When you hear the word “curcumin,” you may first think of a spice, not medicine. But curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, is one of nature’s most effective remedies. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine and Indian culture for a range of health conditions, including stomach problems, skin diseases, infections, blood disorders, and cough, curcumin is a modern-day remedy, too. From anti-inflammatory to anti-cancer, research shows curcumin health benefits are plenty.
What Is Curcumin?
Curcumin is a compound in turmeric, a spice derived from the Curcuma longa plant that’s commonly used in Asian cooking. Curcumin’s health benefits have been recognized for centuries. 
There are over 6,500 publications that reference the health benefits of curcumin. The research suggests that curcumin contains antioxidant effects and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. As a result, it has the ability to combat arthritis, fight infections, protect the liver, prevent cardiovascular plaque deposition, and even fight cancer cells. 
In traditional cultures, curcumin has been used to treat numerous ailments, such as digestive concerns, gynecological conditions, infectious disease, skin rashes, neurodegenerative disease, depression, obesity, heart disease, joint pain, and diabetes. Clinically, curcumin has shown benefit in even more conditions, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diabetic neuropathy, gastric ulcers, renal conditions, immunodeficiency syndromes, gallbladder disease, and chronic prostatitis. 
Given these amazing curcumin health benefits, it’s no wonder that curcumin supplements are becoming increasingly more common. 
Top 3 Curcumin Health Benefits
Curcumin health benefits are far reaching. Here are some of the most prevalent:
1. Fights cancer cells
Some laboratory and animal studies have found a link between curcumin and cancer prevention and treatment. These studies suggest that curcumin may help slow the spread of cancerous cells, induce cancer cell death, boost effectiveness of chemotherapy, and help protect healthy cells from being damaged by radiation treatments. 
The curcumin dosage for cancer is typically high (5 grams or more), which can cause some side effects, including digestive issues, headaches, nausea, and skin rashes. Curcumin side effects are rare, however, and are usually mild when they do occur. Plus, they are certainly less potent than side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, which makes curcumin a potential option for those suffering from a wide variety of cancers. 
2. Helps relieve pain
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, I use curcumin in some of my patients with and muscle aches and pains. It’s a good remedy for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as for muscle strains.  In a 2017 study of 36 people with rheumatoid arthritis, those who took curcumin for 90 days reported improvements in their joint pain compared with those who took a placebo. 
For my patients with joint pain, I recommend combining curcumin with Boswellia, an herbal extract that comes from the Boswellia serrata tree. I find it can help reduce the use of NSAIDs, which can have significant side effects with long-term chronic use.
3. Helps protect against heart disease
Curcumin is a naturally occurring antioxidant, which means it kills free radicals in the body. Because of these antioxidant properties, curcumin may help prevent atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries), therefore protecting against heart attack and stroke.  There’s also evidence that curcumin may help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. 
In addition to the curcumin health benefits mentioned above, curcumin has been shown to improve blood sugar metabolism, making it a potential treatment for diabetes. It has also been shown to help with other diabetic conditions, such as neuropathy and microangiopathy. 
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin may also help lower risk for obesity.  And by destroying free radicals, curcumin may help protect the liver. 
Additionally, one recent study showed curcumin may help treat depression.  And some studies show curcumin have both anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. [15, 16]
Other studies suggest curcumin may help with irritable bowel syndrome and even the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases and conditions associated with increasing age. 
What’s the Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin?
By now, you may be wondering how turmeric and curcumin differ. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and a main ingredient in curry spice. The active compounds in turmeric are curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most prominent. Most of the research on turmeric has been done on curcumin. So, if you eat turmeric, you’ll get some curcumin, but not in its most concentrated form.
How Should I Take Curcumin?
Personally, I find a great way to take curcumin to help prevent many health concerns is by drinking golden milk. Curcumin with piperine (black pepper) makes a powerful combination, and you get both in golden milk. (Alternatively, you can find supplements that contain curcumin with piperine. But for certain medical conditions, a capsule may be required to get proper dosage.)
You can make a batch of golden milk, keep it in your fridge for a few days, and reheat it and drink it like a latte in the morning.
Or, as an alternative, you can take turmeric or curcumin extract in a tea or in tincture daily.
With its dual antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin is a natural wonder drug. You can take curcumin daily in your choice of form—turmeric supplements, curcumin extract, golden milk, or curcumin with piperine—to reap the long list of curcumin health benefits.
- A compound in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.
- Curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color, contains both antioxidant and inflammation-cooling properties.
- Curcumin health benefits are far reaching. The compound can help prevent and treat numerous chronic conditions and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, and joint pain.
- There are a variety of ways you can take curcumin. One of my favorites is by drinking golden milk.
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