by Dr Nina Bailey BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, RNutr

Turmeric root, a source of polyphenol actives collectively known as curcuminoids, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Hindu medicine for its numerous health benefits. As with many natural spices consumed in South Asian and Middle Eastern countries, turmeric would have been (and continues to be) regularly consumed, in amounts reaching several grams daily, with benefits being conferred over many years of consumption.

The Indian system of holistic medicine known as ‘Ayurveda’ (which translates as ‘knowledge of life’) mainly uses plant-based formulations to treat various ailments. In Ayurvedic practices, standard turmeric has many well-recognised medicinal properties, including improving digestion, regulating menstruation, and even relieving symptoms of mild arthritis. Unsurprisingly, modern science has begun to recognise the therapeutic importance of turmeric, focusing on its active curcuminoid components: demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin and most notably, the key active, curcumin.


Curcumin the antioxidant 

Free radicals (which cause oxidative stress) are generated in excess as a consequence of our environment, our diet, and even as a byproduct of normal metabolic processes. The human body has a number of strategies to counteract the negative effects of oxidative stress. These include the production of both enzyme and non-enzyme antioxidants (e.g. glutathione and coenzyme Q10). In addition to these 'endogenously' produced molecules, we can offer further support against the burden of oxidative stress through dietary consumption and supplementation. Curcumin may seem like an unlikely antioxidant, but it has both the ability to reduce oxidative stress and increase naturally produced antioxidants, including glutathione. Glutathione, often called the 'master' antioxidant, is one of the body's most important antioxidant compounds, functioning to boost the utilisation and recycling of other antioxidants. (1)

Curcumin the anti-inflammatory

An excess of free radicals can lead to inflammation; in turn, inflammatory processes induce oxidative stress. As oxidative stress and inflammation are directly linked to a wide variety of health conditions and chronic diseases, reducing this potential burden is crucial to managing good health. Curcumin exerts beneficial effects by regulating inflammatory pathways and inhibiting the production of compounds that drive inflammatory processes. (2)

Curcumin for gut health

In addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, curcumin also has the ability to interact with and influence the health of our gut bacteria (microbiota, or gut flora). A healthy gut flora has a number of important functions in the body; imbalances in the composition and diversity of the gut flora (known as dysbiosis, which can be induced by poor dietary choices and antibiotic use) can have a direct impact on both mental and physical health. Evidence supports a beneficial effect of curcumin supplementation on the management of gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, and that it may even help to eliminate H. pylori infections. Overgrowth of H. pylori bacteria can lead to inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining and is the most common cause of peptic ulcers. (3) Curcumin not only influences the richness, diversity, and composition of the gut flora, but bacterial conversion of curcumin to tetrahydrocurcumin (THC - a bioactive compound) also occurs in the gut by ‘good’ bacteria. As THC is more soluble than curcumin, the absorption of THC in addition to curcumin may result in some of the indirect benefits arising from curcumin consumption. (4)

Curcumin for joint health

As with the majority of chronic health conditions, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis are inflammation-driven. Unsurprisingly, numerous studies have shown the beneficial effects of curcumin supplementation, mainly in reduction of pain and stiffness, improvement of physical movement, and the ability to decrease use standard painkillers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). (5,6)

Curcumin and sports

In addition, curcumin may improve symptoms associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) incurred by sporting activities (e.g. resistance exercise, high-intensity interval training, and running). Benefits include relief from muscle damage, muscle soreness, and general inflammation, as well as improvements in muscle strength and joint flexibility. (7,8)

