Curcumin

  • Depression now affects one in ten adults in the U.S. and is projected to be the second leading cause of disability in the world by the year 2020. Depression is also one of the leading causes of workplace healthcare expense, costing employers and employees billions of dollars in medical costs, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Attempts to find a medication to treat depression have been going on for over 50 years with surprisingly poor results. Some evidence indicates that response rates to the top medications are often as low as 17 percent and about 63 percent of patients experience side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, sexual dysfunction and thoughts of suicide.

    In 2013 there was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing curcumin to Prozac and curcumin was just as effective, but without the potentially harmful side effects. Over time most prescription medications lose their effectiveness while producing ever-increasing negative side effects. Curcumin, on the other hand, has increasingly beneficial side effects including improved attentiveness, better sleep, emotions and learning. It accomplishes this through the increase of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine as well as the reduction of inflammation in the brain.

    It should be noted that the curcumin used in the above mentioned study was a special form of curcumin called BCM-95. The form is seven times more bioavailable than any other form of curcumin.

    There are some even more significant positive side effects or benefits to taking curcumin beyond its ability to improve brain function. Curcumin also suppresses the growth of inflammatory cells in our joints, thus helping to prevent and even reverse many cases of osteoarthritis. By preventing the breakdown of joint-lining cartilage curcumin has even been shown to provide significant relief for people with rheumatoid arthritis, a genetic and more difficult to treat disease.

    And finally, curcumin may very well be one of the leading natural methods for the prevention and the treatment of cancer. Scientific evidence has shown the ability of curcumin to help in the following types of cancer: breast; uterine; cervical; prostate; brain; lung; throat; bladder; pancreas and gastrointestinal. Curcumin actually has been shown to intervene and disrupt cancer at virtually every stage of its development. It achieves this primarily through the suppression of inflammation, which is one of the major contributors to most forms of cancer. By preventing the proliferation, migration and thus the very survival of cancer, curcumin helps the body's natural defense mechanisms, as well as the conventional and the natural treatments that have been proven to kill cancer cells. This natural compound derived from the spice turmeric deserves serious consideration for the treatment of depression as well as the other chronic diseases mentioned here.

  • As the snowy cold weather begins to roll into Colorado, I crave warmer, heartier meals like chili, stews and brisket. Juicing kale and celery when it's 4 degrees outside doesn't cut it. So at this time of year, garlic and curry go in everything I eat. Let's talk curry today. Penang, red or green curry, it's all good with me! Curry sounds like it's one spice, but it's actually a blend of spices, and it always contains some turmeric spice.

    Turmeric comes from the ginger family. This yellow-orange spice was first used as a dye until its medicinal properties were uncovered. Our research today proves turmeric positively benefits hundreds of health conditions, making it a healthy and tasty sprinkle for any dish. Do I want it right now? Yes please!

    You can buy the spice called turmeric all by itself if you don't like curry. Supplements of turmeric are sold everywhere. And you'll also find "curcumin" which is one potent extract of turmeric.

    Curcumin may prevent or improve age-related cognitive decline, dementia, and mood disorders. This is not wishful thinking, it's true. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial observed 60 adults between the ages of 60 and 85. After about one hour of their curcumin dose, these adults enjoyed a higher attention span and better memory than those who swallowed the dud pill, the placebo. After four weeks of curcumin supplements, memory, mood, alertness, and contentedness were considerably better in the participants.

    Curcumin is a hot supplement, not spicy hot, but "hot" in the sense that research is conducted frequently. I found more than 900 published research papers pertaining to curcumin's anti-cancer activity. One of these papers found that curcumin has the ability to make some cancer cells commit suicide. Basically, curcumin programs the cell to die! That's a good thing, you want those cancer cells to go bye-bye! Technically, we call this "apoptosis." Cancers that are resistant to multiple chemotherapeutic agents seem to still respond to curcumin, at least in mouse studies. Because of curcumin's long-term record of safety and low risk of side effects, I think it's a great natural adjunct to many protocols, especially for breast and prostate cancer. It's a strong anti-inflammatory.

    Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, published a study about curcumin's ability to prevent pre-diabetic patients from becoming full-blown diabetics. Results after 9 months showed 100% success! No one progressed. Further, curcumin-treated patients had better pancreatic beta cell function and higher adiponectinin. Excellent! You know, I'm a pharmacist and I'll tell you there isn't one drug behind the counter that competes.

