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Health and beauty benefits of Curcumin.

EVEN THOUGH primary role of spices is to impart flavor to food, there is a lot of scientific evidence that they are indeed used as medicines. We all know, for example, spices such as garlic to have a reputation for being good for the heart and combating infections, while cinnamon has antidiabetic effects. And who has not heard of the idea of consuming a cup of warm ginger tea to sooth a sore throat and treat colds and nausea?

In the market research study, "Specialty Actives in Personal Care 2011: U.S. Market Analysis and Opportunities," Kline & Company found that sales of specialty actives in the US reached nearly $240 million in 2010. Botanical actives are the largest category of specialty actives, with a 38% share of the market.

This column will briefly discuss turmeric, a golden yellow spice from the East that is known to bring beauty, good health and good luck to those who use it and carry it, according to an old Indian folk song. Indian brides and grooms ritually shower with turmeric powder and milk before marriage to make skin look smooth and more beautiful. Turmeric has been considered "skin food" for thousands of years in India and Far East Asia. Curcumin, a yellow pigment found in the root of the tropical turmeric plant, Curcuma longa, has both a water soluble component turmerin and a lipid soluble component, curcumin. (1) Curcumin has been shown to have a wide range of pharmaceutical benefits that include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic antibacterial, and wound healing properties and consequently it has broad range of clinical applications. (2) Dermatologically, it is used for prevention and treatment of psoriasis, acne, wounds, burns, eczema, photo-damage and photo-aging. (3)



Antioxidant: Turmeric has very high antioxidant levels. It is a very potent scavenger of reactive oxygen species ROS, including superoxide anion radicals, hydroxyl radicals and nitrogen radicals. (4) According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) database, culinary spices have some of the highest ORAC values by weight. This makes them a valuable part of a high antioxidant diet which has been linked to a number of positive health outcomes, including cardiovascular and brain health. Turmeric's antioxidant activity resides with its phenolic fraction curcuminoids.

Anti-Inflammatory: Inflammation represents one of the hottest areas of medical research. Three herbal remedies with anti-inflammatory benefits are ginger, turmeric and Boswellia. Curcumin's powerful anti-inflammatory property with few toxic side effects is validated in a numerous clinical studies that have been reported in various scientific journals. (5) Curcumin has long been employed in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent. Curcuminoids reportedly inhibit enzymes, which participate in the synthesis of inflammatory mediators leukotrienes and prostglandins derived from arachadonic acid. Topically used, turmeric can reduce localized inflammation associated with burns, eczema and psoriasis.

Wound Healing: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, turmeric has both antiviral and antibacterial properties that speeds up wound-healing and prevent infection. In India, Johnson & Johnson sells Band-Aids infused with turmeric powder as it is reputed to help heal wounds. Turmeric, when mixed with aloe vera, soothes burns and helps heal red, irritated eczematous skin.

Skin cancer: Curcumin reduces healing delays caused by radiation and other injuries. (7) It blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a natural chemical, which contributes to cancer, arthritis and is resistant to chemotherapy drugs. Curcumin has been exhaustively studied for its potential chemo-preventive activity. (8) It slows the progression of cancerous cells throughout the body, including breast, esophagus and skin. According to Razelle Kurzrock, an investigator at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, curcumin could be very potent in terms of killing tumor cells. According to data, it diminishes the severity of radiation dermatitis, a common adverse event in cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Products: There are many food-inspired cosmetic products currently available, but with only a token level of food ingredient in the formula which cannot provide any meaningful benefit. Maintaining stability and bioavailability through the manufacturing process represents a challenge. Furthermore, curcumin has classic distinct characteristic pungent odor and intense yellow color such that it could stain teeth, clothing and whatever it comes in contact with, making it impossible to develop cosmetically elegant products. However, the yellowish tint can be ameliorated by using tetrahydrocurcumin (colorless grade), which has been shown to slow the synthesis of melanin, making it a potential skin lightener. It is still unknown what is the optimum use concentration, stability, coactives, vehicles and emulsifiers that would result in a most effective product.

Despite curcumin's obvious negative sensory attributes, consumers find these products in the global marketplace, particularly in India. (9)


All published literature show that turmeric is one of the most aggressively studied herb for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory UV damage reducing, slowing down the accumulation of age related pigments in the skin, cancerprotective and antiaging benefits. More clinical studies are still needed to study curcumin's effect on human skin.


(1.) Cohly etal. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 1998;24-49

(2.) M. Singh et al. Life Sci: 78, 2081-2087(2006)

(3.) Br. J. dermatol. 2000;143:937-49; phytother. Res. 2003:17:987-1000

(4.) Conney AH et al. Adv. Enzyme regul. 1991;31:385

(5.) Indian J. Med. Res. 1982:75:574-8

(6.) Skin Therapy Lett.2000:5:1-2,5

(7.) J. Wound Care 2004:13:107-9

(8.) Mutat. Res.1999;428:305-27

(9.) Skin Pharmacol. Appl. Skin Phy.2001;14:373-85

Navin M. Geria

Senior Technical Advisor and Principal Doctors Skin Prescription


Navin Gera is senior technical advisor and principal of the dermatological research company Doctors Skin Prescription, Boston, founded by dermatologist David J. Goldberg M.D.J.D. and plastic surgeon William P. Adams M.D.F.A.C.S. Genie has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care Industry and was previously with pfizer, Wamer-Lambert, Schick, Clairol, Bristol Myers and most recently SpaDermaceuticals, he has earned nearly 20 US patents, has been published extensively and has been both a speaker and a moderator at cosmetic industry events.
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Title Annotation:Anti-Aging & Cosmeceutical Corner
Author:Geria, Navin M.
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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