13 Benefits of Liposomal Curcumin for Diabetes, Pain & More
Curcumin is found in turmeric, the spice that gives curry its distinct yellowish color. Its health benefits extend to pain relief, lower blood pressure, stronger gut health, and many others.
More recently, liposomal curcumin has entered the scene as an alternative to standard curcumin supplements because curcumin is poorly absorbed in plain powder form. By utilizing liposomal technology, a high-quality liposomal curcumin can greatly increase both absorption and bioavailability of this powerful nutrient.
Let’s examine how liposomal curcumin can offer unique health benefits, how to choose the best option, and potential side effects.
What is curcumin?
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and gives turmeric its yellow pigment, as well as a host of health benefits. It’s a common staple in Eastern diets.
Curcumin’s Latin name is Curcuma longa. It is extracted from the turmeric root, a rhizome. Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry, for instance.
Because of the presence of curcumin, turmeric has been utilized as a medicine for thousands of years. (Source 1) A cornerstone of Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, peer-reviewed scientific research has begun to catch up with the power of this traditional medicine.
Many manufacturers have isolated curcumin from turmeric and sell a straightforward curcumin supplement. The major concern with many turmeric or curcumin supplements is bioavailability, as powdered turmeric contains only about 3% curcumin by weight. (Source 2)
Liposomal Curcumin vs. Other Curcumin Supplements
Liposomal curcumin is the most bioavailable version of curcumin offered to general consumers.
First: What does liposomal mean?
A liposome is a microscopic sphere that mimics our own cells. Just like our own cell membranes envelope the contents or our cells, a liposome is formed by the same double layer of phospholipids that forms the outer shell of the sphere.
The most common building block of both liposomes and cells is a phospholipid called phosphatidylcholine or (PC for short). Unlike a cell, which contains many other components, liposomes usually contain individual drugs or supplements in the center of the sphere at their core.
This process is called liposomal encapsulation and is advantageous because it allows for higher absorption of the contents of the liposome than the plain drug or supplement equivalentWhen liposome comes into contact with the cell membrane of the small intestinal cells, the cell wall fuses with the liposome. The nutrient within the liposome — such as curcumin — is then directly introduced to the small intestine cells, which are in general responsible for absorption of all of the nutrients from our diet
This direct interaction and fusion with your cells give liposomes a higher absorption rate (bioavailability) because it bypasses absorption through slow channels called transporters which have limited speed and capacity.
Liposomal formulation of curcuminoids (the active compounds in curcumin) has a higher bioavailability than other curcumin supplements. (Source 3)
13 Scientific Benefits of Liposomal Curcumin
The benefits of liposomal curcumin have far-reaching effects on many parts of the body and may even help to treat and/or reverse certain disease conditions.
It’s important to note that some studies discuss the benefits of liposomal curcumin delivered intravenously. We’ll notate this as we discuss the relevant research, but keep in mind that these benefits may not extend to liposomal supplements you consume.
IV curcumin is currently not available in the United States, as it has been removed from use.
1. Inflammation & Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress occurs when an excessive amount of free radicals are produced in a cell or the body overall.
Free radicals wreak havoc on our cells because they have unpaired electrons and they are inherently unstable. They “steal” electrons and damage, or oxidize (“rust”) everything they come in contact with, including DNA, cell membranes, blood vessels, nerve cells etc., leading to epigenetic changes, inflammation, and potential disease states.
High oxidative stress is present in all chronic illnesses, including diabetes, autoimmune conditions, metabolic dysfunction (high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity), and cancer. Antioxidants are the antidote to free radicals, donating electrons and extinguishing their harmful effects.
Curcumin has been shown to have a potent direct antioxidant activity. Animal research shows liposomal curcumin can fight free radicals that may cause damage to liver cells when they are exposed to toxic levels of copper. In fact, curcumin worked as well as a prescription heavy metal chelator desferrioxamine. (Source 4).
Antioxidant containing liposomes, such as glutathione and curcumin, show promise in aiding in the prevention and/or treatment of diseases caused by oxidative stress — such as high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.