    Curcumin is the 'Kardashian' of herbs. It's spicy, notorious, and a little goes a long way if you know what I mean. Too much is not good, it's a laxative. Most importantly, curry, and curcumin are considered effective and safe by most physicians. I'd ask about supplementing with it if you have inflammatory conditions, especially autoimmune ones like rheumatoid, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's and psoriasis.

  • Inflammation is a useful natural reaction that the body has in response to injury and certain other conditions. Chronic inflammation, however, can be more destructive than beneficial. Indeed, when we hear the word inflammation, we tend to associate with conditions like arthritis and other more serious issues. Nevertheless, there are many common causes of inflammation that are not associated with disease states. These include eating diets high in certain inflammation-promoting foods (e.g., polyunsaturated fats, simple carbohydrates— especially refined sugars1, common allergens like casein and gluten2), being in colder temperatures3, experiencing menopause (with hormone fluctuations)4, experiencing psychological stress5 and exposure to environmental toxins.6

    Ramifications Of Inflammation
    That being said, there can still be ramifications associated with common, non-disease types of inflammation, even low-grade systemic inflammation. Examples include but are not limited to everyday aches and pains, alterations in digestion and absorption7, behavioral changes8, minor disruption in microcirculation and blood flow over the course of the aging process9, and a minor negative impact on immune health.10 In addition, obesity is associated with inflammation.

    Specifically, overweight and obese children and adults have elevated serum levels of C-Reactive Protein and other known markers of inflammation. This is not to say that inflammation causes obesity, but rather the reverse: obesity causes low-grade systemic inflammation. While obesity is commonly thought of as adipose tissue, it is also associated with fat storage in other tissues—including the liver and skeletal muscle. This may lead to insulin resistance and may also stimulate inflammation. Obesity also changes the type of chemicals that our fat cells secrete, which may include the secretion of several pro-inflammatory mediators.11 Since chronic inflammation is closely associated with cardiovascular risk factors, including cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular causes of death, this may help explain the increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic diseases in the obese.12

    Anti-Inflammatory Nutraceuticals
    One of the strategies to help decrease inflammation is the use of anti-inflammatory nutraceuticals—and there are many from which to choose. Following is a discussion of some of my favorite anti-inflammatory nutraceuticals, which includes resveratrol, grape seed extract, calcium fructoborate, turmeric (curcumin) and ginger.

    Resveratrol
    Resveratrol (RSV), a natural substance found in grapes, peanuts and Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), made a big splash when it was introduced into the dietary supplement market because it was considered to contribute to the “French paradox,” the unexpectedly low rate of death from cardiovascular disease in the Mediterranean population, despite a diet that is relatively high in saturated fat. Since then research has demonstrated other benefits for RSV, among them its effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent. This was seen in a randomized, placebo-controlled study13 investigating the effectiveness of 40 mg RSV or placebo daily (for six weeks) on oxidative and inflammatory stress in normal subjects. The results were that RSV significantly reduced oxidative stress (P < 0.05) and also significantly suppressed levels of several inflammatory markers, including TNF-alpha, IL-6, and C-Reactive Protein (P <). There was no change in these indices in the control group given placebo.

    Grape Seed Extract And Resveratrol
    Grape seed extract contains phenolic compounds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC). These OPC have significant antioxidant properties.14 In addition, they also appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties—at least when combined with RSV. In a triple-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, one-year follow-up, 3-arm pilot clinical trial15, 75 stable–coronary artery disease (CAD) patients received a combination of grape seed phenolics (i.e. OPC) and RSV, grape seed extract alone, or a placebo. The daily doses of the combination were as follows: 139 mg of grape seed OPC for the first six months, and then doubled for the following six months, which would require about 293 mg (a grape seed extract providing 95 percent OPC, 146.32 mg is required to yield 139 mg OPC); RSV was eight mg and 16 mg for the first six months and the remaining six months, respectively. The daily dose of grape seed OPC alone was 151 mg during six months, and then doubled for the following six months. The results showed that after one year, in contrast to the placebo and grape seed extract only groups, the combination group showed an increase of the antiinflammatory serum adiponectin (9.6 percent, p = 0.01).

    In addition, in the combination group six key inflammation factors were significantly improved (p < 0.05) without any adverse effects.

