The Benefits of Liquid Liposomal Curcumin Supplements

The Benefits of Liquid Liposomal Curcumin Supplements

One reason I love my career as a physician is because I can use my medical toolkit to help someone feel more at ease or experience less pain during some of the most vulnerable and nervous moments of their life. And for me this is deeply personal – keep reading to learn why.

A little bit of background first. I love physiology and pharmacology. That’s why I decided early in medical school to become an anesthesiologist.  

Anesthesia has been likened to flying a plane. When I deliver Anesthesia I am constantly fine-tuning in order to keep blood pressure, consciousness, heart rate, breathing and absence of pain in the sweet spot so my patient wakes up comfortable – a smooth landing! There is no better feeling than when my patient wakes up and can’t believe the procedure is “already over.”  Many women in labor call me their new “best friend” as soon as their epidurals start kicking in, which is equally gratifying.

I still practice and love my profession. But, about 12 years ago life took an unexpected turn when I was faced with a sudden health crisis that steered me toward functional medicine. 

At that time, conventional medicine didn’t have too many answers for my sudden and rather profound lack of energy. Blood work, imaging studies and other testing all turned up inconclusive. I was feeling pretty hopeless, to say the least. I then saw a naturopathic doctor who turned me around with an elimination diet, lifestyle changes and some key supplements. 

Since then I’ve been reading and soaking up as much knowledge as I can. To deepen my understanding and gain a formal education in functional medicine, I went on to become a certified practitioner by the Institute For Functional Medicine (IFM). Understanding how compounds get into the body and find cells where they influence how a person functions still amazes me to this day.

Energy production is at the center of feeling well and thriving. It’s what makes you, you.

Learning what mitochondria need to provide this energy, the citric acid cycle, methylation, B-vitamins, anti-oxidants, minerals, co-factors and other long forgotten biochemistry from medical school suddenly made so much sense. And these essential ingredients were making me feel better.

When I finally tried vitamin C, glutathione and phosphatidylcholine in intravenous (IV) form, they worked even faster. I felt the results almost immediately as my cells were flooded with the nutrients they desperately needed (not everyone responds like this, but IVs certainly helped me). For a time, I also ran a busy and successful IV clinic where I saw others also regain their health from this fast acting delivery of nutrients.

I am telling this story so that you know how and why I became so passionate about essential nutrients and why I still read about these topics incessantly: it helped me and I know it can help you as well. 

Over time, as my health normalized, I began to look for a more convenient way to deliver some of the benefits of IV therapy. IV therapy is great, but it is invasive and time consuming. I wanted a high absorption technology that I could easily use to take my essential nutrients on a daily basis.

My return to health is particularly attributed to a unique form of delivery of supplements I found called  “liposomal,” which optimizes how our bodies absorb and utilize the compounds we’re hoping to receive.  

My work in functional medicine has been an incredible journey, starting with my own personal health that forced me to dig deeper and build an effective healing toolkit. This journey led me to some pretty incredible compounds, one of which is curcumin. Today, I want to share more about curcumin with you. 

Curcumin benefits include the reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress, making it a wonderfully effective phytonutrient (plant nutrient) for many different people, reducing symptoms and disease states. In fact, it is one of my favorites that I use most often. 

A lot of people are familiar with turmeric curcumin, but unfortunately, are not experiencing its benefits. One problem is that it’s generally poorly absorbed into the body. As you now know, all of my previous experience had set me up for wanting a highly absorbable and fast acting product. I set out not only to find the highest quality source of curcumin, but to also understand the best way to get curcumin into the cells for quick and effective results.

Let me share with you what I discovered.

 In this article, you will learn:

  •         What curcumin is
  •         How curcumin is different than curcuminoids
  •         6 clinical benefits of curcumin
  •         The issues with curcumin absorption
  •         Why liposomal curcumin is the answer
  •         The issues with piperine and curcumin metabolites
  •         3 tips for selecting a liposomal curcumin supplement

What Is Curcumin?

Curcumin is the primary active constituent in turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright orange-yellow colored spice traditionally used in Indian curries and herbal medicine. Used for thousands of years, turmeric has a deep history of traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine.

Turmeric is widely grown in tropical Asian countries and is a staple spice in the cuisine in many countries from Iran, Malesia, and India, to China and Thailand too. (Source 1) The rhizomes, or mass of roots, from the turmeric plant are harvested, cleaned and dried into a powder for culinary, medicinal or cultural use. Traditional preparations of the plant were historically used for inflammatory conditions and pain, including many of the specific conditions that western research now confirms and I discuss below.

