Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a well-known Indian spice that has received a great deal of interest from both the medical and scientific worlds
Curcuma longa, commonly called turmeric, occupies an important place in the traditional Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine. For more than 2500 years, this vibrant yellow spice derived from the plant’s rhizome has a long history of being used as an ingredient for cooking, medicine, cosmetics and dyes for textiles.
Turmeric is traditionally used to treat a number of inflammation-based ailments and infections, to relieve chronic pain (such as rheumatism), to stimulate and protect the digestive system and to treat dental and skin disorders.
Early European explorers of the Asian continent introduced this spice to the Western world in the 14th century. Today, turmeric is gaining a steady footing in the fields of health and wellness.
Known for centuries as a natural remedy, turmeric and its active curcuminoids continue to receive considerable attention from the scientific community because of their wide range of potent health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiageing, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity.1
The first therapeutic uses of turmeric were recorded as early as 1748 and the first clinical trial was published in 1937.2 To date, it has been the subject of more than 100 different clinical trials, which clearly show its safety and tolerance.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are known to be linked to neurodegeneration and to aggravate factors associated with the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (AD), Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s (HD) diseases. The multiple beneficial effects of turmeric could be linked to its ability to act as a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Because of their highly conjugated composition, consisting of phenol and ß-diketone moieties, curcuminoids possess strong antioxidant properties. They exert their antioxidant effects through their ability to scavenge the harmful species involved in oxidative stress, such as radicals and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS, RNS).
Curcuminoids are also reported to enhance the activity of several antioxidant enzymes, such as catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase and heme-oxygenase.3
In addition, curcuminoids have been reported to regulate numerous transcription factors, cytokines, protein kinases, adhesion molecules, redox status and enzymes that have been linked to inflammation.4
Furthermore, several epidemiological surveys revealed the lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in Asian populations, which could be attributed to the consumption of turmeric-rich preparations such as curries.
In 2000, Ganguli et al. published a cross-national epidemiological study in which they observed a lower occurrence of AD in residents of Ballabgarh, India, compared with those in Monongahela Valley, Pennsylvania, USA, which was associated with a lower frequency of APOE E4, a gene considered to be a risk factor of AD.5
Another survey published in 2006 revealed a positive correlation between curry consumption and cognitive function in elderly Asians.6 The study, involving 1010 non-demented elderly participants, showed that people who consumed curry occasionally and often to very often had significantly better Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores, a 30-point questionnaire that is used extensively in clinical and research settings to measure cognitive impairment (including memory, attention, language, praxis, and visuospatial ability).
Those observations, along with the recognised benefits of curcuminoids on oxidative stress and inflammatory disorders, explain the growing interest in the use of turmeric to prevent neurological disorders. So far, numerous in vitro and animal studies have elucidated the neuroprotective properties of curcuminoids.
Several mechanisms of action were identified, such as the prevention of oxidative stress, which contributes to the generation of aberrant forms of specific proteins such as alpha-synuclein (Parkinson’s disease), ß-amyloid (Alzheimer’s disease) and huntingtin (Huntington’s disease), which contribute to the onset and progression of these diseases.7
Thus, curcuminoids could prevent protein aggregation and maintain homeostasis. For example, in Tg2676 mice, the administration of curcumin was reported to decrease the levels of proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1ß, to reduce amyloid plaque formation and to attenuate both ROS and RNS formation.7
In an animal PD model, curcumin inhibited the aggregation of alpha-synuclein, and several studies performed in rodents have examined the neuroprotective potential of curcuminoids against both MPTP- and 6-OHDA-induced dopaminergic degeneration.8
Metals also contribute to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases by inducing protein aggregation. Thus, the metal chelation properties of curcuminoids could also reduce the oxidative neurotoxicity linked to protein aggregation.4
Therefore, even if a lack of conclusive clinical trials remains, probably because of the low bioavailability of curcuminoids, turmeric extract appears to be a promising nutraceutical for the prevention of memory loss and neuronal impairment.
Present worldwide, Vidya Herbs is an Indian-origin company that uses the basic principles, theories and ideologies of Ayurveda medicine to develop high quality botanical extracts. Herbal extracts at Vidya are produced using conventional and supercritical CO2 extraction and advanced purification technologies to offer high-quality extracts that are standardised for their active components.
Vidya Herbs Group owns production facilities in India, Japan and France; and, with extensive expertise in the production of turmeric extracts, is pioneering the chemistry of plants.
Vidya Herbs has ventured into large areas of contract farming, engaging more than 3000 farmers for the cultivation of medicinal plants spread across an area of more than 10,000 acres. Vidya Herbs is a proud supporter of sustainable programmes and best agricultural practices, which assist farmers and their families, protect land use and promote sustainable growing practices.
The company supports its farmers with agricultural advice, modern farming tools and equipment to facilitate and enhance the cultivation and harvesting processes. In this way, Vidya Herbs uses efficient and environmentally friendly state-of-the-art extraction technologies.
Vidya’s turmeric extracts are subjected to a strict quality control process, from the selection of the rhizomes to the final product. Plus, offering complete supply chain transparency, backward integration with local Indian farmers enables the best raw materials to be selected — resulting in products of uncompromised final quality being supplied to customers.
The turmeric extracts are available in conventional and organic varieties, certified by Ecocert as per European Organic Standards (EOS). Following institutional regulations, they are strictly controlled for heavy metals, residual solvents, mycotoxins, pesticides, PAH and microbiological content.
Turmeric extracts produced at Vidya are 100% natural and standardised for curcuminoid content. Curcuminoids are yellow-orange polyphenolic pigments that are naturally present in the rhizomes of Curcuma longa and generally constitute 2–6% of the dried weight.
They are present in three main forms (Figure 1), namely curcumin, demethoxycurcumin (DMC) and bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC), and occur in concentrations of 70–80, 15–20 and 2.5–10%, respectively.9
Figure 1: Chemical structures of the curcuminoids
These three curcuminoids have similar physicochemical properties and, consequently, are industrially extracted together from Curcuma longa rhizomes. Natural turmeric extracts should therefore contain curcumin, DMC and BDMC.
At Vidya, turmeric extracts are systematically analysed by HPLC to identify and quantify the different curcuminoids. The presence of the three curcuminoids demonstrates the natural origin of the extracts (Figure 2). Control steps at Vidya also include DNA analysis and 14C carbon testing to ensure that 100% natural turmeric extracts are supplied to customers.
Figure 2: Turmeric extracts analysed by HPLC at Vidya Europe’s laboratory (black = natural, blue = synthetic)
Vidya Herbs offers a complete range of easy-to-formulate turmeric extracts, available from 3–95% curcuminoids, in organic and conventional ranges, to meet the specific requirements of individual applications and different finished products. Available formats include carrier-free powders, granules, beadlets, oil suspensions, emulsions and a cold water dispersible version for aqueous preparations.