Hot curcumin

In my September 10 2007 post on how to (try to!) enhance the bioavailability of curcumin, I mentioned a study (abstract: showing that curcumin, when heated up, is more easily absorbed by the body. At the time, I didn’t have access to the full study…just the abstract. Well, two months ago (you can see how far behind I am…!), a blog reader, grazie M.!, sent the whole shebang to me. Fabuuulous. Then, a bit more recently, Sherlock did the same (grazie!). Well, well, it’s certainly better to have two copies than none…


The study focuses on a series of tests carried out on curcumin and turmeric by a team of Oklahoma researchers. I extracted what I consider to be a few interesting bits.


Here is something that any curcumin “experimenter” knows: Curcumin is practically not soluble in water at neutral or acidic pH. But the Discussion part adds that, while most of the curcumin tested did remain insoluble in water (98.5% for curcumin and 94.7% for turmeric), there was a slight increase in solubility when heat was added: from 0.21% to 2.6% with curcumin and 1.7% to 5.3% with turmeric. Not much, certainly.


But read this: However, even with these low levels of soluble curcumin, we were able to observe an 80% inhibition in protein-HNE modification. HNE modification is considered to be cytotoxic, mutagenic, and genotoxic. The abstract tells us that HNE, a major oxidation by-product, is also involved in disease pathogenesis, as we also read in this 2006 study (same authors, by the way):


The researchers believe that the water-soluble curcumin has the potential to enhance the pharmacological utility of curcumin, and this factor should be considered in clinical trials involving curcumin. HNE modification of protein could be a way in which curcumin exerts its effect.


This report deals with (1) development of procedures designed to improve solubility of curcumin, (2) development of a simple detection method for curcumin, and (3) testing the pharmacological utility of the solubilised curcumin using an in vitro assay.


In these tests, curcumin became 12 times more soluble when heated. Turmeric, in comparison, became only 3 times as soluble.


A really important point: the heating procedure did not affect curcumin stability. […] The heat treatment did not cause the curcumin to disintegrate […]. In fact, Heat treatment actually appears to protect curcumin from breaking down faster. That is a bit of more good news. Well, ok, we actually knew this from the abstract, which states that there was no significant heat-mediated disintegration of curcumin.


Discussion part: Increasing evidence points to the involvement of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of several diseases. Curcumin is very attractive on account of the fact that it can intercept potent carcinogens such as reactive oxygen species. Of special interest is the ability of curcumin to neutralize these dangerous free radical species. Curcumin has been shown to have antimicrobial and antiprotozoal activity, antimalarial, anti-angiogenic, and antitumor effects and a variety of other biological effects.


Two of this study’s authors recently wrote a letter to the Editor of “Clinical Cancer Research” (grazie, Sherlock, and thanks also to a blog reader) urging for heat-solubilized curcumin to be tested in clinical trials. Based on the results of the Phase II clinical trial of curcumin in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer (see my Page on this topic), they suggest that the bioavailability of curcumin could be increased before oral administration to patients.

From all this, it seems that it would be helpful to heat up curcumin a bit before swallowing it. I have done that in the past, and even now, every time I make a curry, I take my curcumin capsules together with some heated spicy sauce. I have actually been doing that for years now…of course, I don’t have a curry dish every day…


  1. Hi Again

    Another link that may prove useful

    When I cook my curries I always disolve my turmeric in a little coconut oil and gentle cook it off and then add water a little at a time it responds a little like flour and water when you make a sauce, so something must be have changed I like to think it makes it easier to absorb and this article proves it. Brilliant!

    Thanks for all your hard work Margaret


  2. Hi Margaret,

    Ayurvedic physicians have known this all along…

    Do you know anything about TRAIL? Here is a study done that states LC-1 (Dmapt) would be good combo along with Dex. and/or TRAIL. TRAIL (aka – now new drug called Dulanermin) is just starting some clinical trials, and it seems promising in that it has very minimal side effects. Our bodies make it naturally to fight off cancer, and I was wondering if anyone knows what foods/herbs etc. could stimulate this same acitivity?

    Lots of thanks to you all the time for this site….

    Enjoy the day,


  3. I am concerned about the lack of bioavailability of curcumin. I have CLL, and have taken curcumin (generally from LEF) without much success. There is a paper that suggests that alternating curcumin and EGCG might be more effective than either product separately, or when combined and administered at the same time.

    Yet the levels they show cell kill at seem to be unachieveable by mortal man. Even eight grams a day would seemingly not lead to high enough concentrations, even with piperine.

  4. I take my curcumin in hard caplets; 8 a day. Any ideas how to heat it in this form? Crushing maybe? Not easy to do since the caplets are quite hard.

  5. Since it is well known that the prevalence of both various cancers and of Alzheimer’s is very much lower in India as compared to the western countries, and also well known that Indians eat curry dishes every day, which have plenty of turmeric added, the natural conclusion is that curcumin is effective against these ailments among Indians.
    But I have speculated about what the Indians might be doing that helps the curcumin bioavailability for them. I believe that this story about how heat improves curcumin availability does answer my speculation.
    When preparing their curry and other dishes with many spices, the traditional Indian cook starts with clarified butter in a frying pan, into which she puts all the spices to be used in the dish, and then heats them together to bring out the flavor and aromas.
    But that cook is also increasing the bioavailability of the curcumin in two ways: she is dissolving it in butter and she is heating it.
    I believe that this practice explains why the Indians are so much less likely to get either cancer or Alzheimer’s. Also I believe it explains why the western researchers, who conduct clinical trials with curcumin, seldom find very much treatment benefit from curcumin. They simply give capsules or powder, where virtually no process is included to help overcome the known poor bioavailability of curcumin.
    Follow the ancient Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cook practices.

  6. I gave a lecture to the Internal Medicine residents in our hospital on curcumin last year. Interestingly, the Indian residents all commented that when they were kids and were sick, their mothers would give them a heaping teaspoon of curcumin dissolved in warm milk, which must taste terrible but fits with what Margaret has said in this blog previously.
    I have been trying to decide whether Biocurcumax or Meriva is the best way to go at present. Biocurcumax has recently been sold by LEF but previously they were only selling curcumin with bioperine, so the reader above who said he’s been taking LEFs version “without much effect”, I wonder which version he/she was taking.

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