In functional medicine, we often talk about how food is our greatest medicine. The culinary use of turmeric offers a great example. Imagine a hot skillet where you melt ghee, add powdered turmeric and other aromatic spices – cumin, ginger, black pepper, coriander, fenugreek. Then add meat and vegetables, coating with the spices. Add coconut milk and let simmer until done. When eating turmeric as a food, this is exactly how I recommend doing it. The fat from the ghee and coconut milk help with absorption of the curcumin and other fat-soluble nutrients and phytonutrients in the meal. It’s also a comforting bowl of nourishing food!

Curcumin Vs. Curcuminoids

When I say curcumin, I’m really talking about curcuminoids. Curcumin often refers to the 3 naturally-occurring curcuminoids:

  1. Demothoxycurcumin (also known as curcumin II)
  2. Bisdemethyooxycurcumin (also known as curcumin III)
  3. Curcumin (also known as cyclocurcumin)

Collectively the three curcuminoids make up an average of 3 percent of turmeric as a whole and are responsible for most of the health benefits. (Source 2)

6 Clinical Benefits Of Curcumin

Curcumin is truly a remarkable molecule and one that has so many applications in medicine. Because of my background, I’m always interested in understanding the biochemical mechanisms in the body, how a supplement changes human physiology and how it’s all connected. Understanding curcumin on this level has really allowed me to see the why behind curcumin’s many, and far reaching, benefits. Let’s dive into some of these benefits now. 

1. Antioxidant

All three curcuminoids act as powerful antioxidants in the body. (Source 3) Antioxidants protect DNA and cells from damage caused by the free radicals produced by normal human metabolism. However, in the modern world, our bodies face even higher levels of free radicals coming from the environment in the form of toxins, pollution, UV radiation, heavy metals, cigarette smoke and other exposures of daily living. Having higher levels of oxidants without enough antioxidants contributes to aging and chronic disease. 

In addition to the direct antioxidant activity they exert, curcumin and curcuminoids have indirect effects on other antioxidants and enzymes. For example, curcumin increases the levels of glutathione, the “master” antioxidant of our cells, and several enzymes other enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase. (Source 4, 5, 6)  

Since our need for antioxidants has increased simply by living in the year 2020, curcumin offers a solid antioxidant protective option, along with vitamin C and glutathione, which I highly recommend.  

2. Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is an immune response. Imagine you have a cut on your hand. The cut becomes red, throbbing and you feel pain. The blood brings immune cells and nutrients to the cut to heal and repair the skin. This is called acute inflammation.

Problems arise when this system doesn’t shut off. Many of us have low levels of chronic inflammation. It’s like a low grade, but continuous, internal scarring  going on in the body as a result of toxin exposures, poor diet, sedentary behavior and other lifestyle factors that, over time, contribute to inflammatory symptoms and chronic disease. 

Curcumin, however, has been shown to very significantly reduce inflammation, both by its antioxidant activity that we discussed, but also because it can shut down a key inflammatory pathway called NF-kB (nuclear factor kappa Beta). By blocking this pathway, cells decrease production of inflammatory signals including IL-6, IL-1 and TNF-a. (Source 4, 7)

In addition, curcumin inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, which is the same enzyme that NSAID pain medications, such as Ibuprofen, inhibit in order to reduce pain. (Source 8) The benefit of using curcumin in place of NSAIDs is that curcumin doesn’t have the negative side effects, especially to the digestive tract, that NSAIDS do. In fact, curcumin has many gut benefits!

Because of these anti-inflammatory mechanisms, curcumin is being studied as an alternative to pain medications for treating the pain and inflammation in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which I discuss more in the pain section below. (Source 9)

3. Antimicrobial

Curcumin shows antimicrobial action against bacteria, viruses and fungi. (Source 10)

Because of its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is one of the compounds recommended by The Institute for Functional Medicine to consider when enhancing the body’s immune response and treatment to COVID-19. (Source 11) In addition, curcumin is used topically for many skin conditions. (Source 12)

As a side note, one reason that curcumin supplements may have health benefits, despite poor absorption, can be explained by the connection between gut health and the rest of the body. In Functional Medicine, we view all body systems as interconnected. The saying “all disease begins in the gut” dates back over 2000 years to Hippocrates. Even with the poor absorption and bioavailability of many curcumin supplements, curcumin has a local anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect within the GI tract itself. This is the reason, not only that curcumin may be beneficial for GI conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but also provides benefit to the rest of the body. By reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, reducing pathogens through antimicrobial actions and improving the microbiome balance, curcumin creates a positive effect on overall health. (Source 13)

4. Anti-diabetic And Metabolic Healing

Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, obesity and other metabolic or cardiometabolic health issues make up most of the chronic disease in the U.S. One commonality between different diagnoses is often an underlying insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs over time when blood sugar is high - think bread, sweets, soda and many other high-sugar, refined carb staples in the American diet. Insulin’s job is to pull that sugar from the blood into the cells so it can be used for energy. When blood sugar is high, the insulin signal is high and over time if the lifestyle perpetuates elevated demands on insulin the cells actually become resistant to that signal.

