Curcumin: the antioxidant everyone is talking about

Curcumin: the antioxidant everyone is talking about

In our modern world, health is becoming a top priority for many of us. With that, natural remedies like turmeric are grabbing the limelight. You’ll find it in fresh and powdered form in the supermarket, as an array of supplements in the health store and even as a tasty latte in your local coffee shop! But why exactly is there so much hype around it? It’s because the antioxidant benefits of curcumin (turmeric’s bioactive wonder compound) present a promising prospect for those seeking a well-researched natural approach to maintaining health and preventing disease.

Firstly, what is curcumin?

Derived from the Curcuma longa plant, curcumin is a naturally occurring compound found mainly in the spice turmeric and is responsible for its bright yellow appearance. This bioactive compound belongs to the family of curcuminoids, a type of phytochemical found in certain plants. Curcumin is the primary curcuminoid in turmeric, constituting nearly 3% of the spice by weight. Turmeric itself has been used for centuries in traditional medicine across the globe, renowned for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties[1].

What are antioxidants and why are they important?

Antioxidants are molecules that help to scavenge free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds which are continuously formed in the body through normal metabolic processes (for example, our immune system produces free radicals when fighting off infections); however, free radical molecules are unstable and may damage otherwise healthy cells. Antioxidants work by ‘lending’ an electron to a free radical, stabilising the molecule and reducing the damage it can cause to nearby healthy cells. Without antioxidants, free radical damage can result in oxidative stress, which can increase levels of inflammation. Oxidative stress, much like inflammation, has been linked to the development of several diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer[2].

Antioxidants are produced in our body to some degree, but they can also be found in a variety of foods containing particular nutrients. For example, vitamins A, C and E work as antioxidants in the body, as do some minerals such as zinc and selenium, and specific phytonutrients found in plant foods, including turmeric’s curcumin. While many phytonutrients have antioxidant capabilities, curcumin has been found to have a particularly high rate of antioxidant activity and as such, exhibit many beneficial effects on human health.

How can curcumin’s antioxidants benefit health?

Curcumin is one of the most heavily researched phytonutrients to date and its antioxidant capability has been shown to be supportive for a number of ailments, including reducing pain, improving muscle recovery, supporting gut health and even regulating mood[3]. Let’s take a look at some of the compelling evidence for curcumin use…

Brain health –  Curcumin supplementation has been shown to prevent cell death in the hippocampus, the learning and memory centre of the brain. Furthermore, curcumin promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is vital for the brain to grow new cells and adapt (known as brain plasticity) and reduces inflammation in the brain[4]. As such, improvements in Alzheimer’s and depression symptoms have been observed with curcumin supplementation in several studies[5][6]. To learn more about how curcumin can promote a happy brain, click here.

Gut support –  Thanks to its antioxidant activity, curcumin may support gut health by reducing inflammation, decreasing gut permeability (often referred to as leaky gut, which has been linked to several other health conditions) and amplifying microbiome diversity. In turn, curcumin may promote optimal immune function as the gut and immune system are intrinsically linked.

Immune function – Curcumin inhibits inflammatory responses by suppressing several metabolic pathways, reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines, and increases the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines[7]. Furthermore, it also works in conjunction with and promotes the functionality of various cells of the immune system, including macrophages and dendritic cells[8].

Blood sugar regulation – Both supplementation and regular dietary turmeric consumption have been shown to decrease blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity[9]. Poor blood sugar balance has been implicated in a number of health conditions, most obviously type 2 diabetes, but also conditions like PCOS, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and hyper/hypothyroidism. As such, consumption of turmeric, alongside management of other lifestyle factors, may help to prevent disease development or improve disease symptoms.

Unlocking curcumin’s antioxidant potential

If you enjoy it, including a regular dose of turmeric in your diet would certainly be advisable. That being said, the average dose of curcumin used in most studies is between 500mg – 1000mg a day for at least 6 weeks; as curcumin only makes up around 3% of turmeric, you would be required to eat 15,000g – 33,000g a day to get this amount! This simply isn’t possible; instead, taking a curcumin supplement is a much more viable option to reap its antioxidant effects.

It is also important to note that curcumin is hydrophobic (meaning it repels water) and alone, does not have high bioavailability, with up to 85% passing through the digestive system unchanged. Don’t fret – studies show that consuming curcumin with a source of fat or black pepper can increase its absorption substantially[10]. You can learn more about curcumin absorption here. Our curcumin capsules contain turmeric root extract, concentrated to a minimum of 20% bioactive curcuminoids, delivered through the UltraSOL Nutrient Delivery System, increasing absorption by up to 46 times more than standard curcumin.


[1] Hewlings, S. and Kalman, D. (2017) ‘Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health’, Foods, 6(10), p. 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092.

[2] Pizzino, G. et al. (2017) ‘Oxidative stress: Harms and benefits for human health’, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, pp. 1–13. doi:10.1155/2017/8416763.

[3] Hao, M. et al. (2023) ‘Pharmacological mechanisms and clinical applications of curcumin: Update’, Aging and disease, 14(3), p. 716. doi:10.14336/ad.2022.1101.

[4] Tizabi, Y. et al. (2014) ‘Relevance of the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin in neurodegenerative diseases and depression’, Molecules, 19(12), pp. 20864–20879. doi:10.3390/molecules191220864.

[5] Voulgaropoulou, S.D. et al. (2019) ‘The effect of curcumin on cognition in alzheimer’s disease and healthy aging: A systematic review of pre-clinical and clinical studies’, Brain Research, 1725, p. 146476. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2019.146476.

[6] Lopresti, A.L. (2017) ‘Curcumin for Neuropsychiatric Disorders: A review of in vitro, animal and human studies’, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(3), pp. 287–302. doi:10.1177/0269881116686883.

[7] Allegra, A. et al. (2022) ‘The impact of curcumin on immune response: An immunomodulatory strategy to treat sepsis’, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 23(23), p. 14710. doi:10.3390/ijms232314710.

[8] Bose, S. et al. (2015) ‘Curcumin and tumor immune-editing: Resurrecting the immune system’, Cell Division, 10(1). doi:10.1186/s13008-015-0012-z.

[9] Marton, L.T. et al. (2021) ‘The effects of curcumin on diabetes mellitus: A systematic review’, Frontiers in Endocrinology, 12. doi:10.3389/fendo.2021.669448.

[10] Lopresti, A.L. (2018) ‘The problem of curcumin and its bioavailability: Could its gastrointestinal influence contribute to its overall health-enhancing effects?’, Advances in Nutrition, 9(1), pp. 41–50. doi:10.1093/advances/nmx011.

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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Antioxidantsblood sugarBrain HealthDigestive Healthgut supportImmune HealthImmune SupportPhytonutrients

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