Turmeric is widely used in India as a spice and has been around for more than 4,000 years. It is a cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional medicines from around the world. Turmeric is not spicy, as some people may think, but is used to add a rich flavor to foods.

It is the common ingredient in many curries. Grown as a root crop, it can be used as a root directly (as it often is in cooking) or converted to a powder for use as a spice. For example, turmeric seasons yellow curry at Thai restaurants and a variety of curry dishes at Indian restaurants. Commonly known as the “yellow-colored spice,” it is even used as a natural coloring agent in foods in the United States, for instance in French’s mustard and other products that have a yellow color.

When using turmeric as a food (or dietary supplement), one should take into consideration important factors such as whether it is synthetic, GMO, or grown with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Further, turmeric is available in many grades, ranging from very good to very poor. To get the benefits of turmeric, one must choose the right cultivar.

Turmeric is a very powerful adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory compound when grown and processed responsibly. Its many health benefits come from a powerhouse compound in its root: curcumin.

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Curcumin — a vital component of turmeric

The most vital therapeutic component in turmeric is curcumin.  Although curcumin was described more than a century ago, the last two decades have seen an explosion of research into the compound and its numerous health benefits. Currently there are more than 8,000 published studies on turmeric and curcumin, making it one of the most researched natural ingredients. Curcumin has been shown to have more than 600 potential health benefits despite making up only 2-5 percent of the turmeric root on average.

Curcumin Targets

As you can see from the above diagram, curcumin provides both a multitargeted and monotargeted approach to its therapeutic actions. [1] Multitargeted means that curcumin works on hundreds of biochemical processes. For example, it works on transcriptional factors, protein kinases, adhesion molecules, enzymes, and inflammatory cytokines through its multifunctional actions and effects. Monotargeted means that, like conventional pharmaceuticals, curcumin works specifically on single-targeted pathways. Additionally, curcumin works by inhibiting the same pathways as NSAIDs — in addition to more than 100 other inflammatory pathways — without the unwanted effects.

For those who are interested in the scientific specifics, curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammation via NF-kB a major switch which plays an important role in health and disease (see image below). In addition, curcumin reduces COX-2, 5-LOX, C-reactive protein, IL-1 beta, IL-6, IL-12, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, AP-1, macrophage inflammatory protein, matrix metalloproteinase, human leukocyte elastase (HLE), several types of protein kinases, adhesion molecules, and genes involved with inflammation — to name a few (see image below). In addition to reducing and inhibiting factors that aggravate health conditions, curcumin also activates important protective factors such as Nrf2.

NF-kb Role in Health and Disease

Bosmeric-SR inhibits COX and LOX

 Other protective factors include curcumin’s demonstrated ability to boost antitumor immunity through different mechanisms. These include: increased population of CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, along with increase in Th1 cytokines like IFNγ, which mediate tumor cell apoptosis. Curcumin can block Treg cell development, thereby decreasing immunosuppressive cytokines like IL-10 and TGFβ. Curcumin also reduces tumor-induced T-cell apoptosis. All these actions help to invalidate the overall immunosuppressive environment created by a tumor (which is how the tumor avoids being recognized by the immune system) and lead to tumor regression. Thus curcumin has the ability to provide a favorable response by supporting the immune system and restoring immune system-mediated elimination of tumors. [2]

The foregoing explanation is heavy on scientific terminology. In simple terms, curcumin has been shown to exhibit the following properties: [3]

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Anticancer

The above effects are mediated through the regulation of various transcription factors, growth factors, inflammatory cytokines, protein kinases, and other enzymes. For those who have severe chronic inflammatory health conditions—such as rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and even some cancers—you probably have been treated with pharmaceutical immunosuppressive agents and anticancer agents, offering some benefits along with heavy side effects and a large list of black-box warnings (see The Dangers of NSAIDs: Black Box Warning) . Curcumin has been shown to work similarly to these powerful medications, but without unwanted and unpleasant side effects.

Curcumin: A natural pharmaceutical without side effects?

