Is Curcumin a Scam?

Updated on November 28, 2016
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Is Curcumin a Scam?

Curcumin is a spice that is touted for its benefits relating to diabetes, regulation of blood sugar, anti-oxidant properties, and arthritis pain. Curcumin is the newest fad in homeopathic medicine, and those who promote it suggest taking this supplement instead of anti-inflammatories or pain medicine.

Curcumin is a spice made from the turmeric plant, which grows in Asia, and it is commonly used to flavor curries. Curcumin is the part of the tumeric plant that gives curry its distinctive bright yellow color, and the supplement pills also have the same vibrant yellow color.

New fad pills come out all the time that claim to miraculously treat whatever ails you. Due to lack of federal regulations on nutrition supplements, however, it is important to learn more about what these pills actually do, and whether there is any truth to their miracle claims.

I recently began suffering from problems in my knee, and many people recommended that I try curcumin to assist in pain relief, reduce the swelling, and improve mobility in the joint. All the hype about curcumin sounded too good to be true, so I decided to do some research to find out if this was just a scam, or if the purported benefits are true.

Turmeric by Steven Jackson Photography
Turmeric by Steven Jackson Photography

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is a traditional spice used as an herbal remedy

Curcumin is a component of the traditional spice called turmeric. Turmeric is not particularly common in western cuisine, but is a mainstay in dishes from South Asia. Turmeric is loosely related to the ginger plant, and is used as a spice in many popular curries, and in butter chicken.

Curcumin is experiencing a surge in popularity in the West, because of some new research indicating that it has numerous health benefits. The bright yellow curcumin is extracted from turmeric, and put into a pill form to create a health supplement. Curcumin is known to be an anti-inflammatory, and is believed to treat a host of medical ailments, from arthritis to cancer to diabetes.

Although still rare in the United States, Curcumin has been used as a spice and traditional medical remedy for thousands of years in South Asia. It is also used as a dye because of its distinctive yellow color, and to beautify the skin to prepare for wedding ceremonies.

Jarrow Formulas Curcumin Supplement - This is the curcumin supplement that I tried

This is the type of Curcumin supplement that I am currently taking. It is called "Jarrow Formulas." I bought the curcumin on Amazon because when I went to my local health food store it was about $40, which I thought was too much money for something I really wasn't too sure about. I think there are probably some other brands that are pretty good as well, but this is the one that I tried out.

I follow the recommended dosage on the bottle, which is one 500 mg pill per day. Some people suggest taking significantly larger amounts than this, but I do not do particularly well with spicy foods and did not want to test it out. I take it every day with my breakfast, because I do not like to take curcumin on an empty stomach. I felt moderate improvement in my knee within the week so I decided to keep trying it out a while longer.

Using Curcumin to Treat Arthritis

Curcumin is a homeopathic prevention for arthritis

Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of Curcumin, it is often used as a supplement to treat arthritis. There are some studies that reflect that it may be beneficial, but the majority of these studies about using curcumin for arthritis are not large enough to be particularly consequential.

Many people particularly suggest Curcumin to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in the knees, and say that it helps improve their mobility and reduces inflammation. It is believed that Curcumin will prevent rheumatoid arthritis, but there is insufficient data for me to feel comfortable making a definitive statement about that.

Curcumin to Treat Diabetes

Studies Show Curcumin May Prevent Onset of Type 2 Diabetes

Studies indicate that Curcumin supplements may be effective in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.

It is believed that it works because of the anti-inflammatory properties of the supplement. The Curcumin is believed to help fight of inflammation, protecting the cells in the pancreas that create insulin. When these cells are protected, they can make insulin more effectively, and thus help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

A recent study in Bangkok followed two groups of pre-diabetic patients. Of those that received the placebo treatment, 16% of the patients went on to develop type 2 diabetes. However in the group that received the curcumin treatment, no one developed diabetes.