According to a 2011 paper in the Journal of Toxicology, “Encapsulation of… nonenzymatic antioxidants [including curcumin] in liposomes improves their therapeutic potential against oxidant-induced tissue injuries.” (Source 5)
2. Diabetes & Blood Sugar
Nearly ten percent of Americans have diabetes, wherein blood sugar (also called blood glucose) levels are too high. In type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, liposomal curcumin may help to regulate blood sugar levels and even alleviate symptoms of diabetes.
A 2018 clinical trial in human subjects pitted a standard curcumin supplement against fish oil, an omega-3 rich supplement also thought to be beneficial in diabetes. In the small study group of 16 volunteers, curcumin (with or without fish oil) successfully reduced the glycemic response immediately after a meal, while fish oil did not produce the same result. (Source 6)
One reason curcuminoids (curcumin’s active compounds) may impact blood sugar regulation is because they activate an enzyme called AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase).
AMPK is an enzyme system that senses cellular energy. When cellular energy levels are low, AMPK turns on and starts a chain reaction involving increasing response to insulin, lowering liver glucose production and turning on fat burning.
AMPK activation is desirable in lowering blood sugar, but it is abnormal in Type 2 diabetes. Activation is one of the “therapeutic targets” diabetes medications such as metformin aims to influence — but curcumin also acts directly on this system stimulating AMPK. (Source 7, Source 8)
A 2009 lab study stated that: “Curcuminoids increased the phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and its downstream target acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) in H4IIE and Hep3B cells with 400 times (curcumin) to 100,000 times (Tetra Hydro Curcuminoids) the potency of metformin.” (Source 9) Metformin is a drug frequently used as a part of diabetes treatment to lower blood sugar levels.
3. Circulatory Health
The circulatory system includes the blood vessels, heart, and blood. Liposomal curcumin may improve blood flow through the circulatory system and reduce plaque buildup that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
A 2014 randomized, double-blinded trial found that a standard curcumin supplement lowered the risk for cardiovascular atherosclerotic (plaque) deposition in diabetic patients, including plaque buildup, triglyceride levels, body fat, and more. (Source 10)
"Bad" cholesterol (LDL), especially when it is oxidized by free radicals, can build up in blood vessels and form plaque. Advancing deposition of plaque can accumulate to the point where blood can’t flow efficiently enough to deliver blood to the heart, brain, or other organs.
The results of an animal study suggest that supplementing curcumin will lower the risk of LDL cholesterol forming plaque in blood vessels. The animals (rabbits) in this study also experienced a reduction in overall cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (Source 11)
The LDL-lowering effect of curcuminoids were confirmed in a study of patients with metabolic syndrome. When curcuminoids were administered along with piperine, a compound in black and long pepper known to increase bioavailability of curcumin, patients experienced a significant improvement in LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides and total cholesterol. (Source 12)
Liposomal delivery of curcumin and atorvastatin (a cholesterol-lowering medication) worked better at reducing plaque than either of the two agents alone. This suggests they could lower the risk of heart attack or stroke, according to a 2019 lab study. (Source 13)
Though mostly observed in the short term of one to two months, curcumin is a safe and effective treatment for depression, based on an analysis of six clinical trials including 377 subjects. (Source 14)
A more recent placebo-controlled study in 65 participants taking curcumin in doses of 500-1500 mg for 4 months found that it reduced symptoms of depression with no notable side effects. (Source 15)
An analysis of all of the double-blinded human studies done on curcumin and depression concluded that curcumin improved both depressive symptoms and anxiety without significant side effects. Since most anti-depressants carry significant risks and unplesant side effects inlcuding worsening of depression and even suicide, curcumin should at leats be considered as a useful adjunct treatment in depression. (Source 16)
A 2014 randomized controlled trial compared curcumin supplementation to a popular antidepressant, fluoxetine (Prozac) and found that, over a course of six weeks, the three treatments used in the trial (curcumin alone, fluoxetine alone, or a combination of the two) all resulted in similar improvements in depressive symptoms. (Source 17)
One sixth of all Americans experience some form of arthritis, and this pain can make everyday life very difficult. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of joints and bones, causing pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis, another common form of arthritis, is an autoimmune condition.
