With summer officially arriving a few weeks ago, many of us are enjoying the outdoors and will be heading off on sun-filled (hopefully) vacations over July and August. With extra time spent outdoors, and the sun’s energy at its strongest over summer months, many of us if we are not careful, can overdo it and succumb to that dreaded sunburn. Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction on the surface of the skin after excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. In peak hours for sun exposure during summer months, the time it takes to burn (aka UV index) can be
Curcumin Just Can’t Seem to Get a Break
This has led researchers worldwide to try and effectively remedy the profound conundrum curcumin faces as a therapeutic, multi targeted medicine. How could Nature bestow one little spice with such propensity for healing, yet have it almost be completely unable to achieve its biochemical goal once ingested? It’s ever perplexing to say the least and takes us to the ins and outs of modern curcumin delivery methods and formulation.
Modern delivery methods include: micronization and nanoparticles; micelles, enhancing agents, and fibre complexes.
This is a when a particle is significantly reduced in size, and is defined as less than 100 nanometers in diameter, or 0.1 micrometers. There is also a process known as sub-micronization, where although particle size is significantly reduced, it is still larger than a nanoparticle. In the case of curcumin, size reduction aids with absorption into the bloodstream.
These little “fat” spheres are generally made of phosphatidylcholine aka lecithin. These coated curcumin particles have increased stability within digestive juices, and are able to absorb into the bloodstream more easily. Curcumin micelles can either have standard curcumin particles or nanosized ones.
There are a variety of enhancing agents used in modern formulations to address the issue of poor absorption and rapid breakdown such as: piperine, turmericessential oil, Tween-80, and galactomannan.
Piperine is the most common and widely documented enhancing agent used because it inhibits the biotransformation of curcumin by the liver. Neat little trick, right? Although this sounds like a “magic bullet” cure to the curcumin conundrum, it looks better on paper, than in actual application. Because piperine inhibits the phase II liver enzymes (necessary gatekeepers), the liver’s ability to do its job correctly is significantly diminished. So although one would have “free form” curcumin coursing through their veins, the body is now vulnerable to unwanted invaders, such as toxins, pesticides, and carcinogens. Thus, a truly intelligent formulation would find a way to evade this rapid breakdown, without disarming the body’s defences and endangering it as a whole.
Turmeric Essential Oil:
Turmeric Essential Oil, like all essential oils, is classed as a volatile oil. Because of its solubility issues, it is made by a solvent extraction process. Furthermore, they are termed volatile for a reason, seeing they are extremely potent and generally only regarded as safe when ingested in tiny amounts. Usually only 1-2 drops are suggested short term, not large doses for extended periods. Because the vast majority involved in botanical medicine tend to be cautious with volatile oil consumption, one can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a risk at higher doses, long term. The research is conflicting as well, seeing some of it regards turmeric essential oil as safe, while other data notes high toxicity. (Funk et al., 2006, 2010; Joshi et al., 2003). Until there is enough well-established data in humans confirming safety at high doses, long term, the use of this enhancing agent is questionable.
Tween 80, also known as Polysorbate 80, is another questionable enhancing agent used in modern formulation. It is a detergent classed as a surfactant/ emulsifier and commonly used in processed foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, etc. Although known to be well tolerated up to 100 mg per day, it is banned in Japan, while Taiwan and Korea have set limits to less than 2%. Interestingly, there has also been some research correlating Tween-80 with the aggravation of autoimmune diseases, such as colitis. It was also shown to potentiate obesity and metabolic syndrome (Chassaing et al., 2015). Do you find it ironic that an agent designed to enhance an anti-inflammatory might be the possible cause of pro-inflammatory conditions?
Galactomannan aka Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.), is the latest breakthrough in effective curcumin delivery, stability and absorption. Due to the fact it is a water soluble dietary fibre, yet highly branched and gum like, it is able to offer superior protection to ensure absorption into the bloodstream.