Additionally, the people in the test group that received Curcumin also experienced some weight loss. This is presumably because the Curcumin helps to prevent inflammation in the pancreas and stabilize insulin production.

It seems that Curcumin treatment can be an effective part of a dietary plan to help curb diabetes. Especially if taken in conjunction with a well-balanced diet.

Curcumin to Treat Cancer

Curcumin research is still pending as a homeopathic treatment for cancers

Current research is unclear if curcumin can be used to slow, cure, or prevent cancer.

One of the prevailing beliefs about cancer right now is that it is linked to inflammation in the body. Too much inflammation, and your likelihood of cancer increases. The thought is that if you reduce the inflammation in your body, you can prevent the occurrence of cancer.

Curcumin is known to be an anti-inflamatory, and therefore reduce the inflammation in your body. Many people believe that curcumin therapy acts as a preventative for cancer, because it acts as an anti-inflamatory. However, there is insufficient research to support this belief at this time.

Currently there are medical studies being performed to test the theory that curcumin reduces the risk of cancer and slows the growth of cancer, but at this time there are no definitive results.

Curcumin may also interfere with the way that chemotherapy works on the body, so if you are currently undergoing chemotherapy you should not take curcumin unless specifically advised to do so by your medical professional.

If you are currently undergoing treatment for cancer, obviously you should not begin taking Curcumin without speaking with your doctor about it first.

Curcumin Side Effects and Health Risks

What are the side effects of using Curcumin?

Curcumin is a strong spice, so people who are sensitive to the way that spices effect their stomach may want to either avoid Curcumin, or only take a small amount until you know how your stomach will be able to handle it.

Curcumin may interfere with the way some prescribed medications work. If you have any prescriptions, speak to your doctor about how they interact with curcumin.

Curcumin may be bad for people who are on blood thinners, or have issues with their blood being too thin.

Some people have stomach distress if they take Curcumin on an empty stomach, and suggest taking it with food. Diarrhea may be a side effect for some people at high doses or on an empty stomach.

Some people report having rashes that seem to be related to taking Curcumin, that went away when they stopped taking curcumin.

My Experience with Curcumin

So Far, So Good

I began using Curcumin because of problems with my left knee. A friend recommended that I try taking Curcumin supplements to alleviate pain and inflammation within the joint. She gave me a bottle of pills that contained 500mg each.

Since starting taking Curcumin, I have found less need to take ibuprofen for pain. It has not been a miracle cure that made everything better overnight, but there are noticeable improvements. There is less inflammation in the joint, and I am experiencing less pain. I have experienced an increase in the range of motion for the joint, so I can move my knee into more positions than before. This makes me particularly happy because it means that there are more ways that I can comfortably sit down.

I have not experienced any noticeable side effects with Curcumin. The only thing that I noticed was that because the pills are a very vibrant yellow color, it seems to make my urine slightly darker yellow. (Sorry, that was probably TMI but I wanted to share everything). If I have something bad happen, I will update to let you guys know.

I think the Curcumin has also improved my attitude. I think I am dealing with the situation a bit better than I was before. I don't know if that is actually due to the pills, or probably just because for the first time in weeks it seems like my knee is actually making improvements and healing.

Also, I have had moderate Asthma my entire life. I used to have a whole bunch of very expensive medications that I took daily, but worked with my doctor to discontinue using because they caused me to have bad side effects. I had a racing heart, and my hands would shake so much that it interfered with my ability to take notes in class. With the use of breathing exercises that I began when I used to play tuba, and regular cardio exercises that included slow running, swimming, or going on long walks almost daily I was able to control my asthma symptoms for years, and only used my emergency inhaler on rare occasions.

Since starting to have problems with my knee two months ago, I stopped this activity and was beginning to feel my Asthma symptoms reappearing. I was planning on making an appointment to see my asthma specialist, but since beginning the Curcumin pills, I have not experienced any Asthma symptoms at all.