Curcumin for brain health

Neurodegeneration is the hallmark feature of many age-related diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Neuroinflammation is known to disrupt many factors of neuronal function and is the key target for many of the existing pharmaceutical products used to treat the associated conditions. While the interest in curcumin’s potential in neurocognitive disorders is currently supported by in vitro and animal studies, curcumin’s limited bioavailability appears to hamper benefits in human trials. (9) In addition, curcumin is required to remain in the free-form (biologically active) state to allow passage across the blood-brain barrier in order to initiate its numerous neuroprotective effects. As the majority of existing curcumin products do not provide free-form curcumin, benefits are likely to be limited to formulas like Longvida® Curcumin, which is one of the few existing formulas clinically demonstrated to deliver curcumin in the biologically active form. (10)  For example, while b-amyloid (a key protein linked to cognitive impairment) accumulates throughout life, it is the inability to break down and clear b-amyloid that raises the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Longvida® Curcumin has been demonstrated in healthy individuals to aid in the clearance of b-amyloid. This feature of Longvida® Curcumin is attributed to its ability to deliver free-form curcumin across the blood-brain barrier. (11)

Curcumin and general health benefits

While the majority of curcumin studies in humans have been in populations with existing health problems, regular consumption of curcumin has been shown in human studies to be extremely beneficial for maintaining good health and emotional wellbeing. Curcumin (as Longvida®) has demonstrated benefits for memory, alertness, and mood (general fatigue and changes in state for calmness, contentedness, and fatigue induced by psychological stress). Longvida® Curcumin has also been demonstrated in healthy individuals to increase antioxidant status, reduce markers of inflammation and stress, lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, the latter being a positive for cardiovascular health. (11,12,13)


For any nutrient to be bioavailable, it must be digested, absorbed, and retained by the body, allowing it to become available to cells and tissues. In the case of curcumin, there are a number of barriers to bioavailability to consider:

Curcumin is unstable

Curcumin is stable within the acidic environment of the stomach but becomes increasingly unstable as it enters the alkaline environment of the small intestine. (14) The unstable nature of curcumin in alkaline conditions means it is prone to degradation as it moves through the gut, converting to products that are less potent than the original curcumin (e.g. vanillin and ferulic acid). Unless curcumin is protected from the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tract, the majority will simply be degraded prior to any absorption. 

Curcumin is insoluble

Curcumin is extremely hydrophobic (water-hating) and this hydrophobic nature leads to clumping, limiting absorption. Because curcumin is insoluble, very little gets into the circulation and simply passes through the body via the gastrointestinal system. 

Curcumin has a short half-life

Curcumin undergoes changes in the gut prior to absorption and in the liver after absorption. These conversions result in the production of glucuronide and sulfate, curcumin compounds that render curcumin more bulky (which further limits curcumin uptake across the gut wall, meaning that a significant proportion of curcumin is excreted unabsorbed in the faeces) and water-soluble (allowing any absorbed curcumin to be easily excreted by the kidneys). This rapid metabolism and fast excretion mean that the half-life of curcumin (the amount of time it takes for levels to fall by half) can be as little as a matter of minutes.  


Recognising the barriers to absorption has led to various formulations being developed to enhance stability and solubility, with the goal of enhancing bioavailability and efficacy. Depending on formulation type, curcumin products can now be clearly divided into three categories: first, second, and third generation. (15)

First-generation formulations include the use of compounds like Curcumin C3 Complex® with added piperine to inhibit enzymes required to produce undesirable glucuronide and sulfate curcumin compounds. The first-generation formulas do not enhance solubility, but focus on enhancing the absorption and retention of curcumin by inhibiting or delaying its metabolism and therefore excretion. However the enzymes blocked by piperine also play an essential role as detoxifying enzymes. As we do not want to block the important detoxification process, Igennus does not use piperine in its products.  

Second-generation formulations use compounds such as carbohydrate complexes to increase the stability and solubility of curcumin for enhanced absorption and full body benefits. Our High Absorption Curcumin C3 Complex® falls under the second-generation tier, and its unique hydrogel dispersal technology protects curcumin from the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tract while solubilising curcumin for enhanced, rapid uptake, leading to 300% bioavailability compared to standard 95% curcumin formulations. High Absorption Curcumin C3 Complex® is the ideal product for everyday use for those who are seeking general support.  