All forms of arthritis are closely associated with chronic inflammation of the joints.
During a lab study utilizing tissue samples from patients with arthritis, curcumin promoted healthy cell death (cell apoptosis) and alleviated inflammation associated with arthritis by blocking expression of the protease MMP3. (Source 18)
A 2013 review classified curcumin as having “preclinical evidence of efficacy” for arthritis treatment. This essentially means curcumin shows promise for treating this condition, but its impact hasn’t been sufficiently proven in randomized controlled clinical trials. (Source 19)
6. Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome
Worldwide obesity has almost tripled in the past 50 years.
Curcumin regulates chronic, low-grade inflammation in fat cells (adipose tissue), downregulates the expression of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα), and encourages adiponectin expression (an anti-inflammatory agent).
As researchers at the State University of New York state: “Through these diverse mechanisms curcumin reduces obesity and curtails the adverse health effects of obesity.” (Source 20)
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), and/or high triglycerides. This cluster of symptoms increases your risk for stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Curcumin and its anti-inflammatory properties attenuate many of these symptoms. (Source 21)
The above results from standard curcumin have not been tested with liposomal curcumin supplements.
7. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to fever, diarrhea, anemia, or uncontrolled bowel movements.
The mechanism by which curcumin alleviates IBD symptoms is related to its anti-inflammatory properties. Because curcumin isn’t as well-absorbed in standard supplements, the writers of a 2014 review point out that liposomal formulations may help to increase absorption and, by extension, the benefits of curcumin for IBD. (Source 22)
Even in children, curcumin is a safe and effective treatment for IBD with no side effects recorded at doses as high as two grams administered twice daily. (Source 23)
8. Detoxification Support
From chemicals in food and air pollution to excessive sun exposure and alcohol overuse, it’s no surprise that our bodies are constantly trying to expel toxins. Curcumin stimulates detoxification enzymes that support this process.
Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is “considered to be one of the most harmful and potent aflatoxins among all other known mycotoxins” (fungus-produced metabolites that can cause disease). Like other toxins, AFB1 is detoxified and expelled by the body by a process that takes place within the liver. However, this mycotoxin can actually induce liver damage and reduce the organ’s ability to naturally detoxify the body.
By fighting free radical activity and activating or deactivating certain enzymes in this process, curcumin, in a 2018 animal study, protected the subjects’ livers from damage when exposed to AFB1. (Source 24)
A 2013 review of curcumin’s impact on the health of the liver stated: “Curcumin’s ability in modifying phase II detoxification enzymes has a crucial role in detoxification reactions and oxidative stress.” The review also notes the importance of methods to increase bioavailability of curcumin for more potent results, including liposomal delivery. (Source 25)
Intravenously delivered with sumatriptan (a medication for migraines and cluster headaches), liposomal curcumin enhanced the results of the drug and alleviated migraine headaches in one 2018 animal study. (Source 26)
Administered intravenously in another animal study, liposomal curcumin increased the impact of naproxen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, more effectively reducing oxidative stress and relieving migraine pain. (Source 27)
Curcumin helps to relieve joint pain associated with arthritis. (Source 15)
Orally consumed curcumin may help to alleviate pain from muscle damage and delayed soreness that occurs after workouts, according to a 2015 animal study. (Source 28)
In a 2014 clinical trial, males who supplemented with a fat-soluble, delayed-release formulation of curcumin for two days experienced reduced muscle pain after running downhill. The most significant pain reduction was in the thighs. (Source 29)
10. Gastrointestinal Health
Curcumin may act as an effective promoter of overall gut health, including microbiome diversity, reduced risk of GI-related cancers, prevention of liver fibrosis, protection of proper gut permeability, improved immune system function, and protection from certain infections.
A 2011 review on curcumin’s impact on the gastrointestinal system stated that: “Curcumin may be particularly suited to be developed to treat gastrointestinal diseases.”
