Did You Know Turmeric is a Natural Nootropic?
As time moves forward and we seek a more natural existence, we are continually looking back toward ancient cultures to see what they used to heal themselves. As such, there’s been a resurgence in using food as medicine and a lot of focus has been put on Ayurveda – India’s holistic healing system.
Quite possibly, the greatest rediscovery to come out of this introspection is turmeric.
turmeric is really quite special for a number of reasons that we’ll explore below. First off it contains curcumin which gives turmeric it’s natural nootropic benefits.
Turmeric boosts serotonin and dopamine, hence why it is great for helping with motivation, focus and concentration. In addition, it is a powerful antioxidant helping to not only protect your brain but to improve its cognitive function
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice used in curries that is responsible for the yellow colour. But (and this is a big but), turmeric isn’t really what you want if you’re seeking out its health benefits.
Generally, I am an advocate of eating the whole food instead of seeking out a single supplement, but this is one of the extreme cases where it’s far better to grab a supplement than a pile of turmeric.
The reason is that the active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and curcumin comprises only about 2% of turmeric. Now, even though that’s a tiny, tiny bit, you can increase your absorption of it by eating it with fat and black pepper. It’s also notoriously difficult to absorb curcumin anyway. So if it’s my health, I’m reaching for a supplement.
Before I tell you how to figure out how to choose a quality turmeric supplement though, let’s discover why you’d want to take curcumin in the first place. Here are the top 3 benefits of Turmeric:
Curcumin is anti-inflammatory
This is by far my favourite benefit (and it should be yours too). Plenty of chronic diseases are caused by inflammation. Now I’m not saying that if you have arthritis you can just pop a couple of curcumin supplements and play tennis like a pro. It’s not that simple. But it can certainly help you.
Some other diseases caused by inflammation:
- Heart disease
- Crohn’s Disease
A study has shown that curcumin can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory drugs. The big benefit, however, is that curcumin does not have the side effects those drugs do. ***Don’t stop taking drugs without the consent of your GP. Doing so can be potentially dangerous.***
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant
Oxidation can be just as much of a killer as inflammation. You’ve probably heard about free radicals. They’re the pesky little molecules that keep stealing electrons from other molecules. And they’re never really happy. They just keep stealing and stealing and stealing. If you let them get away with it for too long, they can eventually thicken and harden your arteries (cause heart attacks), attack your DNA (cause cancer), and attack your collagen and stiffen it.
Free radicals are incredibly simple to disarm though. They’re just mad because they don’t have an electron. They take it from somewhere else and then that molecule doesn’t have an electron, so it needs one… and so on. The easy way to stop this deadly chain is to give the free radicals what they want.
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of free radicals, but spices and herbs are often even better sources. Curcumin, of course, is a powerful antioxidant.
But it does more than that. Curcumin also increases the levels of your body’s master antioxidant, glutathione.
Curcumin can improve brain function
There was a time when I was a kid when I used to count the times I bumped my head because I thought I was losing brain cells that I could never get back. Back then, I thought of it like a video game. I figured the less I hit my head, the smarter I’d be. After all, you only get so many brain cells, right?
Nope. That’s horribly wrong.
There’s a process that helps your brain create new connections and even new brain cells and it’s all orchestrated by Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Or, for the sake of brevity, BDNF. Curcumin has been shown to increase your BDNF.
There’s research that indicates that lack of BDNF is found in people with depression and Alzheimer’s. A study on mice found that curcumin can improve the structure and function of synapses responsible for learning and memory. Of course, human studies are required to truly validate this study, however, the based on the method of action and mice study, curcumin is certainly a promising supplement for brain health.
What to look for in a top turmeric supplement
Recently, there has been a lot of positive scientific research confirming the above benefits. Not surprisingly, several new curcumin products have become available. But because of this, there are a lot of companies that are putting out a cheap and inferior product in order to cash in on its popularity.
The first thing you need to know is that there are actually 3 curcuminoids: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. If your supplement is missing any of them, it’s something you shouldn’t waste your money on.
What most people do not realise is that most of these "our brand is better than the other brand" claims are based on studies that compared highly purified curcumin extracts to turmeric or low-potency curcumin. You will see one brand claiming "10X better absorbed" while another says "5,000% better absorbed." They got that way by binding the curcumin with absorbing agents. In some cases, the capsules are 80% absorbing agents. This leaves hardly any room for curcumin, which somewhat defeats the purpose of taking curcumin. So if you see "500 mgs of Curcumin Complex," you may only be getting 100 mgs of actual curcumin - albeit the 100 mg will be well absorbed.
I alluded to the fact that there are two things that can increase the absorption of curcumin – fat and black pepper. Not having fat is an easy problem to solve. Just take your supplement with some food and you’ll be fine.
It’s black pepper that compliments the curcumin. The gold standard is BioPerine®. Don’t buy a curcumin supplement without it because it is the most researched, patented and studied black pepper extract proven to increase absorption.