Curcumin C3 Complex® is a patented, full spectrum, standardised extract containing a ratio-defined mixture of three curcuminoids. Sabinsa’s Curcumin C3 Complex® was the first concentrated 95% curcumin product to reach market and is supported by a plethora of peer-reviewed scientific studies published over several decades, with proven benefits covering both physical and mental wellbeing. (16)

Third-generation curcumin formulations like Longvida® Curcumin not only overcome stability and solubility but also solve the issue of ‘free’ curcuminoids bioavailability. As such, third-generation formulations can be considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for ensuring curcumin delivers both body and brain benefits. The Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle (SLCP) technology used by Longvida® delivers curcumin directly into the lymphatic system, thereby bypassing first-pass metabolism by the liver and resulting in a significant increase in bioavailability. Indeed, the novel uptake over standard curcumin means that Longvida® Curcumin delivers 65x higher peak plasma levels and stays in circulation for up to 7x longer. The unprecedented bioavailability of Longvida® Optimised Curcumin and the ability to deliver free-form curcumin make it the ideal product for those seeking intensive clinical support.


Of the three major curcuminoids, curcumin (comprising only 3-5% of turmeric root), is now recognised as the primary active component of turmeric but it is poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract, and the small amount that is absorbed is rapidly excreted by the kidneys. This rapid metabolism and fast excretion mean that the half-life of curcumin (the amount of time it takes for levels to fall by half) can be as little as a matter of minutes, making it challenging to gain significant benefits from curcumin by drinking the odd turmeric latte or occasionally adding it to food. Given the increasing number of products now available to consumers (often with misleading marketing messages), choosing the right formulation to ensure maximum benefits is challenging. Unlike standard curcumin products, which are not protected from breakdown in the gut or formulated to boost uptake and protection, the use of Longvida® Optimised Curcumin and High Absorption Curcumin C3 Complex® are likely to offer significant benefits. 


1. Jakubczyk et al., Antioxidant Potential of Curcumin-A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Nov 6;9(11):1092.

2. Peng et al., Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Curcumin in the Inflammatory Diseases: Status, Limitations and Countermeasures. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2021 Nov 2;15:4503-4525.

3. Atefi et al., A Systematic Review of the Clinical Use of Curcumin for the Management of Gastrointestinal Diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1291:295-326.

4. Scazzocchio et al., Interaction between Gut Microbiota and Curcumin: A New Key of Understanding for the Health Effects of Curcumin. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 19;12(9):2499.

5. Kou et al., Effect of curcumin on rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Immunol. 2023 May 31;14:1121655.

6. Shokri-Mashhadi et al., A Systematic Review of the Clinical Use of Curcumin for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1291:265-282.

7. Beba et al., The effect of curcumin supplementation on delayed-onset muscle soreness, inflammation, muscle strength, and joint flexibility: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2022 Jul;36(7):2767-2778.

8. Fernández-Lázaro et al., Modulation of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage, Inflammation, and Oxidative Markers by Curcumin Supplementation in a Physically Active Population: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 15;12(2):501.

9. Monroy et al., Curcumin and neurodegenerative diseases. Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):122-32.

10. Gota et al., Safety and pharmacokinetics of a solid lipid curcumin particle formulation in osteosarcoma patients and healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Feb 24;58(4):2095-9.

11. DiSilvestro et al., Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people.Nutr J. 2012 Sep 26;11:79.

12. Takahashi et al., Effects of curcumin supplementation on exercise-induced oxidative stress in humans. Int J Sports Med. 2014 Jun;35(6):469-75.

13. Cox et al., Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population.J Psychopharmacol. 2015 May;29(5):642-51.

14. Treesinchai et al., Determination of curcumin stability in various gastrointestinal pH by Arrhenius equation using HPLC method Medicine, Materials Science 1 February 2016

15. Hegde et al. Curcumin Formulations for Better Bioavailability: What We Learned from Clinical Trials Thus Far? ACS Omega. 2023 Mar 13;8(12):10713-10746.


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This article explores the benefits of supplementing with curcumin and provides useful information if you are deciding which type may be best for you. If you require more support, feel free to contact our approachable team of nutrition professionals who will be more than happy to support you further or point you in the right direction.

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