Curcumin exhibits activities similar to an astonishing number of major pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs and chemotherapy drugs, including (but far from limited to) the following: COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex), TNF blockers (Humira, Remicade, and Enbrel), vascular endothelial cell growth-factor blockers (Avastin), human epidermal growth-factor receptor blockers (Erbitux, Erlotinib, and Gefitinib), HER2 blockers (Herceptin), topoisomerase inhibitors (Camptothecin), tubulin inhibitors (paclitaxel, Taxol), and BCR-ABL1 tyrosine kinase inhibitors (Gleevec) — without side effects.* In fact, there are no reports of death or serious injury from the consumption of turmeric or curcumin — just millions of tasty meals. [4]

So promising is the therapeutic potential of curcumin that a recent turmeric study published in Cancer Letters is paving the way for a revolution in the way that we understand and treat cancer, titled “Targeting Cancer Stem Cells by Curcumin and Clinical Applications.” [5] Researchers in the United States demonstrated via many cell and animal studies that curcumin has the ability to target cancer stem cells (CSCs), getting to the root cause of tumor formation and malignancy. [6]

CSCs are the deadliest cell types within a tumor or blood cancer, since stem cells have the ability to give rise to all the cell types found within a particular cancer. CSCs are capable of dividing (by mitosis) to form either two stem cells (increasing the size of the stem population) or one daughter cell that goes on to differentiate into a variety of cell types and one daughter cell that retains stem-cell properties. This means that CSCs are tumorigenic (tumor forming) and tumor sustaining. Therefore, it makes good medical sense to focus cancer therapy on treating the disease at this level. CSCs are also increasingly recognized to be the cause of relapse and metastasis following conventional cancer treatment.

Turmeric and curcumin extract have been extensively studied for their ability to kill various cancer-cell lines. Research identifies a number of ways in which curcumin provides an ideal CSC-targeting therapy, including the following: [7]

Regulation of the CSC self-renewal pathway: Curcumin appears to directly and indirectly influence at least three self-renewal pathways within cancer stem cells, namely Wnt/b-catenin, sonic hedgehog 89 (SHH), and Notch. The authors list 12 different cancer-cell lines that curcumin appears to affect positively.

Modulation of microRNA: MicroRNAs are short noncoding RNA sequences that regulate approximately 33 percent of the protein-coding genes in the human genome. They bind to target messenger RNAs (mRNAs), leading to their degradation or inactivation. Curcumin has been found to alter the expression of microRNAs in cancer stem cells in a way that would suggest a strong suppression of tumor formation.

In addition to the dozens of anticancer activities that curcumin has demonstrated, it also acts as a chemotherapy and radiation-therapy sensitizer. This means that it helps sensitize the tumors to cancer therapies, making those treatments more effective. In other words, making toxic therapies more targeted. Curcumin can sensitize tumors to many different chemotherapeutic agents, including doxorubicin, 5-FU, paclitaxel, vincristine, melphalan, butyrate, cisplatin, celecoxib, vinorelbine, gemcitabine, oxaliplatin, etoposide, sulfinosine, thalidomide, and bortezomib.

Chemosensitization has been observed in cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas, GI tract, liver, blood, lung, prostate, bladder, cervix, ovary, head, neck, and brain, as well as in multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma. Similar studies have also revealed that curcumin can increase the sensitivity to gamma radiation of a variety of tumors, including glioma, neuroblastoma, cervical carcinoma, epidermal carcinoma, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. How curcumin acts as a chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer has also been studied extensively. [8] For example, it downregulates various growth-regulatory pathways and specific genetic targets, including genes for NF-kB, STAT3, COX-2, Akt, antiapoptotic proteins, growth-factor receptors, and multidrug-resistance proteins. [9]

Furthermore, curcumin also helps protect healthy tissues from the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Curcumin has been shown to protect healthy organs and tissues such as the liver, kidney, oral mucosa, and heart from chemotherapy- and radiotherapy-induced toxicity. The protective effects of curcumin appear to be mediated in a variety of ways: through activating Nrf2 and inducing the expression of antioxidant enzymes (e.g., heme oxygenase-1, glutathione peroxidase, modulatory subunit of gamma-glutamyl-cysteine ligase, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1, and increase glutathione — a product of the modulatory subunit of gamma-glutamyl-cysteine ligase), directly quenching free radicals, and inhibiting p300 HAT activity — to name a few. [10]

To summarize all that dense scientific language, curcumin exhibits some of the most amazing anticancer properties, such as the following, which apply to most cancers:

  • Inhibits TNF-alpha, NF-kB, and hundreds of other mechanisms that stimulate inflammation [11]
    • As little as 150 mg of curcumin twice daily, standardized to three curcuminoids orally, can significantly decrease TNF-alpha [12]
  • Prevents multidrug-resistant cancers [13]
  • Destroys cancer stem cells (CSC) [14]
  • Protects tissues and organs from chemotherapy- and radiation-induced damage (reducing overall toxicity from these treatments) [15]
  • Works synergistically with chemotherapy and radiation therapy to make those therapies more targeted and, therefore, more effective. [16]

In addition to inhibiting and influencing the biological mechanisms of inflammation as described earlier, curcumin has been shown to improve endothelial function and reduce vascular inflammation (which increases blood flow and prevents plaque buildup in the arteries), downregulate adipokines (including resistin and leptin, factors involved in obesity) and monocyte chemotactic protein-1, and upregulate Nrf2 (key factors involved in brain-inflammatory processes and brain-degeneration issues that manifest in disorders such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, and other neurodegenerative conditions).