    Using the same dosage strategy and group types as in the last study, a randomized placebo-controlled, triple-blind, dose–response, 1-year follow-up study16 with three parallel arms was conducted in 35 in hypertensive male patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Results showed that after 12 months there was a significant reduction in levels of the inflammatory markers ALP (p = 0.02) and IL-6 (p = 0.00) in the combination group. In addition, the production of proinflammatory cytokines was also reduced significantly.

    Calcium Fructoborate
    Calcium fructoborate (CF) is a form of the mineral boron, known for its role in bone health—but it is also good for joints and inflammation. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study17 examined the effect of 108 mg CF twice a day in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Results showed that in the CF group, pain scores at Day seven dropped to 82 percent of the Day one value (from 74.0 to 59.9, p<0.05). By Day 14, the pain score reduced to 71 percent of the baseline (from 74.4 to 52.2, p<0.01). In contrast, there was no significant reduction in pain scores in the placebo group on either Day seven or Day 14. Other measures of pain were also significantly reduced (p< 0.05) on Day seven and Day 14 (p< 0.01). In addition, blood level of C-Reactive Protein were reduced up to 37 percent compared to Day one baseline levels in 79 percent of subjects. Interestingly, the study also showed that blood level of vitamin D was increased more than 19 percent compared to baseline, but not in the placebo group. The CF was well tolerated by all study subjects with no reports of adverse effect.

    Calcium Fructoborate And Resveratrol
    A 60-day, randomized, double-blinded, active-controlled, parallel clinical trial18 was conducted in three groups of subjects to evaluate the effects of oral supplementation with CF (112 mg/day), RSV (20 mg/day), and their combination (RSV – 20 mg/day + CF – 112 mg/day) for 60 days on the clinical and biological statuses of patients with stable angina pectoris. Of the total number of subjects included in study (n = 166), 87 completed the test treatment study period and 29 followed in parallel their usual medical care and treatment. Results showed that there was a significant decrease of high-sensitivity C-Reactive Protein in all groups at the 30-day and 60-day visits. At 60 days, this decrease was greater for CF (39.7 percent), followed by RSV + CF (30.3 percent). Markers for congestive heart failure were significantly lowered by RSV (59.7 percent) and by CF (52.6 percent). However, their combination induced a decrease of 65.5 percent. The improvement in the quality of life was best observed for subjects who received the RSV + CF mixture.

    Turmeric (Curcumin)
    Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, has been used as a traditional remedy in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as well as for condiment and flavoring purposes for over 2,000 years, based on records dating back to 600 BCE.19 Its primary active constituent is the flavonoid curcumin (diferuloylmethane), which is responsible for the plant’s yellow color and the compound providing most of its medicinal qualities.20,21 Certainly, research has demonstrated that the curcumin molecules inhibit 5-lipoxygenase (LOX) and cyclooxygenase (COX), resulting in a well-established anti-inflammatory action.22,23,24 This ability to help relieve common, everyday inflammation has been demonstrated in a significant number of published human clinical studies on curcumin.25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35

    Ginger
    Although it’s probably more known for its anti-nausea properties (i.e., treatment of motion sickness and morning sickness), Ginger is also an effective anti-inflammatory herb that has historically been used for arthritis and rheumatism. In a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and muscular discomfort, the majority experienced (to varying degrees) relief of pain and swelling. None of the patients reported adverse effects during the period of ginger consumption, which ranged from three months to 2.5 years.36

    Another double-blind trial found ginger extract to be more effective than placebo at relieving pain in people with OA of the hip or knee.37 Likewise, in another doubleblind study ginger was significantly more effective than a placebo in pain relief and overall improvement.38 Ginger is considered to exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting COX-2 and lipoxygenase pathways.39

    Conclusion
    Inflammation may be present in disease or non-disease states. In either case, resveratrol, grape seed extract, calcium fructoborate, turmeric (curcumin) and ginger may be helpful in reducing markers of inflammation, reducing pain, and improving other parameters of health.

    References:

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  • The American College of Pathology states that four out of five women who die of cervical cancer had not had a PAP smear in the previous five years. According to U.S. statistics, the highest incidence of cervical cancer and the highest death rates occur in women over the age of 55, a group that often stops having annual PAP tests. PAP smears save lives by discovering abnormal cells, called cervical dysplasia, early enough to prevent loss of life from cervical cancer. All adult women from the age of 18 should have an annual PAP test to ensure that their cervix is healthy. But what can be done when the test comes back abnormal?

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