Curcumin has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. (Source 14) When insulin sensitivity improves (insulin resistance decreases), it is easier to lose weight, blood pressure improves, cholesterol lowers and other metabolic markers begin to normalize. 

Insulin resistance and diabetes can lead to heart disease and heart disease also has a component of inflammation. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective properties may be beneficial for many cardiovascular issues including heart failure, atherosclerosis and stroke. (Source 15)

5. Anti-depressive – Curcumin Treatment For Depression and Anxiety

According to current understandings of depression, inflammation is an underlying cause, allowing the room for anti-inflammatory compounds as treatment approaches. (Source 16) In my mind, curcumin is an obvious choice because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective benefits. 

In a 2017, double-blind placebo controlled trial, curcumin was shown to reduce symptoms of major depression when taken twice a day for 12 weeks. The effects were seen at both 250 mg and 500mg twice per day. (Source 17) A meta-analysis of more studies confirms these results. (Source 18, 19) 

In fact the conclusion of this “study of studies” is that 77% of those receiving curcumin (dosed between 150-1500 mg per day) had lower depression scores versus controls. That’s significantly higher than the 62% who respond to antidepressants! (Source 19) And that’s not all, because curcumin’s effect on lowering anxiety was even more significant than its anti-depressive effects.

6. Analgesic – Pain Reducing

As mentioned above, curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory activity and this can be quite beneficial in those of us who have pain, especially when it is chronic in nature. In one double blinded study of 15 patients with a variety of sources of pain (neuropathic, shoulder, knee, headache and dental) 2000 mg of curcumin were shown to result in the same amount of pain relief as 1000 mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol). (Source 20)

Curcumin has shown strong pain relief in those with osteoarthritis. (Source 21, 22)  1500 mg of Curcumin showing the same amount of relief as 800 mg of ibuprofen in a group of 367 patients with knee arthritis (Source 22). Other studies have also verified its effectiveness in post-surgical pain relief (Source 23) and Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Source 24)

Curcumin Supplements And Absorption

As discussed previously, curcumin is poorly absorbed in the digestive system. This means that even with the best intentions with supplements, it is unlikely that therapeutic dosages are getting into the body to have these beneficial effects. Poor absorption has caused an issue in the adoption of curcumin as treatment of the many conditions I discussed above.

But if we solve this issue, getting high levels of curcumin to be absorbed would be extremely beneficial. The best solution that addresses this issue of absorbability is liquid liposomal curcumin.

What Is Liposomal Curcumin?

Liposomal curcumin is simply curcumin packed into a liposome for superior absorption. A liposome is a microscopic sphere that resembles a tiny cell. In fact, it is made out of a molecule that makes up human cell membranes: phosphatidylcholine. Remember that curcumin is fat soluble, so it doesn’t mix well in the digestive system or in the blood. The liposome shields the curcumin from aqueous environment and improves its solubility.

Because of the smart “packaging,” once liposomes containing curcumin are ingested orally, the liposomes pass through the stomach relatively intact and then easily attach to the cell membrane of the small intestine cells where absorption of nutrients in our food occurs. Once attached, liposomes then “fuse” with our own cells, or can be taken up by a process of endocytosis (full enveloping by the cell membrane), releasing curcumin into the circulation. This elegant process also serves to replenish our own cell membranes with a fresh supply of phosphatidylcholine, which may strengthen cell membranes and mitochondria, each cell’s source of energy.

What Is The Safe Dose Of Curcumin And What Are The Side Effects?

The safety profile of curcumin is very good. Even very high doses, up to 8000 mg per day, are not associated with serious side effects. However, at doses above 1500 mg, one can experience nausea, heartburn and other gastrointestinal issues. Turmeric, and its curcumin extracts, are both non-toxic even at higher dosages. (Source 25)

Remember that liposomal curcumin is much more concentrated and bioavailable than other forms, so lower dosages are effective. Liposomal curcumin may only require 1/10th of the dose of curcumin for the same clinical effect. (Source 26)

I recommend 250-1000mg of liposomal curcumin per day, in divided dosages. I find a lot of the magic with supplements happens with the trial and error it takes to discover what works best for you. Try it, see how you feel, and adjust from there.