So what does all this mean in terms of preventing and treating disease? It means curcumin may be the most powerful natural therapeutic substance for a wide array of acute and chronic health conditions.

Conditions helped by curcumin*

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Autoimmune arthritis (rheumatoid)
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Cancer (breast, prostate, brain, colon, bone, and liver), via immune-modulating, angiogenesis, tumorigenic properties
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Obesity
  • Fibromyalgia and other chronic-pain syndromes
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, etc.)
  • Acne, psoriasis, and eczema
  • Liver diseases (toxic insults and dysfunction)

Which form of curcumin is best for me?

Now that you know some of the amazing benefits of curcumin, and you’ve seen that there is a lot of low-quality curcumin on the market, how can you tell what is best?

The gold standard for curcumin is called Curcumin C3 Complex, (which is part of Bosmeric-SR formula; see The Vital Role of Boswellia (Frankincense) for Cancer).  It is the patented form of curcumin that contains standardized 95 percent curcuminoids and is supported by 50 human clinical studies (and counting) at major universities, hospitals, and health-care institutions worldwide, making Curcumin C3 Complex the most clinically studied brand of curcumin on the market today.

Curcumin C3 Complex is not only the most effective form of curcumin and the most clinically studied but also contains the three major constituents (curcuminoids) in specific ratios, guaranteed:

  • Curcumin (70-80 percent)
  • Bidemothoxy curcumin (2.5-6.5 percent)
  • Demethoxy curcumin (15-25 percent)

These three curcuminoids are guaranteed to be in the same ratios in every batch, which is almost unheard of in the natural-product world. Most importantly, these curcuminoid ratios are also the precise ratios that have undergone the most clinical studies. This guaranteed uniformity ensures consistency of health benefits and enables physicians to more accurately recommend and administer these incredibly beneficial compounds.

What about generic curcumin extract standardized to 95 percent curcuminoids?

If you’re familiar with curcumin supplements, then you’re familiar with the ways in which companies try to assure consumers that they’re getting what they’re paying for. Most companies use generic “standardized 95 percent curcuminoids,” but that standardization doesn’t guarantee that the curcuminoid ratios are exactly in the proportions that have been clinically studied. In fact in a recent study in 2016 on the “Strong Anti-inflammatory Effects of Curcumin” by Vetivicka and Vetivickova, demonstrated that only Curcumin C3 Complex had both anti-inflammatory and immunological activity in comparison to four other brands of generic 95 percent curcuminoids in both vitro and vivo testing.

The study showed the other major brands and sources of generic 95 percent curcuminoids had little to none inflammatory and immunological activities. Thus not all curcumins available are equal.  The reason for the difference it is not the just the total amount of the three specific curcuminoids that was patented in Curcumin C3 Complex but also the process on how they are extracted.  Therefore since generics cannot extract the curcuminoids in the same way, their physiological benefits differ and in this case there is little to no activity.

This explains why in the clinical trials there are benefits to lowering inflammation through a variety of mechanisms and improving cancer outcomes but many people in the public do not obtain this benefit when they use generic 95 percent curcuminoid products. Thus generic standardization limits the effectiveness and purity of most curcumin supplements. Generic curcumin has no potency guarantee and is not validated by third-party testing; most supplements fall short of efficacy and safety measures. With this recent study, it proves again the difference between real science of proven natural patented ingredients and the ineffective generic products that are heavily marketed.

Supplement manufacturers from China and India, driving the marketplace to provide the cheapest product possible, generally purchase generic curcumin products. In this competitive international marketplace, corners are cut to further drive down costs; the most basic cuts are to safety (not testing enough or at all) and efficacy (not verifying clinical effectiveness).

Most companies (including MLM companies, health-practitioner channels, and retailers) will purchase generic curcuminoids not knowing (or caring) which type of turmeric they come from, how the turmeric is grown (whether pesticides, herbicides, GMO, or synthetics were used), whether harmful solvents were used for the extraction process, whether the product was irradiated, or whether or not the curcuminoids are effective. All that matters is the bottom line and having a “buzz worthy” ingredient. Thus by providing a substandard material and citing the clinical studies done on Curcumin C3 Complex as also applicable to their curcumin, these generic suppliers are misleading the consumers.