Asthma treatment was not my purpose for taking Curcumin supplements, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the improvements. If this continues, I think I may keep taking the Curcumin after my knee heals to help treat the Asthma.

Update: My knee is not entirely better, which is frustrating, but when I look back to how bad it was a few months ago I am so grateful about the improvements. Before I was in almost constant pain, and simple tasks such as going up a flight of stairs, walking to my car, or taking a shower were monumental endeavors. I still could not go for a run and prop a pillow under my knee whenever I sit down for an extended period of time. However all of my other daily tasks I can now do with ease. I no longer experience any pain, but there was some mild tightness in the joint when the weather changed to be colder. Sometimes my knee still feels unsteady or weak if I am standing for an extended period of time, but I can walk just fine. I frequently walk about a mile making sure to wear my very sturdy and supportive trail running shoes, and have not had any problems.

Second Update: It has now been about ten months, and my knee still is not at 100%. I have continued to take the Curcumin supplements fairly regularly, but sometimes miss some of them. I think I will continue to take them no matter what because of the general health benefits that I feel like I personally have experienced. I think my knee is still healing, albeit very slowly. I get frustrated, because I thought it would all be over by now, but to be honest I have also not been participating in strengthening exercises and such as much as I could have.

Turmeric World by Arne Hendrics
Turmeric World by Arne Hendrics

Foods with Curcumin

Curcumin is a favorite spice in many cultures

Curcumin is a component of the common spice called turmeric. It is the part of turmeric that creates its distinctive golden yellow coloring. When you think of many typical Indian dishes with a vibrant yellow color, this is caused by the curcumin in the seasoning.

Turmeric is a spice that is traditional in the cooking of India, Thailand, Pakistan, and the Middle East. It is found in many foods that you may already be familiar with. Some recipes for making pickles include turmeric.

The most popular food that contains turmeric is probably butter chicken. Like many other dishes, butter chicken receives its distinctive coloring from the curcumin within the turmeric.

Other common meals that contain curcumin are curries, lamb stews, and some lentil dishes.

Talk to Your Doctor About Taking Curcumin Supplements

Curcumin supplements are available over the counter

You should talk to your doctor before you begin taking any herbal supplement. Even an herbal supplement that is generally safe for most people, may be problematic for you individually because it should not be used with a condition you have, or make your prescription medications ineffective. If you are taking a curcumin regimen, be sure to notify your health care professional.

Remember that nutrition supplements, like curcumin, are not regulated in the same way that prescriptions and other medications are regulated by the U.S. Government. If you decide to purchase these types of products, make sure that you use a reputable vendor so you can trust the ingredients that they contain and the claims made.

Where to buy Curcumin Supplements - Always buy curcumin supplements from a reputable source

This is the brand of Curcumin Supplements that I take, and I have not had any problems with it. If you feel that Curcumin is right for you, be sure that you purchase them from a reputable source. There is far less government regulation on the supplement industry as there are on other foods and drugs in the United States. Be careful that you trust the brand that you buy so that you get what you think you are getting. Also, be careful if you buy supplements online, that it is from a reputable website (this is why I suggest Amazon) that you feel comfortable giving your personal information. As always, read all of the reviews on the site, so you can make as informed of a decision about your purchase as possible.

Is Curcumin a Scam?

The answer to this is yes... and no.

Curcumin is not a magic treatment that will cure all of your ailments overnight, and it does have some side effects for some people. Additionally, many of the vendors selling circumin online are probably scam websites. They may either be stealing your personal information or selling you a fraudulent product.

However, I do not think curcumin itself is a scam. There is insufficient research, but it appears that when more studies are done it will confirm that this is an effective method to reduce inflammation. It may be helpful in treating diseases that are related to problems with inflammation.

I am glad that I decided to try curcumin, and I think it is has been beneficial for me. Overall, I would recommend curcumin supplements to friends and family members who were suffering from problems with their knees, or at risk for diabetes. I think in time it will be come a popular method of treatment.

