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Turmeric Outperforms Curcumin
Whenever Western scientists discover a new natural herbal medicine, they quickly try to isolate the active ingredient that makes this herb so beneficial. Then, they try to patent a process of extracting it and making it into a drug that only they can sell. This almost always backfires, as it has with turmeric. When you isolate the so-called active ingredient from a plant, it’s highly likely you will lose the most important benefits of that plant.
It is safe to say that most health-conscious people know about the benefits of turmeric and that most are probably taking an extract of turmeric called curcumin rather than raw turmeric (as the extract is thought to be a more potent form).
While curcumin is the constituent of turmeric that gives it its yellow color, it only makes up about 5% of the turmeric root. The other 95% is made up of more than 300 other constituents in turmeric that are rarely talked about. New science is suggesting that the whole turmeric root may be more potent than curcumin on its own.
To study this, researchers took the curcumin out of the turmeric root. They studied the effects of curcumin-free turmeric, and the results were surprising. The turmeric without the curcumin significantly outperformed the curcumin extract. The other constituents such as the turmerin, turmerone, elemene, furanodiene, curdione, bisacurone, cyclocurcumin, calebin A, and germacrone were shown to provide more potent support for healthy blood sugar, a normal inflammation response to changes in diet and exercise, and healthy cellular division.
In another study, curcumin was shown to boost brain stem cells, but the dose had to be precise. At a lower dose, stem cell activity increased, resulting in new nerve (brain) cell formation, but at a higher dose, curcumin was toxic. Curcumin also increased bone marrow stem cells at a low dose, but not at a higher dose. Again, at a higher dose, the curcumin had toxic effects.
When whole-plant extracts of turmeric were compared to isolated curcumin, the whole turmeric was twice as effective at inducing a heightened expression of perforin (a protein that plays an important role in immunity and cell replication).
In another study, a whole-plant turmeric extract was shown to have twice the amount of antioxidant activity, compared to isolated curcumin.
Yet another study examined curcuminoids in whole-plant turmeric versus isolated curcumin. Researchers found that low doses of whole-plant curcuminoids, given over a longer period of time, were more effective at supporting the natural drainage of brain toxins than high doses of isolated curcuminoids.
The Downside of Curcumin (Turmeric Extracts)
Herbal extracts are sterile, and function on a purely biochemical basis. In nature, all living plants and animals are incomplete without hosting their unique microbes. Research is now showing us the role that naturally occurring bacteria have on the health and potency of the plants and herbs we consume. When herbs are made into extracts, they are soaked in food-grade alcohol, killing the microbes that naturally occur. Certain microbes are specifically attracted to certain plants. The way these microbes boost the plants’ effectiveness, growth rate, and bioavailability has been well studied and is starting to be used in agriculture.
Naturally occurring bacterial endophytes are well known to boost growth in plants. In turmeric, these bacteria boosted the yield from 42% to 104% compared to the sterile controls. These synergistic bacteria also boosted levels of glutathione by 22% and carotenoids by 91%. They significantly boosted plant immunity and stress tolerance of turmeric.
Bacterial endophytes play a role in all plants, which is why consuming whole, organic herbs (and not extracts) should be considered a priority when shopping for herbs. Studies have found similar effects with ginseng. Bacterial endophytes in ginseng roots have been shown to increase growth, plant immunity, and the production of ginsenosides (the plant’s most medicinal compound). Nature employs the biochemistry of the plant and its naturally occurring microbes to boost the effectiveness and safety of herbal medicines.
That said, regulatory standards in the U.S. for manufacturing dietary supplements allow 1,000 times more potentially beneficial microbes to be attached to whole herbs compared to herbal extracts of the same plant. The microbes in the soils change from season to season and do so in perfect synchrony with the plants harvested in that season. Disturbing this in any way may be one reason why whole herbs regularly outperform herbal extracts or isolated “active constituents.”
Note: While there is compelling evidence that the intelligence of the whole plant is preferred over an isolated extract, for medical purposes, in order to boost a certain biochemical effect, there are times when curcumin and its curcuminoids would be more advantageous.
For Ayurvedic imbalances, everyday, or seasonal use, I suggest using LifeSpa’s Turmeric Plus. It is a raw, whole-herb organic turmeric made with the ideal ratio of organic turmeric to organic black pepper (a ratio of 16:1).
Learn more about LifeSpa’s Organic Whole Herb Line with Synergistic Bacteria and combining microbial intelligence with the plant’s natural biochemistry.
Black Pepper Boosts Turmeric Bio-availability by 2,000%
Raw turmeric root is rich in natural fatty acids that help increase its bio-availability by 7 to 8%. These naturally-occurring fats help slow the liver from processing and converting the turmeric constituents into water-soluble metabolites too quickly (which are then easily flushed from the body). The extract of turmeric (curcumin) is basically devoid of such fats, and much of the natural bio-availability boost of turmeric is lost in the extraction process.
Historically, Ayurvedic practitioners have a good understanding of these fatty bio-available benefits, as they would commonly deliver turmeric in a paste with cultured ghee. This also slows down the liver’s processing time of turmeric, allowing the turmeric constituents to linger in the bloodstream much longer.
Black pepper was also used in curry powder to boost the bioavailability of turmeric. As it turns out, the piperine in black pepper helps inhibit the liver’s ability to metabolize turmeric. In fact, mixing black pepper with a turmeric extract boosted bio-availability by a whopping 2,000 percent.
The combination of black pepper and turmeric has been shown over and over again to boost the antioxidant activity and bioavailability of turmeric. In one study when cooking meat, the addition of black pepper and turmeric significantly protected the meat from the damage of its fats (lipid peroxidation).
The combination of turmeric and black pepper has also been shown to boost the natural production of digestive enzymes, increase bile flow from the liver and gallbladder, and boost the absorption of vitamin A carotenoids from a meal.
Whole-Herb Turmeric + Black Pepper Benefits
Turmeric has numerous well-documented and time-tested benefits, including the following:
- Supports stable mood
- Boosts immunity through antioxidant activity
- Helps the liver with the detoxification of environmental toxins
- Helps maintain healthy lymphatic drainage
- Supports inner and outer skin health
- Maintains healthy joint function
- Supports overall intestinal health
- Boosts gallbladder & bile function
- Supports healthy blood sugar balance
- Maintains brain health & cognitive function
- Supports a normal inflammation response to changes in diet & exercise