Remember, the FDA classifies a dietary supplement as “not intended to treat, prevent, or cure disease.” This limitation actually works in unscrupulous supplement companies’ favor. Since the FDA has defined what a supplement can’t do, supplement manufacturers can take advantage of this disclaimer by obtaining the cheapest (even completely ineffective) product because they are not being held to any standard of efficacy, potency, or purity. In essence, they don’t have to provide products that actually work anywhere close to how they are marketed.

Curcumin C3 Complex (see The Vital Role of Boswellia (Frankincense) for Cancer) contains only this proven form — the curcumin supported by the most safety data. This safety data has been reviewed and acknowledged by the FDA for GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status, a process that includes a comprehensive review of safety and toxicology data. Most other curcumin products on the market cannot make that claim.

Because Curcumin C3 Complex is made using a patented and proprietary process, the safety data for Curcumin C3 Complex is not applicable to other curcumin products. In fact, many other curcumin-supplement companies derive their indirect and direct health claims and advertising from research studies using Curcumin C3 Complex and not their own products! And you may see other curcumin products advertise that their curcumin is touted to be safe, but I recommend using Curcumin C3 Complex found in Bosmeric-SR, which is the only one that is guaranteed safe.

The use of turmeric and curcumin supplements has skyrocketed because of the enormous amounts of research published on a near-weekly basis (again, there are over eight thousand studies). Curcumin is one of the top five best-selling herbal ingredients every year. Because of this high demand, many companies and products state that they use curcumin, but, in actuality, their curcumin compounds are not as potent, as effective, or even as safe. The only one I recommend is found in Bosmeric-SR (see The Vital Role of Boswellia (Frankincense) for Cancer).

Natural versus Synthetic

As I touched on in the previous section, because of the competition in the marketplace and the drive for higher profit margins, you might have thought you tried Curcumin C3 Complex in the past. Over the past few years, companies have been caught claiming Curcumin C3 Complex on their label when in fact they were selling generic curcumin, synthetic curcumin, or turmeric extract. More nefariously, some companies have added a small amount of Curcumin C3 Complex to their product but illegally cut the product with generic curcumin, synthetic curcumin, or turmeric powder to make the margins on the product better.

This year synthetic curcumin was discovered being sold as turmeric extract with forged certificates of analysis. A major company selling curcumin extract in India for export to the United States was adulterating their product with synthetic curcumin (43 percent). What makes it worse is that the company was not revealing the synthetic contents. This leads one to a few obvious questions. What was it synthesized from? What chemicals were used? What process did they use to make it? And the most important question: is it safe for consumption by humans?

Synthetically made materials may have distinctively different pharmacological activities compared to natural products. If a company is selling synthetic curcumin and not identifying that some or all of the product was synthetically derived, that lack of transparency is not only misleading consumers who think they are taking a product derived from turmeric root, but it has the potential to hurt people.

Therefore, in order to avoid questionable contract manufacturers, I prefer to go directly to the source of ensuring each batch is consistent and guaranteed every time.  This is what you get with Bosmeric-SR, 100 percent guaranteed of the right form (purity) and dose (potency) of Curcumin C3 Complex each time you take it.

In a time when it seems everyone is trying to make a fast buck on supplements, transparent quality control and safety protocols have never been more important. Curcumin C3 Complex (as well as Bosmeric-SR) is manufactured in an FDA-inspected facility compliant with CGMP (the FDA’s standard for “current good manufacturing processes”). Its manufacturer maintains quality through the sourcing of raw material; they have direct control and access throughout the sourcing and manufacturing process. They use only analytical and biological testing labs audited and certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). Bosmeric-SR is manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities assessed by NSF International and certified to be in compliance with GMP. [17]

Again, although all manufacturing facilities should be up to these standards, because of the staffing limitations of the FDA and other regulatory agencies (since there are hundreds of contract manufacturers opening all over the country on a regular basis), not all companies actually comply with current FDA regulations.

Whether you decide to use Bosmeric-SR or not, it is important that you know the guidelines and the regulations that all supplements should abide by. The more informed we are, the higher standards these companies will have to hold themselves to if they want to stay in business.

What about the newer forms of curcumin that claim to be better absorbed?

Many companies claim to be selling newer forms of curcumin that they advertise as “new and improved,” “better absorbed,” and “more bioavailable” products. The industry uses these new buzzwords to help sell products, but as you might imagine, they aren’t necessarily providing the results they’re promising. I am not saying that some products do not have additional benefits or even improve on the benefits of a previous formulation. But when I started looking into actual formulations and actual data for “better absorbed” curcumin, what I found was shocking.