If you do elect to purchase curcumin, I suggest that you either buy it in person from a store that you trust, such as Whole Foods or your local nutrition store. If you buy it online, I suggest purchasing it from a website that you trust. I recommend Amazon, because I have purchased items from them for years with no problems, but use whichever website you have the most confidence in.

Video About Curcumin

Curcumin Research Scandal

Scandal Involving Curcumin Research at MD Anderson

Why is there not more information about clinical studies being performed on curcumin? Unfortunately, one of the leading researchers about curcumin, Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, has been accused of falsifying research information at a clinical study being performed at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. After this scandal, his research papers have all been called into question. More than 65 papers that he wrote about studies involving curcumin are believed to contain fabricated data.

Dr. Aggarwal was a staunch proponent of curcumin, and he touted its anti-cancer and healing properties. He built his career on this research.

Numerous other medical studies are currently being conducted involving curcumin. Hopefully, there will soon be more concrete scientific data about the efficacy of curcumin.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Guestbook Comments

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    • stelaligizaki profile image

      Stella Aligizaki 

      2 years ago from Greece

      Your article gives good information. I use pure curcumin in cooking. It is a remedy for liver problems. However, I agree with you that we must be careful with the supplements.

    • Stardazer profile image


      5 years ago

      Your information is interesting, but you are confusing homeopathy with herbal remedies. They are not the same thing at all. Herbal remedies contain the actual herb or product and have a medicinal effect as well as side effects, whereas a homeopathically prepared remedy has been diluted past the avogadro number, the point at which no more of the original substance can be found in the dilution, and it may have a different effect, and no side effects unless taken daily.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @stylishimo1: Nope, cumin is a different spice (and it is a spice, whereas curcumin is the active compound in a different spice, turmeric). Cumin is also used in some curries (and a lot of mex food, bbq sauces, etc.) Cumin is more of a deep umber colour whereas turmeric --and curcumin--are bright yellow. I think Cumin is still good for you --almost every spice has medicinal properties--but curcumin occurs as a compound in turmeric at levels around 2%, so pure curcumin (usually 95% pure, actually) is bloody magical. :-)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I effin' love this stuff. I probably have $400 worth of various supps, for everything. I gotta say, Curcumin is the one thing that I *know* works for me. I started taking it for rotator cuff chronic pain where nothing else was helping. It worked brilliantly --better pain relief in just 2 days than Advil, and the problem finally heeled (after months of not doing so) about a month later. I also found the Jarrow and was taking the exact same ones (imported to Canada from at the time, though they've discontinued that brand there now.) I also read a recent double blind study where it was proven as or more effective than Prozac as an antidepressant in dosages of 1gr/day. Anyway, it is expensive...but I'm so in love with it that I've actually been talking to pharmaceutical companies in China about importing it in bulk, hahaha --looks like I'm going to be ordering a couple of kilos from there of 95% pure curcuminoids curcumin, lol. It's awesome...I obviously highly recommend it!

    • kathysart profile image


      7 years ago

      Yay Curcumin! Best absorbed with olive oil or maybe coconut oil. <3

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have been suffering from Migraines for the past year. I have tried everything including Botox injections. This past December I walked into my local health food store and begged for help. The clerk suggested Curcumin. After about a week of taking Curcumin, I have not had a Migraine since. My pain in my knees from Osteoarthiritis has improved greatly. I am grateful for Curcumin.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I use it every day. It seems to help with arthritis and if it works as an anti-inflammatory then it may help prevent some cancers.

    • Spiderlily321 profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing all of this information. Great job!

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 

      7 years ago from Ozun

      i believe in curcumin too, as i believe that spices are benefactor in cancer prevention, and spices are antiinflammatory so why not curcumin. I hope you will keep us updated with any further improvement of your health issues, is very interesting how you did start experiencing this. I am doing the same anytime, if i can avoid medicine.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Makes sense to me. Worth a try for arthritis which the medical profession seems to have little success in treating.

