Ok, to finally answer your question about curcumin.
I lost my notes on this. Nothing in life is ever as simple as I’d like it to be. So, from memory then.
Curcumin inhibits NF-kB transcription. I do believe it was higher up the chain than that, but can’t remember where. NF-kB basically controls inflammation, producing cytokines, etc. This gives it tremendous potential in affecting everything from cancer to arthritis to mast cells to Alzheimer’s, as well as pain and healing. Really, almost everything we hear about all the time but don’t have treatments for. It even affects the duration of a hangover.
Note that I said “affects”. In most studies it is found to reduce chemo-resistance of cancer cells or even eliminate the cancer itself, for instance, but in other studies it has been shown to do the opposite – it causes cancer, increases liver damage caused by alcohol, etc. This appears to be dose-dependent. In the case of alcohol, a “low” dose protects the liver from ethanol-induced damage, while a dose 50-100x higher increases the damage done. Such is the case with most drugs (don’t take the whole bottle of aspirin), but this increases difficulty for now as we don’t know what a “low” or “high” dose is for humans.
Curcumin is also complicated by the fact that humans metabolize it extremely effectively, making it pretty much useless for us. We would have to take about 12g of 95% extract, or 24 capsules, for a minimal effect. We also can’t absorb it all at once in this state. If we ate the plant it is extracted from, 250g or more is needed. Therefore, when you hear people advocating the addition of curry powder to your meals to treat every illness known to mankind, you will know that adding a little curry powder to your cooking is certainly not going to help unless the whole meal is curry powder. In addition, there is some question as to whether curcumin degrades after being heated to normal cooking temperatures.
On the other hand, curcumin extract with oil/fats and/or phosphatidylcholine is much better for humans. Different combinations produce different plasma and tissue concentrations, affecting how much crosses the blood-brain barrier. This would be a great time to have those notes I lost.
I did save some research related to two specific curcumin formulations, Meriva and Longvida.
20% curcumin extract (75% curcumin, 15% demethoxycurcumin, 10% disdemethoxycurcumin)
40% microcrystalline cellulose
has had excellent results in a human osteoarthritis trial at 1g/day for 8 months.
Longvida has some research on the acute concentration reached in humans, which I calculated to 0.04668uM per 500mg capsule. The concentration also increases over time, and if I remember correctly, can become around twice the acute concentration after chronic daily use. This knowledge will help in finding a proper dose range for specific purposes, such as effects on enzymes – “Inhibits SULT > CYP2C19 > CYP2B6 > UGT > CYP2C9 > CYP3A activities with IC50 values ranging from 0.99 ± 0.04 to 25.3 ± 1.3 μM.”
As for side-effects, they can be as numerous as the positive effects. For instance, inhibition of NF-kB results in inhibition of COX. Most of us know COX-1 and COX-2 very well; COX-1 is inhibited by asprin, causing blood thinning effects. COX-2 is inhibited by other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (and also aspirin). Whether you consider any effects to be positive or negative will depend on your situation.
Is curcumin better than any other NF-kB inhibitors? It doesn’t require a prescription, and that’s enough for me.