Bioavailability: A path and not a destination

The supplement industry has placed a disproportionate emphasis on the role of bioavailability of their formulations, but bioavailability is not the sole criterion for judging the therapeutic effect of curcumin.  Bioavailability is the amount of a substance (in this case curcumin) that is absorbed and made available at the site of physiological activity.  Therefore increasing bioavailability is important, but making sure that the substances, which are measured, also have health benefits is critical.

Vast amounts of research, along with the expert opinions of those who specialize in the field of curcuminoids, have continually maintained that bioavailability is only a “path” and not the “destination.” Enhanced bioavailability cannot be used as an alternative to or as a substitute for clinical studies. Now, I am interested in increasing bioavailability with all my products (see article on Black Pepper), and I also favor those companies that have invested in making their products more bioavailable. But these companies must have also initiated, supported, and invested their resources in several curcumin-based clinical trials. Science trumps buzzwords, always.

Formulations that contain curcumin-phosphatidyl choline, curcumin-lecithin, and micronized and micelle-curcumin mixtures deliver curcumin as a small fraction of the actual mass (most offer less than 20 percent curcuminoids; one even provides only 7 percent). Although the studies on these products show some benefits (as they should, since they are providing some curcumin), their claims of “29 to 60 times to even “185 times more absorbed” contain flat-out skewed data.

When curcuminoids are absorbed in the body, they are converted to many byproducts or metabolites such as glucuronides. Studies of these newer formulations are measuring not the actual curcuminoids but these other metabolites. They are using the increase in the metabolites to show increased absorption, but they are not actually providing those metabolites directly. For example, the above formulations do not inhibit the biotransformation of curcuminoids, which is the limiting factor for improving bioavailability. Instead, these formulations just load the body with more of the inactive glucuronide metabolites of curcuminoids. Additionally, many of these metabolites have been recently discovered to have little to no anti-inflammatory effects! [18]

Companies routinely misrepresent data and skew it to exaggerate the comparisons between formulations — especially in relation to other products. In fact, pharmaceutical companies may be the biggest offenders in this area. According to a handful of medical studies on the pharmaceutical industry, most of the comparison graphs and data that pharmaceutical sales reps and advertisements presented to doctors were not accurate. [19]

If this happens within the pharmaceutical industry — which the FDA regulates — you can imagine what happens when there is no regulation or oversight for such marketing from dietary-supplement companies. Exaggerated graphs and data are shown every day in supplement advertising and by sales reps. Store clerks, doctors, and the general public have probably seen a chart that shows “increased absorption” or “better bioavailability.”

Often these charts are comparing apples to oranges. As one example, I was presented with studies on curcumin that showed increased absorption rates, but those higher rates were for curcumin in a liquid versus a tablet form, and the company giving the presentation sold only tablets. This is a common trick in which sales representatives extrapolate data from one form or type of supplement and try to use it to their advantage; most products, when taken as a liquid, deliver better absorption than as a solid. In the case of this tablet company, however, they were attempting to misguide me with inaccurate data that made their product look better than it was.

Another newer form of curcumin uses something called “colloidal dispersion technology” and states that it has “enhanced absorption and bioavailability up to twenty-seven times.” A sales rep from the nutraceuticals company marketing this product arrived at my office and tried to tell me that this new curcumin was superior to anything else on the market. He had a colorful graph showing that it was “twenty-seven times” more absorbable than “regular” curcumin.

He did not know that I was familiar with the study used for the infographic. In that study, the authors tested their newer form of curcumin (which contained far less curcumin than most brands) against a turmeric product, but they (purposely) never stated the actual quantity of curcuminoids that the comparison product contained — only that theirs dissolved better in water. Thus, the rep was using an invalid comparison, which is sadly all too common.

Aside from that, however, this salesman didn’t mention that his product contained far fewer curcuminoids, and he declined to disclose the product’s sources. On top of that, a supplement that disperses better in water does not necessarily correlate to improved efficacy or absorption in the blood. What does this mean to the consumer? It means that dietary-supplement companies that sell these sorts of well-marketed “more bioavailable” products can make bigger claims and bigger profit margins while using lower potency or lower amounts of curcuminoids.

Another wrinkle in the bioavailability competition is the rise of lipid- or nano-encapsulated ingredients. These processes take standard ingredients and encapsulate them in tiny absorbable particles, making them smaller and more dispersible. Nanoparticles may be beneficial, although they certainly have their detractors, but with curcumin I tend to use what is tried and true. To date, no nanoparticle curcumin has been studied against Curcumin C3 Complex — just generic, nonstandardized curcumin powder or extracts without disclosed potencies. Generic forms never test against patented forms. Again, be wary of unsourced supplement studies and read very carefully between the lines—especially when it comes to an extremely popular compound like curcumin.

