Curcumin is an active compound from turmeric, a plant belonging to the ginger family Zingiberaceae, native to tropical South Asia. Turmeric originates from the Vedic culture in India and south Asia; it is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and throughout Africa and Jamaica in traditional medicine.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a well-documented treatment for rheumatism and swelling. Unani practitioners use turmeric to improve blood circulation, and in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is used to improve digestion.
Reduces inflammation and pain and improves function in arthritis.
A 2021 systematic review of the therapeutic effects of curcumin on pain and function for knee osteoarthritis concluded that compared with placebo, there appears to be a benefit for pain and function. Based on several studies, the effects are similar to that of NSAIDs. Optimal dosing, frequency and formulation remain unclear at this time.
Markers of inflammation are reliably reduced with supplementation in inflammatory conditions.
Piperine, a compound in black pepper, enhances the ability to absorb curcumin, so it should be taken together for the best results.
Turmeric and curcumin are safe when used in cooking but are quantities are low, so unlikely to have therapeutic effects. Ground turmeric has been found to be contaminated with lead from Bangladesh and Indian sources through processing methods. No amount of lead ingestion is safe. Do your research and only buy trusted brands. For more information about lead in herbs and spices in NZ: Do your herbs and spices contain arsenic, cadmium or lead? – Consumer NZ
Therapeutic levels of curcumin in supplements are generally considered safe.
Where to find it
You can buy fresh turmeric root at most fruit and vegetable stores in New Zealand. Ground turmeric is available at most supermarkets and food stores. Curcumin supplements are available at most health stores.