    • shahedashaikh profile image


      7 years ago

      Turmeric is known as Haldi and used my me everyday in my curries veg or non veg.Being Asian it is the part of our food and used without even knowing whether it is healthy or not.It is no doubt healthy adds color to the food anti bacterial too.Do not know what curcumin is,thanks for sharing this info.Thanks for visiting and liking my lens meditation start-up.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana

      Curcumin is interesting because we actually use it all the time. It is part of curry powder and one of the most popular industry colors. I use it as a spice (can hardly make a chicken without curry powder, but this is far from calling it super food or something. I look at it a s a part of healthy overall diet and healthy diet is certainly part of proper lifestyle.

    • CoolFool83 profile image


      7 years ago

      Big fan of curcumin that comes from turmeric. I've had positive results. Great lense.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I had been reading about curcumin and wondered if it was a scam. Thank you for your personal story. I believe I will try it myself for its anti-inflammatory properties.

    • aviwolfson profile image

      Avi Wolfson 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very interesting!

    • CoolKarma profile image


      7 years ago

      Curcurmin is helpful for so many things. Your story is very interesting, thank you for sharing it. Great lens.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      7 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Like everything, if you eat junk, smoke and have bad life habits, taking curcumin (called cumin where I live) won't save you! BUT I do believe it is a good supplement to healthy health habits

    • VspaBotanicals profile image


      7 years ago

      It is one my usuals. Great lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      your lens certainly looks wonderful

    • stylishimo1 profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Cumin (that's what it is called in the UK, I am assuming it is the same spice) Very interesting lens, I love making carrot and corriandor soup with lots of cumin in it, yummy. Didn't realise it was good for the joints etc, that's very good to know.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love curcumin for joint paint and it helps with acne too!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      7 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi thanks for all the info and tips about curcumin. this is good to know.

    • JulieJohnson3 profile image

      Julie Johnson 

      7 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Great Lens. I have just started taking turmeric for fibro pain, so I'm not sure yet if it will work. Still too early, but I'm hoping.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      7 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Curcurmin is good for so many things - thanks for sharing your own experience with it. Glad it is helping! Blessed!

    • spikeyflower profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @TheHealthGuy LM: I didn't know that about the black pepper, great tip and thanks for sharing! Personally, I have received a lot of relief from taking curcumin regularly. Two months ago I could only walk a few steps at a time, but now I can walk about half a mile without pain. I was scheduled to have surgery on my knee, but my Dr. said that I was doing well enough that it got cancelled.

    • TheHealthGuy LM profile image

      TheHealthGuy LM 

      7 years ago from U.S.A.

      Curcumin is awesome for pain. There are other natural pain and inflammation relievers that work hand in hand with curcumin. IF someone doesn't experience the relief they feel they should using curcumin simply take it with regular old table black pepper. Black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin dramatically. IF there is a problem with curcumin it is the fact that it is difficult to absorp. Once the absorption problem is rectified curcumin is as good as any NSAID on the market for relieving inflammatory type pain.

    • profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      7 years ago

      i have not used this and thank God i don´t have to. believe the thousand years knowledge from india and china. they know what they are preaching.

    • hotbrain profile image


      7 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      My husband and I have both tried it... He finds it more helpful for pain than I do. So probably depends on the person. I agree, it's not a miracle pill, but may help some.

    • ZoieZoe profile image


      7 years ago

      Yes, this is very interesting! I had heard about certain herbs and spices being beneficial with inflammatory problems. I was not aware of curcumin!

    • GoGirl2012 profile image


      7 years ago

      very interesting, yes i have also read that it can help prevent cancer and was not aware that it did a lot more than that

    • Alana-r profile image


      7 years ago

      I had heard about it in reference to Cancer, i think it was on a newspaper. Thanks for all the extra info on it!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great info, thanks! I am always looking for something that is not approved by the FDA to help with small ailments, such as joint pain, etc.


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