When assessing the bioavailability of curcumin in the body, ignoring the role of curcumin’s metabolites reveals a lack of knowledge and expertise. Curcumin breaks down into certain metabolites, which are mainly tetrahydrocurcumin, curcumin glucuronides, and sulfates. While the positive effects of tetrahydrocurcumin have been recognized, most bioavailability studies have failed to quantify the bioconversion of curcumin into this efficacious metabolite, tetrahydrocurcumin. [20]

This means that most studies are not giving the full therapeutic picture. The bioefficacy of glucuronides and sulfate metabolites, which is what the newer forms of curcumin formulations are claiming are better absorbed, has not been well established. They even have been shown to be less active and have weak activity. [21] Furthermore, they have no anti-inflammatory effects, nor do they have any effect on mitotic catastrophe, an important step in preventing proliferation of some cancerous cells. [22]

A world-renowned cancer and inflammation researcher in natural therapeutics announced at a recent cancer conference that his research demonstrated that “curcumin glucuronides show very little antiproliferative activity against human cancer-cell lines and have no inhibitory effect on NF-kB, thus lacking the anti-inflammatory activity of curcuminoids.” [23]

Although many products sold in health-food stores, on the Internet, through MLM companies, and through doctors’ networks may claim better absorption, they are measuring curcumin metabolites — especially the glucuronides — and thus are missing the stronger intended anti-inflammatory effect. In the real world, such absorption claims have nothing to do with efficacy; they’re simply the stuff of cleverly written research articles, with graphs that seem to illustrate meaningful differences, and very convincing marketing campaigns. Again, instead of searching for the “new and improved,” I tend to go with what has been tried and true — and backed by research.

Since many products are being introduced into the market almost monthly, and it would be impossible to go through all the comparisons here, I have provided comparisons on the most popular curcumin products being sold on the market which is described in detail in my book An Inflammation Nation.

Comparison of Curcumin in Bosmeric-SR vs Other Curcumin Products 1

Comparison of Curcumin Bosmeric-SR vs Other Curcumin Products 2

Turmeric cultivation and processing: What is best?

Since so many supplement companies focus on marketing “better absorption,” maybe we should ask them, better absorption of what, exactly? What type of curcumin are they using, and how is it cultivated and processed? You might make a smoothie with a high-quality blender such as a Vitamix, but that doesn’t mean that the smoothie is good for you — especially if it contains conventional, nonorganic, and GMO foods. What makes a smoothie better for you is not just the quality of the blender but, more importantly, the quality of the ingredients.

Most companies that sell curcumin products have no control of the actual turmeric crop, nor any control over how it is cultivated (e.g., with pesticides, herbicides, radiation, or GMOs). These companies only worry about getting the cheapest raw ingredients from the world market (mainly from China) and then trying to improve upon them with their proprietary processes.

However, when using foods as medicine, starting with the best ingredients makes the biggest difference. The curcumin in Bosmeric-SR is controlled, from crop cultivation at the farms to the highest certified processing facilities, to a patented process of extracting the specific ratio of curcuminoids — guaranteed batch to batch — to the manufacturing of the unique delivery system. All of this ensures a superior product that is consistent, potent, pure, and effective every time.

Taking things a step further, I have ensured that the Curcumin C3 Complex in Bosmeric-SR is not irradiated. Here’s why this is vitally important.

Many people are not aware that since 9/11, all food ingredients imported into the United States must be irradiated to ensure “safety” and destroy contaminants (bacteria, fungus, etc.). I have researched extensively and traveled to India (where most of the turmeric is grown) and discovered that almost all curcumin — especially curcumin grown in China, which is the second largest producer — is irradiated prior to being sent to the United States. My experience in India was truly disheartening. During my search for the best type of turmeric/curcumin, I witnessed many batches of raw product being sent to facilities to get irradiated. At these various facilities (which irradiate products and then provide certification of the completion of such treatment), there was no difference in the amount of radiation used to sterilize each different product.

For example, I personally witnessed the irradiation of a variety of herbal turmeric products from the biggest exporters in India (exporters that provide turmeric/curcumin to the major retailers and common brands at the health-food stores). These exporters have their products irradiated at the same dose that is used to sterilize surgical equipment. We are all familiar with the harmful effects of extreme doses of radiation, and sterilizing the herbal ingredients at that extreme level dramatically decreases the effectiveness of the antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other important aspects.

