New formulation increases bioavailability of curcumin

Associate Professor at South Dakota University increases the bioavailability of curcumin, opening the door for the development of nutraceutical products to target specific organs

A long-standing treatment for a sore throat has been hot milk laced with turmeric and black pepper. The main component in turmeric is curcumin, an antioxidant that also reduces inflammation. But curcumin has poor oral bioavailability as it does not dissolve in water, so the mechanism by which this helps tp the degree it does has remained a mystery.

Commenting on the mechanism of this rememdy, Hemachand Tummala, Associate Professor of pharmaceutical sciences at South Dakota State University, explained: ldquo;Curcumin is soluble in oil, so boiling the milk then partitions it into the oil droplets. When we drink the turmeric milk, the curcumin gets into our blood along with the milk fat.”

Piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, has also been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin.

Without the mixture, curcumin does not dissolve and it will be excreted rather than absorbed, eliminating the point in consuming it. Building on this theory, Tummala has developed formulations that have differing levels of dissolution to target specific areas.

A range of dissolution properties

Tummala’s group used Eudragit, a group of polymers manufactured by Evonik industries, to produce an Ora-Curcumin technology. The new technology can be engineered to release curcumin either in the stomach to treat gastric cancer and H. Pylori infection or in the colon to target ulcerative colitis and colon cancer.

Tummala and his doctoral student Siddharth Kesharwani developed Ora-Curcumin E for the stomach, designing the formulation to only dissolve in the acidic pH conditions. Tummala said that the formulation enhanced curcumin solubility up to 20,000 times.

The other formulation that has been created is Ora-Curcumin S, which is approximately 90% soluble only at pHs above 6.7, to treat colon inflammation and target ulcerative colitis and colon cancer. The key difference is that the curcumin does not dissolve into the blood, instead, it is released into the lumen of the colon.

“People dealing with chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, are looking for natural products such as turmeric to help reduce symptoms,” Tummala explained. "This formulation will allow the development of nutraceutical products by increasing the bioavailability of curcumin."

To the market

The patented technology was licensed to Academic Technology Ventures (ATV), which will develop and market commercial products through startup company Turmeric Ultra.

The company will also conduct human safety trials and obtain FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) certification as a food additive or dietary supplement. In addition to reaching the American market, the company hopes to pursue international markets.

Joint health, gut health, cosmetics and pet health are all potential global markets for Ora-Curcumin, which can be integrated into beverages, including sports drinks and sparkling water, and food products, including protein bars and even chewing gum.