They cite research supporting its use for the prevention and/or treatment of esophageal, stomach, intestinal, pancreatic, liver, and oral cancers, liver fibrosis, and inflammatory bowel disease (as discussed above). Like many other reviews, the writers mention the importance of curcuminoid delivery systems that increase bioavailability, including liposomal curcumin. (Source 30)
Curcumin exhibits antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antifungal effects on the gastrointestinal tract. This keeps your gut healthy and may be a reason curcumin has such wide-reaching health benefits. (Source 31)
Nearly three in four Americans experience stress on a regular basis.
A 2007 animal trial concluded that curcumin may alleviate the neurological effects of chronic stress by protecting hippocampal neurons. (Source 32)
12. Memory & Cognition (& Alzheimer’s)
16 million people in the US are affected by memory loss.
A 4-week clinical trial found curcumin improved memory, cognition, and mood in healthy older adults. As an added bonus, the subjects’ LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels decreased. (Source 33)
In recent years, curcumin has been touted as a preventative and therapeutic agent for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. Curcumin seems not only to help prevent Alzheimer’s; it shows promise as a treatment once the disease has begun to progress. (Source 36)
A 2008 review recounts evidence that, in patients experiencing Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin supplementation significantly improves overall memory. (Source 37)
A lab study published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine found that liposomes containing curcumin and nerve growth factor may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and potentially halt neurotoxicity associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s. (Source 38)
13. Eye Health
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-boosting, and protein-modifying properties may play a critical role in alleviating the symptoms and root causes of eye diseases, including glaucoma.
- Corneal diseases
- Dry eye disease
- Anterior uveitis
How to Choose the Best Liposomal Curcumin (with Dosage)
What brand of liposomal curcumin is best?
Some manufacturers add lecithin or phosphatidylcholine as an ingredient to make it seem like their product is liposomal. Though it’s true those compounds form the phospholipid bilayer in liposomes, these misleading brands have not made true liposomal supplements. Just throwing in lecithin or phosphatidylcholine as an ingredient won’t create liposomes.
Another important factor is food allergens. Make sure the liposomal formulation you choose in non-GMO, soy-free, and gluten-free.
Combining curcumin with resveratrol is a common practice for manufacturers. Resveratrol comes with its own benefits, complementary to those of curcumin.
Particularly if your curcumin supplement includes natural flavors, verify that it doesn’t include added sugar.
A standard dosage is 250 milligrams of curcuminoids once or twice a day. It’s safe to take curcumin daily, but it’s best to take a curcumin supplement with a meal, especially one that includes black pepper for maximum absorption.
Black pepper contains piperine, which can increase the bioavailability of curcumin twentyfold. (Source 40)
Customer reviews can tell you a lot about a product. Read them with a grain of salt, but find out the experience others have had with the supplement you’re considering before purchasing.
Finally, a satisfaction guarantee helps to ensure you’re getting a high quality product. If a manufacturer offers a money back guarantee, it’s likely they are confident in their product.
Always consult a healthcare professional before starting on any new dietary supplement, particularly if you plan to use it in conjunction with treatment for any illness or disease.
Side Effects of Liposomal Curcumin
Studies show liposomal curcumin is very tolerable in humans. 2,000 milligrams has been tolerated for weeks at a time with no side effects.
However, a very small number of people have reported the following side effects:
- Acid reflux
Most of these side effects were observed at doses exceeding 1,000 milligrams a day. I would suggest keeping your dosage at or below 500 milligrams a day unless otherwise directed by a healthcare practitioner.
Is turmeric bad for your liver or kidneys? The answer is no. Turmeric and curcumin actually contribute to detoxification in the liver.
- Curcumin is the bioactive ingredient in the common spice, turmeric, that gives it that yellow pigment.
- Liposomal curcumin uses liposomal technology to interact directly with your cells, making it more bioavailable than regular curcumin supplements.
- Liposomal curcumin comes with a whole host of health benefits, including protection from cancer, inflammation, depression, arthritis, and more.
- The best liposomal curcumin supplement should contain no harmful food allergens and come with a money back guarantee.
- Curcumin comes with no adverse side effects at normal doses. However, higher doses may bring about abdominal distress.
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