Curcumin C3 Complex is also non-irradiated to preserve the therapeutic benefits that are stripped out by massive doses of “protective” radiation. It does cost more to obtain certifications and to follow extremely strict importation procedures to ensure that there are no contaminants (bacteria, fungus, etc.) without irradiating anything. Naturally, it takes extra money, time and steps of quality control, but it is worth it to provide the true benefits of these incredibly powerful natural ingredients. Most of my patients who have tried other turmeric supplements said they did not work as well as they expected, but almost all reported that when they took Bosmeric-SR, they noticed an immediate and ongoing difference.

Not only does Bosmeric-SR have ensured potency and efficacy because it uses Curcumin C3 Complex, but it also has guaranteed safety from contaminants like heavy metals. Heavy metals? How do they wind up in any supplement? When supplement manufacturers request turmeric, the bulk spice is shipped to the United States in large containers. During the past few years — especially in 2008, 2011, and again in 2013 — independent consumer groups discovered that 33 percent of turmeric and curcumin supplements failed quality testing, and many popular brands contained lead and other contaminants. [24] Turmeric was being shipped in lead containers (mostly from India and China), and the containers’ linings were leaching lead into the turmeric. Makes you wonder about other foods, such as grains, shipped in those containers.

During the time of greatest lead contamination, many patients who came to see me were taking turmeric supplements for their joint pain. They told me they were taking it because they had read all the health benefits, but they felt that they were actually getting worse. No surprise: they were taking products from companies whose turmeric/curcumin products failed safety tests for lead contamination. Even worse, the patients had high levels of lead when we screened them using blood testing. This is a tragically obvious example of why purity is so important.

You will almost always get what you pay for. Sometimes a bargain costs you far more in the end. Remember, by the FDA’s own definition, “Dietary supplements are not intended to prevent, treat, reverse, or cure any disease.” Far too many companies follow that rule, but not to avoid getting in trouble for making sensationalistic health claims; instead they use the FDA’s disclaimer to absolve them of providing high-quality, effective, or safe products.

Furthermore, it is important to make sure that no harmful, toxic solvents are used in the process of extracting real curcumin from turmeric, as solvent residues do remain on extracted products and can cause harm. No harmful solvents are used in the extraction of the Curcumin C3 Complex used in Bosmeric-SR. Again, this processing is an investment in the health of anyone taking Bosmeric-SR; it costs slightly more to make a cleaner and safer product than to use cheap, poisonous chemicals, but it’s an investment worth making for so many reasons.

In addition to checking purity and quality of source, one must make sure that they’re getting real curcuminoids from real turmeric. Companies in China and India can make synthetic curcuminoids in the laboratory, creating something like a pharmaceutical compound. This is why you see turmeric/curcumin products priced as low as $2-5 for a bottle on the Internet. These cheap products are usually synthetically derived; you are taking an isolated molecular compound, and therefore, you are not receiving the full benefits of the curcuminoids — as well as the other active turmeric compounds.

Cheaper products mean that more harmful chemicals have been used in the production process, and, thus, they expose you to greater risk of side effects and allergic reactions. Next time you see a cheap generic turmeric product, see if the word “natural” is listed in the ingredients. I can say with near 100 percent certainty that you will see only the words turmeric or curcumin or turmeric extract (or powder) or curcumin extract (or powder). All the supplements with their ingredients listed this way will be priced at or below five dollars per bottle. On top of that, some branded turmeric or curcumin products are actually synthetics. Some supplement companies sell products honestly thinking they are using real turmeric when they are actually purchasing synthetic curcumin or turmeric and don’t even know it! The deception can seem insidious, but it’s not over yet.

When investigating your dietary supplements, always look for NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) and CGMP (current good manufacturing practice) certifications and a guarantee that the supplements have been formulated and packaged in registered ISO 22000 facilities only. These certifications establish strict guidelines that make sure the manufacturer follows ethical practices that all boil down to ensuring that the label matches the contents of the bottle. These certifications ensure compliance by requiring audits that verify that the company is meeting the highest standards of manufacturing and handling of products at all times.

I prefer to obtain a finished product directly from the company that owns the patents and ingredients instead of buying from third-party vendors — especially when it comes to turmeric, because of all the pitfalls I described above. Since the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements but only offers guidelines (which are not enforced until after an adverse report or event), many companies cheat their customers and increase their bottom line by blending patented ingredients with generic ones.

In essence, this means that they can state on their labels they are using the patented ingredients—like Curcumin C3 Complex — when in fact the product might contain only 5 percent to 10 percent Curcumin C3 Complex. The rest could be generic turmeric powder or even synthetic curcumin extracts. This practice is so widespread as to be epidemic. Consumer groups decry it, but federal agencies do not have the resources to investigate every supplement manufacturer.

