Curcumin is an active ingredient in turmeric, a spice from the ginger family that has become a popular supplement for pain relief. Turmeric has a long history of use in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine to treat many disorders, including digestive conditions. One area where curcumin may have a significant benefit is as an add-on therapy for the chronic condition ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the colon and rectum. Symptoms include pain, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss.

Important recent finding: Patients with mild to moderate UC who take curcumin experience significant improvement, according to research from the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology. The study is reported in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. In clinical studies, researchers have had limited success determining the effectiveness of curcumin, since it’s not easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Researchers have been developing biologically enhanced curcumin to overcome that limitation.

The study: Sixty-nine patients with mild to moderate UC were equally divided into two groups. One group received curcumin twice per day along with a standard UC medication, mesalamine. The other group received mesalamine along with a placebo. Neither the patients nor the researchers knew which patients received the curcumin (known as a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial). Mesalamine is an anti-inflammatory drug often used as front-line therapy for mild to moderate UC.

The researchers looked at three outcomes—clinical remission (symptom free), endoscopic remission (ulcer free on colonoscopy) and clinical response (improvement of symptoms). These were the key findings…

  • At six weeks, the curcumin group had a clinical remission of about 44% and an endoscopic remission of 35% compared with no remission in the placebo group.
  • At six weeks, clinical response was seen in about 53% of the curcumin group compared with about 14% in the placebo group.
  • After three months, 56% of the curcumin group were in remission, and over 80% of them remained in remission at six and 12 months, compared with no remissions in the placebo group.

The researchers conclude that curcumin as an add-on therapy was superior to a placebo. Their finding supports earlier studies. A 2016 study reported in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found over 50% of patients given curcumin along with mesalamine achieved remission compared with no remissions in a placebo group. Both studies found curcumin to be safe as well as effective.

Source: Study titled “Novel Bioenhanced Curcumin with Mesalamine for Induction of Clinical and Endoscopic Remission in Mild-to-Moderate Ulcerative Colitis,” by researchers at Department of Gastroenterology, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology,published in Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.