Curcumin is part of a family of bright yellow pigments called curcuminoids, found in the spice turmeric. There are lots of curcuminoids in turmeric, but curcumin is the most bioactive1.
What do we know about curcumin and psoriasis?
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat skin conditions, infections, digestive diseases and inflammation2,3,4, although it’s only in recent years that scientists have isolated the therapeutic benefits to curcumin5,6.
Research shows curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions when taken orally7 or applied topically8,9 (directly on the skin), with beneficial effects observed in inflammatory conditions like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis4,10.
Scientists think curcumin may help to treat psoriasis by:
- Suppressing the activity of an enzyme called PhK, which is linked with psoriasis activity 1,18.
- Preventing skin infection via anti-bacterial actions
- Blocking the action of TNF-α (a small signalling protein which promotes inflammation) in a similar way to medications, but without adverse effects 12,3,14
- Increasing antioxidant defences, which are reduced in psoriasis sufferers and may contribute to inflammation 14,15
In one small study, patients with mild-moderate plaque psoriasis (classes as psoriasis covering up to 10 per cent of their body) took 4.5 grams of curcumin supplements per day for a period of 12 weeks. Only two of the twelve patients in the study responded to the treatment, but the two who did experienced an 83 to 88 per cent improvement in psoriasis severity scores at week 1216.
More recently, patients with mild-moderate psoriasis who were given a combination of topical steroid therapy plus 2 grams of curcumin per day experienced a greater improvement in their psoriasis severity than the group who used the steroid therapy alone17.
Are there any side effects?
Curcumin is generally considered safe to consume in large amounts and is classed by the Food and Drug Administration as a ‘Generally Recognized as Safe compound’3. Studies looking at the beneficial effects of curcumin have used up to 8 grams a day over several months without adverse effect7,18.
Mild symptoms reported with large doses include nausea, diarrhoea and hot flushes16. Medicinal doses (supplemental strength) of turmeric are not recommended for pregnant women, as they may stimulate the uterus.
What is the ideal dose of curcumin?
Studies using curcumin as a single or combined therapy for psoriasis have used between 2 and 4 grams per day in capsule form. Researchers looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin in osteoarthritis have found 200-500 mg (0.2-0.6 grams) two to four times daily to be effective in reducing inflammation20,21.
Because turmeric is only around 2-6% curcumin, it’s not practical to consume medicinal quantities by eating more of the spice. Curcumin is poorly absorbed when taken orally, so supplements combine curcumin with ingredients like piperine, a black pepper extract which has been shown to increase bio-availability by 2000 per cent7,19.
- Curcumin is the bright yellow pigment found in the spice turmeric
- Curcumin may help treat psoriasis by blocking proteins which trigger inflammation and increasing antioxidant defences
- Turmeric is only 2-6 per cent curcumin, so taking a curcumin supplement is the most practical way to achieve a medicinal dose
- Studies in psoriasis have found beneficial effects with curcumin doses of 2-4 grams a day
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- Nguyen, T. A. & Friedman, A. J. Curcumin: a novel treatment for skin-related disorders. J. Drugs Dermatol. 12, 1131–7 (2013).
- Shehzad, A., Rehman, G. & Lee, Y. S. Curcumin in inflammatory diseases. BioFactors 39, 69–77 (2013).
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- Aggarwal, B. B. & Harikumar, K. B. Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. Int. J. Biochem. Cell Biol. 41, 40–59 (2009).
- Anand, P., Kunnumakkara, A. B., Newman, R. a. & Aggarwal, B. B. Bioavailability of curcumin: Problems and promises. Mol. Pharm. 4, 807–818 (2007).
- Heng, M. C., Song, M. K., Harker, J. & Heng, M. K. Drug-induced suppression of phosphorylase kinase activity correlates with resolution of psoriasis as assessed by clinical, histological and immunohistochemical parameters. Br. J. Dermatol. 143, 937–49 (2000).
- Sonavane, K. et al. Topical curcumin-based cream is equivalent to dietary curcumin in a skin cancer model. J. Skin Cancer 2012, 147863 (2012).
- Gupta, S. C., Patchva, S. & Aggarwal, B. B. Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials. AAPS J. 15, 195–218 (2013).
- Reddy, S. & Aggarwal, B. B. Curcumin is a non-competitive and selective inhibitor of phosphorylase kinase. FEBS Lett. 341, 19–22 (1994).
- Gupta, S. C. et al. Downregulation of tumor necrosis factor and other proinflammatory biomarkers by polyphenols. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 559, 91–99 (2014).
- Aggarwal, B. B. et al. TNF blockade: an inflammatory issue. Ernst Scher. Res Found Work. 161–186 (2006).
- Thangapazham, R. L., Sharad, S. & Maheshwari, R. K. Skin regenerative potentials of curcumin. BioFactors 39, 141–149 (2013).
- Briganti, S. & Picardo, M. Antioxidant activity, lipid peroxidation and skin diseases. What’s new. J. Eur. Acad. Dermatol. Venereol. 17, 663–669 (2003).
- Kurd, S. K. et al. Oral curcumin in the treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis vulgaris: A prospective clinical trial. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 58, 625–631 (2008).
- Antiga, E., Bonciolini, V., Volpi, W., Bianco, E. Del & Caproni, M. Oral Curcumin ( Meriva ) Is Effective as an Adjuvant Treatment and Is Able to Reduce IL-22 Serum Levels in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris. Biomed Res. Int. 1–7 (2015). doi:10.1155/2015/283634
- Cheng, A. L. et al. Phase I clinical trial of curcumin, a chemopreventive agent, in patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions. Anticancer Res. 21, 2895–900 (2001).
- Shoba, G. et al. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 64, 353–356 (1998).
- Chandran, B. & Goel, A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother. Res. 26, 1719–25 (2012).
- Belcaro, G. et al. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern. Med. Rev. 15, 337–344 (2010).
- Hutchins-Wolfbrandt, A. & Mistry, A. M. Dietary turmeric potentially reduces the risk of cancer. Asian Pacific J. Cancer Prev. 12, 3169–3173 (2011).
- Polasa, K., Raghuram, T. C., Krishna, T. P. & Krishnaswamy, K. Effect of turmeric on urinary mutagens in smokers. Mutagenesis 7, 107–109 (1992).
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