Curcumin for Ulcerative Colitis (IBD)

Curcumin for Ulcerative Colitis (IBD)

Published on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 by Andy De Santis

Will This Popular Supplement Help Those Living with UC?

Curcumin is the primary bioactive compound found in Turmeric, the widely used and largely recognizable spice from the root of Curcuma longa

As a culinary tool turmeric is known above all else for its distinctive color and robust anti-inflammatory potential, where it is considered among the most potent anti-inflammatory food components within the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII). 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, as the name implies, is an umbrella term for two distinct conditions (Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis[UC]) which are characterized in part by inflammation of the GI tract.

The totality of the relevant evidence leans more towards a positive effect of curcumin on Ulcerative Colitis more so than Crohn’s and so in today’s article we explore in what capacity curcumin might have a meaningful role to play in the management of this challenging condition.

Let’s get right into it.

Curcumin For UC – Breaking It Down

There is a growing body of evidence indicating a role for curcumin supplementation in mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.

The Mechanism

Although not totally clear, scientists believe that the most relevant physiological action of curcumin in IBD is through the inhibition of pro-inflammatory compounds like IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-α which can play a role in the progression and severity of UC.

The Human Evidence

In 2020 the Annals of Gastroenterology published a systematic review & meta-analysis of human studies looking at curcumin interventions in those living with mild-to-moderate UC taking the drug mesalamine.

The authors determined that the co-administration of curcumin led to improvements in both clinical and endoscopic remission metrics- as measured by relevant scales (CAI, SCCAI, DAI) when compared to mesalamine alone – with only minimal & minor adverse effects noted.

The Challenge

Because of the relatively limited number of high-quality human studies, and the diversity among curcumin dosage/delivery, it can be very hard to provide feedback on optimal dosage.

The vast majority of studies use curcumin dosage ranging in the 500 mg to 3 grams daily range over a 1-6 month period with statistically significant effects more likely to be seen in the 1.5 g+ range over as little as 1-2 months.

Safety Considerations

The FDA regards curcumin in the “generally recognized as safe” classification with multiple studies and organizations suggesting a good safety profile at the dosages discussed above without any notable serious side effects in the vast majority of people.

As always, I recommend consulting with the healthcare team responsible for your care.

What About For Crohn’s Disease?

As researchers begin to drill down into a better understanding of the efficacy of curcumin supplementation in ulcerative colitis, the evidence for its use in Crohn’s disease is far less clear.

A 2020 experimental study out of the Journal of Crohn's and Colitis used a special highly bioavailable form of curcumin known as Theracurmin® at 360 mg/daily over a three-month period in Crohn’s sufferers, determining that it contributed positively to clinical and endoscopic remission.

Another 2020 experimental study, this time out of Clinical Gastrology And Hepatology, determined that 3 grams of curcumin daily over a 6-month period did not improve post-surgery outcomes in Crohn’s sufferers. 

As compared to the available evidence for UC, that for Crohn’s is more mixed/limited – making it even harder to draw firm conclusions.

Final Thoughts

Emerging evidence suggests the most likely and efficacious role for curcumin supplementation in IBD sufferers is for those living with ulcerative colitis and using curcumin as a complementary tool in conjunction with mesalamine.

Until more and better research is conducted, further claims about its use in IBD are challenging to make.

  1. Chandan, S., Mohan, B. P., Chandan, O. C., Ahmad, R., Challa, A., Tummala, H., Singh, S., Dhawan, P., Ponnada, S., Singh, A. B., & Adler, D. G. (2020). Curcumin use in ulcerative colitis: is it ready for prime time? A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Annals of gastroenterology, 33(1), 53–58. 
  2. Lin, Y., Liu, H., Bu, L., Chen, C., & Ye, X. (2022). Review of the Effects and Mechanism of Curcumin in the Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Frontiers in pharmacology, 13, 908077. 
  3. Coelho, M. R., Romi, M. D., Ferreira, D., Zaltman, C., & Soares-Mota, M. (2020). The Use of Curcumin as a Complementary Therapy in Ulcerative Colitis: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. Nutrients, 12(8), 2296. 
  4. Sugimoto, K., Ikeya, K., Bamba, S., Andoh, A., Yamasaki, H., Mitsuyama, K., Nasuno, M., Tanaka, H., Matsuura, A., Kato, M., Ishida, N., Tamura, S., Takano, R., Tani, S., Osawa, S., Nishihira, J., & Hanai, H. (2020). Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Derivative Ameliorates Crohn's Disease Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Multicenter Study. Journal of Crohn's & colitis, 14(12), 1693–1701. 
  5. Bommelaer, G., Laharie, D., Nancey, S., Hebuterne, X., Roblin, X., Nachury, M., Peyrin-Biroulet, L., Fumery, M., Richard, D., Pereira, B., Goutte, M., Buisson, A., & POPCUR study group (2020). Oral Curcumin No More Effective Than Placebo in Preventing Recurrence of Crohn's Disease After Surgery in a Randomized Controlled Trial. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, 18(7), 1553–1560.e1. 

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