Health Benefits of Curcumin

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on September 19, 2022
3 min read

Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. Turmeric is native to Southeast Asia, but is popular all over the world. It is perhaps most popular in India, where it is one of the main spices in curry powders. Its flavor is warm and bitter, and it has a striking yellow color.

Turmeric has been reported to have many health benefits. Its use as a medicine dates back nearly 4000 years. Over the past few decades, modern medicine has increased research into turmeric’s reputation for healing. Curcumin is at the heart of the research, as it’s the source of many of turmeric’s healthful properties.

Curcumin is a discreet bioactive compound and is what gives turmeric its bright color. It was first isolated by scientists around the turn of the 20th century, and its antibacterial properties were first demonstrated in 1949. Subsequent research showed it to have anti-inflammatory properties, anti-oxidant properties, and several other marked benefits.

Claims about the health benefits of curcumin abound. Traditionally, it was used to treat skin disorders, upper respiratory tract disorders, joint pain, digestive problems, and more. Modern research has confirmed some of these long-understood health benefits and helped demonstrate the biological mechanisms behind them.

Some curcumin health benefits include:

Arthritis Symptom Relief

Curcumin has been shown to help with the painful symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is due in large part to its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can manifest as redness, swelling, warmth in the affected joints, joint pain, and joint stiffness. Several studies have shown curcumin to be effective for reducing these inflammation symptoms.

Eye Health

Several studies have shown curcumin to be beneficial in managing inflammatory and degenerative eye disorders. While the study sizes have been relatively small, they indicate curcumin may be good for keeping eyes healthy and treating some eye diseases.

Kidney Health

Research has shown curcumin may be beneficial for your kidneys. Specifically, curcumin may help in healing acute kidney injuries and increasing antioxidants.

Hay Fever Relief

Hay fever or other seasonal allergy symptoms may be reduced by ingesting curcumin. This includes sneezing, itching, runny nose, and congestion. 

Potential Cancer Treatment

There’s not enough evidence to prove that curcumin can prevent or treat cancer. However, there are several studies currently ongoing that are aimed at better understanding curcumin’s potential in this area. Some research shows it may reduce the ability of cancer cells to multiply.

There are very few side effects or health risks known to be associated with curcumin. However, in a study that involved participants ingesting extremely high doses of curcumin, some reported diarrhea, headache, nausea, and yellow stool. 

Curcumin is considered an unproven treatment at this point in time. As such, no curcumin dosage standards are available. Curcumin can be ingested via foods seasoned with turmeric, as well as through turmeric and curcumin dietary supplements. However, it’s important to talk to your health care provider before taking any dietary supplements.

The Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) value of curcumin has been determined by the European Food Safety Authority to be 0-3 mg per kilogram of body weight, or roughly 0-1.4 mg per pound.

If you’re interested in adding more curcumin to your diet, the easiest way is to eat more turmeric. Many Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines regularly incorporate turmeric into their recipes. 

Many other recipes can benefit from a dash of turmeric as well, though. A few easy options include: