Like many people, we are health conscious and like supplements that can provide benefits.  Curcumin, extracted from the turmeric (the rhizome or root of Curcuma longa L.) certainly fits that.  It’s been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant along with other benefits to the circulatory and digestive system.  Other studies have shown that curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine… a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin.  How much curcumin do you need?  Many studies have been done with subjects that have included up to 8000mg of curcumin per day for 3 months and found no toxicity from curcumin. (PubMed) For daily use most people should be looking at a minimum of 100mg and up to 1000mg of curcumin.

Turmeric flower and black peppercorns

Sounds great! And that is why so many people are adding curcumin supplements into their healthy lifestyle.  Unfortunately, they may also be adding potentially cancer-causing solvents as well.  Turmeric contains only about 3%-6% curcumin so in order to extract it to get it in a pill a solvent technology is used in most cases.  Some of the currently used chemicals are:

  • Isopropanol – Not bad as it’s alcohol and evaporates, especially in such a small quantity.
  • Ethyl acetate – Not good, but safe in small doses. Used in nail polish (that’s the smell) and to decaffeinate tea and coffee.
  • Acetone – Safe in small doses.  Used for nail polish remover and paint thinner but produced and disposed of in the body.  Normally present in blood and urine.

See more about the process click here.

Turmeric powder in a bowl

The question is how much of the solvents are left in the product and how much do you find acceptable in a health supplement?  Much of the curcumin in the United States come from China and India, countries with less stringent standards for food and manufacturing.  A check of dozens of Chinese and Indian suppliers all revealed a solvent extraction method but no description of the chemicals used.  In the past, Hexane, a highly toxic chemical, has been used.

There is a solution.  Some curcumin is extracted via CO2 and the use of ultrasound, microwave, and enzyme for extraction has been studied.  These methods are all less harmful to the environment and potentially to us than solvent-based extraction.

I know I would feel better about taking a health supplement that wasn’t made overseas with a solvent process.

Ask Questions, It’s Your Body!

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