Research & Education

Turmeric and Women's Health

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and is a key ingredient in the making of curry (an amalgam of spices) and in traditional dishes throughout many parts of the world including India Indonesia China and Africa.

Curcumin is the polyphenol pigment that gives turmeric its yellow color. It is the principal polyphenol of a small group of compounds called the curcuminoids and while turmeric has historically been used as a component of Ayurveda research has identified curcumin as the agent responsible for most of the biological activity of turmeric. What makes curcumin a truly remarkable substance is the vast array of therapeutic actions it possesses many of which center around its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Women's Health

There is some evidence that women may absorb curcumin more efficiently than men.There are also a number of notable studies indicating possible uses of curcumin to assist women with prenatal intervention contraception improved endothelial function and endometriosis treatment.

Prenatal Intervention

Studies of curcumin use during pregnancy are limited but available evidence suggests that doses of up to 12g/day have been well tolerated with low toxicity. Optimal therapeutic doses have yet to be found for animals or humans but fetal rats have exhibited cardioprotective effects in cardiac progenitor cells and better lung maturation via blockade of TGF-B.

Male offspring fared well in the same study and in general have endured more effects from maternal obesity. While this does show promise scientists are unsure whether curcumin benefits the offspring directly or if the benefits result from the improved metabolic maternal profile.

Contraceptive Properties

Since curcumin has spermicidal and microbicidal properties it has been examined as an alternative to steroidal contraceptives. Various concentrations of curcumin were used in the research. Contraception potential was measured by examining human sperm forward motility with these variations. Total block of sperm forward motility occurred at 250¼M concentration. As a supplement to block vaginal bacteria and yeast curcumin concentrations between 100 and 500¼M completely blocked the growth of all the bacteria and yeast strains tested.Its microbicidal properties also make it a great option in helping to decrease vaginosis vaginitis and vaginal infections overall in women.

Improved Endothelial Function

In a study comparing three groups over eight weeks 32 postmenopausal women experienced a significant increase in endothelial flow-mediated dilation from curcumin supplementation and exercise while there were no benefits noted in the control group. Increased risk of cardiovascular disease is associated with the decline of vascular endothelial function. This shows that curcumin and aerobic exercise both can potentially improve the age-related decline in endothelial function

When looked at together brachial systolic blood pressure (SBP) and aortic SBP significantly decreased. Regular endurance exercise  when compared to placebo and curcumin ingestion and exercise with curcumin ingestion reduced the brachial SBP in 45 postmenopausal women randomly assigned. Aortic SBP only decreased when curcumin and exercise were combined lowering the left ventricular afterload as determined by augmentation index (Aix). This study highlights the importance of the combined effects stating “Heart rate (HR) corrected aortic AIx significantly decreases only in the combined-treatment group

Endometriosis Treatment

Endometriosis is associated with dysregulation of matrix metalloproteases (MMP)s and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling In this study curcumin regressed mouse model endometriosis by inhibiting increased MMP-3 expression which has been observed to encourage endometriotic developments.

Curcumin treatment also contributed to endometrial regression by inhibiting NFkB translocation. It also accelerated apoptosis in endometriomas predominantly via cytochrome-c mediated mitochondrial pathway. Involvement of mitochondria in apoptosis was further confirmed by atomic force microscopy (AFM).This study distinguishes a new area of curcumin benefits in women's reproductive health that may lead to further examination of this beneficial nutrient.