Liposomal curcumin can be taken on an empty stomach to maximize bioavailability and absorption. In addition, taking your supplements in a relaxed (and not stressed) state can further increase absorption.

If you are on medication, including blood thinners, or have a medical condition, please consult with your personal provider before beginning any new supplement.

Does Curcumin Need Black Pepper?

The question of combining curcumin with black pepper is one that I’m asked often.

There is evidence that black pepper helps to increase the absorption of curcumin, and this is certainly true when it comes to cooking. Adding black pepper to curry makes sense, both culinarily and nutritionally.

When it comes to supplements, you’ll see many curcumin supplements that also contain piperine, an extract from black pepper. Piperine is the alkaloid compound in black pepper that gives black pepper its pungency.  

Piperine deserves some caution. When choosing a product to that contains piperine to increase absorption of curcumin, keep in mind that piperine can have unintended drug interactions as it can increase intestinal permeability, commonly referred to as “leaky gut.” (Source 27) Piperine also interferes with glucuronidation, a process the liver uses to metabolize all kinds of drugs and toxins that are intended to be eliminated from the body. Piperine interferes with this process. While piperine may increase absorption of curcumin, it may also cause adverse drugs interactions and even inhibit platelet aggregation which can act as a blood thinner. (Source 28)

Curcumin supplements with black pepper are often cheaper than liposomal products, however, there is an element of safety you will need to take into consideration depending on your own circumstances.

How Do “Tetra-Hydro-Curcuminoids” Compare?

Another question that I’m asked are about “tetra-hydro-curcuminoids,” as these supplements in the marketplace are causing confusion among consumers. 

Be aware that while most supplements use the 3 curcuminoids we discussed that make up curcumin, some products tout “tetra-hydro-curcuminoids”. While this sounds impressive and technical, tetra-hydro-curcuminoids are simply metabolites (break-down products) of curcumin and not curcumin itself. Tetra-hydro-curcuminoids can have some of the activity of curcuminoids, however I’ve seen companies market these as effective as curcumin itself, when they are not. (Source 29)

3 Tips For Selecting Liposomal Curcumin:

  1. Choose liposomal. This is a no brainer based on everything we’ve discussed so far. However, it is worth mentioning that not all liposomes are created equal (some companies make liposomal products which contain 12% alcohol by volume for example). Choose a company and product that makes their liposomes through a natural process using no extra heat, no additional pressure and no solvents.
  1. Quality is key. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is regulated like the food industry, meaning that facilities need to be compliant and clean, but there is no one making sure that what is in the supplement bottle actually matches the label claims. This is why I always recommend practitioner brand supplements that test their ingredients and products for heavy metals, toxins, allergens and other contaminants (usually identified through a Certificate of Analysis, or CoA). In addition, choose non-GMO and allergen-free ingredients. Most liposomal products are derived from soy and soy is genetically modified unless it is listed as organic. Look for liposomal curcumin that uses non-GMO sunflower lipids instead.
  1. Be careful of gimmicks. While piperine extract may sound appealing because of fancy marketing claims or cost, these supplements may present safety issues when compared to liposomal products and deserve some caution. “Tetra-hydro-curcuminoids” are not curcumin and are overall not as effective.

My hope is that this article has been helpful for you to clarify some of the information that you’ve previously seen about curcumin, its many benefits and the limitations of poor availability where liposomal preparations are a strong solution. It is sometimes challenging to find strong research on natural compounds, because it can be hard to secure funding for this type of research. However, curcumin benefits is a hot topic currently and more and more research is coming out all of the time. I’ll be sure to keep a pulse on what is being discovered and report to you here.

Summary Of The Key Points You Learned Today:

  • Curcumin is the active, medicinal component found in the spice, turmeric.
  • Curcumin refers to 3 naturally occurring curcuminoids.
  • Research supports curcumin’s benefits as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, anti-depressive and pain reducer.
  • Curcumin supplements are poorly absorbed and have a low bioavailability.
  • Liposomal curcumin offers a solution.
  • Not all liposomal curcumin supplements are created equal. Be sure to choose a high quality options.

If you are curious about curcumin, but want to be sure to choose a quality product look no further. Out of my passion for highly absorbable nutrition and Functional Medicine, grew Core Med Science. I like our Core Med Science Liposomal Curcumin for many reasons, not the least of which is that it uses non-GMO sunflower as the source of the phosphatidylcholine base, so it’s soy-free, processed without solvents and starts with the highest quality curcumin available.

With the far-reaching benefits for both prevention and treatment of a variety of conditions, curcumin has a lot to offer. It’s certainly a supplement that I use personally and recommend in a variety of situations. Bringing this product to life has been a true passion and I can’t wait to share it with you!

 

References 

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