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Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It is responsible for giving the spice its distinctive, bright yellow coloring. Turmeric is often used in Indian cuisine, such as curries. It can also be found in mustards and as a food coloring for other foods. Some people take curcumin in a supplement for its many potential health benefits.
These supplements are often taken for digestive health. Curcumin may encourage the increased production of bile from the gallbladder, which may aid digestion. It may also relieve some symptoms of indigestion, such as bloating. Patients with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, may also benefit from curcumin supplements. While there is no cure for this disease, curcumin may encourage the remission of symptoms.
Patients who suffer from arthritis may also benefit from curcumin. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain, may be eased with this spice. It may also aid in the prevention of blood clots, however, more human research trials are needed to confirm these potential health benefits.
Curcumin supplements may slow the spread of cancer, and encourage the death of existing cancer cells. As of early 2010, this research was still ongoing. Cancer patients should talk to their doctors before taking any herbal supplements. Also, they should not neglect conventional medical treatment in favor of taking herbal remedies.
Any potential health benefits are thought to be a result of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are responsible for getting rid of free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause damage to the body’s cells, which may encourage the development of diseases. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties work by reducing levels of two specific enzymes in the body that result in inflammation.
The amounts of turmeric that are used in cooking are generally considered safe. People taking curcumin supplements, however, should be aware of the need for some precautions. Diabetics should not use these supplements without a doctor’s approval, as curcumin may result in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also not take curcumin supplements. In addition, patients with stomach ulcers, gallstones, or bile passage obstruction should ask a doctor before taking this substance.
Patients should also be aware of possible drug interactions. Curcumin should not be taken with blood-thinning medications. People who take diabetes medications or drugs to reduce stomach acid should also avoid curcumin supplements. Curcumin should not be taken prior to surgery, and patients should advise a surgeon of all herbal supplements they are taking.
The typical dose for curcumin supplements, taken as a standardized powder, is 400 to 600 milligrams (mg), taken three times daily. There is no standard dosage for children. Parents should discuss herbal supplements with the child’s pediatrician. Some patients have reported side effects when taking curcumin supplements. Possible side effects are nausea and diarrhea.
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