Since I work closely with the manufacturers of the ingredients I use in my products, I know the raw cost of the product — that is, the actual price of the product before it is sold to wholesalers and then to retailers. Even nutrition companies that sell exclusively to healthcare providers and on the Internet join the many online discount vitamin companies (I like to call them the “big-box vitamin shops” or “discount warehouses” of supplements) that sell Curcumin C3 Complex at prices lower than the actual raw cost of the product.

No matter how much volume discount a company receives, the price of any product at retail should never be lower than the raw cost. Products sold below raw cost guarantee that the branded ingredient is being cut or diluted with generic or synthetic ingredients, or it contains other ingredients altogether. If you look at a patented ingredient and find a competitor with a price that is greatly lower or even half the price, you’re virtually guaranteed that the cheap product would not meet its label claims of potency or purity if tested.

Therefore, when looking for turmeric/curcumin — and, really, any other natural products — make sure they are:

  • Tested for heavy metals (there is a high risk of lead contamination in cheap supplements)
  • Produced in an NSF- and CGMP-certified facility
  • Manufactured in an ISO 22000-certified facility
  • Guaranteed for potency and purity, with documentation and third-party test results
  • Using patented ingredients (like Curcumin C3 Complex, for example) to ensure quality, potency, and purity
  • Certified GRAS (generally regarded as safe) by FDA

How much Curcumin C3 Complex should one take?

Now that you better understand the potential pitfalls of generic curcumin, I would like to talk about the product I know best and tell you how you can use it best to achieve your health and wellness goals.

Most of the clinical studies on the use of curcuminoids suggest a daily dose from 1 g (1,000 mg) to 3 g (3,000 mg), in divided doses for a better response (e.g., 1,000 mg three times a day). I recommend the divided doses because when curcumin is absorbed into the body, it has a short “peak” and then falls off over time. Therefore, multiple doses provide a better response throughout the day. The more chronic or severe the health condition, the higher the dose that the person would require. Some studies suggest upward of 8 g (8,000 mg) or more for severe, life-threatening diseases or end-stage cancers. [25]

When I first started recommending turmeric — and especially Curcumin C3 Complex — my patients were taking multiple pills three times daily, as there were no other options. That was one of the driving forces behind the development of Bosmeric-SR. I made sure we improved the efficacy of curcuminoids (through a combination of synergistic ingredients) and the potency of curcumin itself through a unique delivery system that requires just one to two caplets, twice daily with food. Those with severe health conditions, such as cancer, can take two caplets three times daily with food for twenty-four hours of full support.

Bosmeric-SR comes in an easy-to-swallow bilayered vegetarian caplet that has an immediate action — meaning it is designed to start working within 20 minutes (like a “fast tab”) but also incorporates sustained release for over eight hours of support. This specific type of sustained release provides the clinical benefits of 3 g (or more) of curcuminoids with the intake of just 1 g.

What about taking curcumin products during chemotherapy, radiation, or imaging (CT and PET scans)?

In the past, most oncologists and internal medicine physicians advised their patients not to take anything herbal while undergoing their chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Thankfully, this is now considered to be out-of-date advice.

Most recent studies (in vivo studies on various cancers) have shown that animals and human patients that took the combination of conventional treatment along with curcumin did better than those taking conventional treatment alone. Curcumin has been shown to have both chemo-protective and radio-protective benefits. [26] In other words, it helps protect the healthy cells from the damaging effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Thus, curcumin has a threefold effect:

  1. Curcumin reduces the toxic side effect of damage to healthy cells.
  2. Curcumin decreases inflammation and other dangerous cancer signals that aggravate cells (see figure Curcumin Targets).
  3. Curcumin sensitizes cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation, which makes these toxic therapies more targeted (helping to attack the cancer, while leaving healthy, unaffected cells and tissues unharmed). [27]

Curcumin is only one means that might be able to improve someone’s treatment outcomes. Bosmeric-SR and all of its synergistic compounds may be an important part of an overall protocol for those suffering from cancer. The ingredients in Bosmeric-SR have not only healing aspects but also protective or preventative aspects. For that reason, I recommend all my patients take Bosmeric-SR for added radiation protection when they get CT and PET scans, and other imaging as well, including full-body scans at the airport.

For more detailed information on 10 steps to optimum health using diet and lifestyle changes and the use of natural anti-inflammatories, please read An Inflammation Nation.

Modified by permission from An Inflammation Nation by Sunil Pai © 2015.