cheese, butter, and chips. It is also used as a colorant and as a preservative. (17)

Main Medical Uses

Curcumin is commonly used in the treatment of inflammation, (6, 7, 13, 26, 29, 41) in the treatment of metabolic syndrome, (2, 30, 42) and as an antioxidant (34) in the protection against cardiac diseases. (20) Research also demonstrates its potential use in treating type II diabetes. (10, 24, 26, 33, 37, 41)

Dosing and Administration

For an explanation of the classes of evidence, please see the Rating Scales for Evidence-Based Decision Support.

Adverse Effects

Curcumin is considered safe and non-toxic with good tolerability. (15) Diarrhea, headaches, rash, or yellow stool may occur. However, the prevalence of these adverse effects was not dose-dependent between doses of 1,000-12,000 mg. (22)  Curcumin use has also been associated with nausea. (16) 

Licensed Ingredients

Standard unformulated curcumin has low bioavailability. (39) Licensed ingredients may improve bioavailability compared with unformulated curcumin as summarized in the following table.

Associated Depletions and Interactions

Curcumin has been shown to be a strong inhibitor of CYP3A4, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and CYP1A238 and may, therefore, interact with pharmaceuticals that are metabolized by these cytochromes. Curcumin may interact with caffeine, (8) talinolol, (21) and iron. (9)

Mechanism of Action and Metabolism

Curcumin has limited bioavailability and is quickly metabolized. Phase I hepatic metabolism reduces the compound’s double bonds through alcohol dehydrogenase in liver microsomes. Phase II metabolism also rapidly conjugates curcumin into glucuronides and sulfates. Curcumin may be excreted unchanged or as conjugates in urine. (27)

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  9. Chin, D., Huebbe, P., Frank, J., Rimbach, G., & Pallauf, K. (2014). Curcumin may impair iron status when fed to mice for six months. Redox Biology, 2, 563-569.
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  23. Morimoto, T., Funamoto, M., Sunagawa, Y., Katanasaka, Y., Miyazaki, Y., Imaizumi, A., … Hasegawa, K. (2016). Highly absorptive curcumin reduces serum atherosclerotic low-density lipoprotein levels in patients with mild COPD. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 26(11), 2029-2034.
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  30. Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Ren, H., & Hu, H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Journal, 16(1).
  31. Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Tang, Y., Ren, H., & Hu, H. (2018). Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of 4 weeks or longer suggest that curcumin may afford some protection against oxidative stress. Nutrition Research, 60, 1-12.
  32. Rahmani, S., Asgary, S., Askari, G., Keshvari, M., Hatamipour, M., Feizi, A., & Sahebkar, A. (2016). Treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with curcumin: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Phytotherapy Research, 30(9), 1540-1548.
  33. Rahimi, H., Mohammadpour, A., Dastani, M., Jaafari, M., Abnous, K., Mobarhan, M., & Oskuee, R. (2016). The effect of nano-curcumin on HbA1c, fasting blood glucose, and lipid profile in diabetic subjects: A randomized clinical trial. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 6(5), 567-577.
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  35. Santos-Parker, J. R., Strahler, T. R., Bassett, C. J., Bispham, N. Z., Chonchol, M. B., & Seals, D. R. (2017). Curcumin supplementation improves vascular endothelial function in healthy middle-aged and older adults by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability and reducing oxidative stress. Aging, 9(1), 187-208.
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  38. Shamsi, S., Tran, H., Tan, R. S., Tan, Z. J., & Lim, L. Y. (2016). Curcumin, piperine, and capsaicin: A comparative study of spice-mediated inhibition of human cytochrome P450 isozyme activities. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 45(1), 49-55.
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  40. Small, G. W., Siddarth, P., Li, Z., Miller, K. J., Ercoli, L., Emerson, N. D., Martinez, J., … Barrio, J. R. (2018). Memory and brain amyloid and tau effects of a bioavailable form of curcumin in non-demented adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled 18-month trial. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(3), 266-277.
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  42. Yang, Y., Su, Y., Yang, H., Lee, Y., Chou, J. I., & Ueng, K. (2014). Lipid-lowering effects of curcumin in patients with metabolic syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Phytotherapy Research, 28(12), 1770-1777.