Turmeric is revered around the world for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. What specific compounds gives turmeric these amazing abilities to soothe inflammation and reduce pain? Curcuminoids, natural polyphenols found in the turmeric root. Curcumin is the primary curcuminoid (77% of the curcuminoid content in turmeric is curcumin) present in turmeric and is what gives the rhizome its distinct yellow hue.1
What does curcumin do within the body?
Curcumin can help with pain and swelling due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It actually inhibits a molecule called NF-kB, a transcription factor that turns on genes related to inflammation.2 Another mechanism by which curcumin turns down inflammation in the body is it inhibits the COX-2, LOX, and iNOS enzyme, all of which mediate inflammatory processes. It is also a strong antioxidant, it can bind to and neutralize free radicals which will halt oxidation within the body (oxidation causes aging of the cells!).3
How can we increase the bioavailability of curcumin?
Black Pepper: A compound called piperine in black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.4 This is because it slows down the breakdown of curcumin in the liver, making it active and bioavailable in the bloodstream for longer periods of time.
Healthy Fats: Another great way to increase bioavailability would be to pair turmeric with a fat such as coconut oil or ghee, in traditional Indian cooking these two ingredients are always used in conjunction with each other (such wisdom!). Curcumin is a fat-soluble compound, so the fatty acids help the body absorb it much for efficiently.5 The same rule applies for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K, you need healthy fat to properly absorb and assimilate these nutrients!
Quercetin: Eating foods that are high in a polyphenol flavonoid called quercetin increases the absorbtion of curcumin. Quercetin is a highly anti-inflammatory plant pigment that works synergistically in the body with turmeric.6 Foods high in quercetin include berries, tea (both green & black), red grapes (including red wine), green leafy vegetables, and citrus fruits. So throw some turmeric in the blender next time you make a blueberry smoothie and add some full fat coconut milk while you’re at!
Three of our favorite ways to use turmeric are:
Internally to Decrease Inflammation: Turmeric has the capability to soothe inflammation within the body due to various mechanistic actions. For a calming nightcap, try making this Golden Milk Latte before bed. Blend up: 1 cup hot water, 1 tsp turmeric powder, ¼ tsp cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper, 1/2 Tbs grass-fed ghee (Gold Nugget Ghee’s Lavender Vanilla Ghee highly recommended!), & 1-2 dates depending on sweetness preference (optional).
To Promote Healthy Teeth & Gums: If you have any issues with bleeding/inflamed gums, turmeric will be your best friend! When applied directly on the gums, turmeric will reduce the inflammation present which will decrease bleeding, swelling, and pain. Curcumin also prevents the adhesion of pathogenic bacteria (such as Streptococcus) to the tooth surface, preventing biofilms and infections.7 Surprisingly, it has also been shown to brighten those pearly whites and does not stain the teeth (although it does stain your toothbrush)!
For Skincare: Turmeric has wonderful benefits for the skin; it can reduce sun spots, acne, and scarring. Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, it also decreases general redness which leads to a brighter, more even skin tone.