Curcumin: From Extraction to bioavailability


Muzaffar Hasan, Chirag Maheshwari*, Ajay Yadav & Adinath Kate
Agro Produce Processing Division, ICAR-CIAE, Bhopal, M.P.-462038
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Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) is a herbaceous plant with thick and fleshy rhizomes and leaves in sheaths that characterize the family Zingiberaceae. Curcuma longa L., was originated in India and at present distributed throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world, is widely cultivated in Southeast Asian countries. Turmeric is commonly known for its medicinal values in the Indian traditional systems of medicine. Turmeric contains 2-9 % curcuminoids which are comprised of curcumin (80%), demethoxycurcumin (17%) and bisdemethoxycurcumin (3%) which all belong to the diarylheptanoids (Salem et al., 2014, and Esatbeyoglu et al., 2012). Apart from 2-9% curcuminoids turmeric also contain 2-4% essential oil and 2-3% of fixed oil and various volatile oils, including turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberone. Numbers of studies in the past have shown the medicinal application of curcumin which is not just limited to antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer actions but way more (Aggarwal et al. 2003, Menon & Sudheer 2007). Although curcumin has many health-promoting effects but still hard to find a place in mainstream drug application due to its poor bioavailability (Prasad et al., 2014); therefore to get the health-promoting effect one must need to have a high dose of curcumin to exert the positive and health-promoting effects (Vareed et al., 2008). Curcumin is an oil-soluble pigment, sparingly soluble in water at acidic and neutral pH, and soluble in alkali condition. It is a tautomeric compound existing in enolic form in organic solvents and as a keto form in water. The value of the turmeric products is based on their curcuminoids content and estimated based on its absorbance at 420 nm.

Extraction of curcumin:
The dried root of the rhizome Curcuma Longa is utilized for the extraction of curcumin. The first and foremost step in the extraction process is grounding of the rhizome into a fine powder and washing with a suitable solvent to get the coloring agent selectively. The distillation process followed the first step and yields an oleoresin with coloring matter that accounts for 25-35% content with volatile oils and other resinous extracts. Further washing of oleoresin so obtained with selective solvents leads to the extraction of curcumin from the oleoresin. This process leads to a purified yellowish powered with over 90% curcumin and very little amount of volatiles and natural matter. Various solvents which are being utilized in curcumin extraction process one or other way are Isopropanol (purifying curcumin), Ethyl acetate (quality of product),Acetone (manufacturing process),Methanol(for purification) other are Hexane, ethanol, CO2. Although curcumin is extracted from a natural source, chemical synthesis is also being available (Lampe and Milobedzka, 1913).

Extraction Methods of Curcumin-
In all the conventional extraction methods, maceration and soxhlet extraction are suitable for the extraction of curcumin. However, maceration is the most effective method to extract compounds from plants. It is also reported that the maceration extraction of Curcuminiods has about two times higher yield than the other extraction methods. Soxhlet extraction can be quite time-consuming than maceration, taking from a few hours up to days, and consume large volumes of solvent. Its main advantage is that the material is extracted continuously. The disadvantage is that the extract is constantly heated at the boiling point of the solvent used, which can damage thermolabile compounds.

In the case of the modern extraction methods including microwave-assisted,ultrasound-assisted and enzyme-assisted extractions do not show high extraction yields as high as Soxhlet method, but their highlighted advantages such as low extraction temperature, short extraction time and use of a very small volume of solvent make them more favorable extraction methods.

Turmeric color properties are everlasting but flavor and aroma are lost quickly if not stored properly. Store it in airtight containers away from sunlight. Store it in cool, dark and dry places.

Various studies have evident proof that curcumin has low bioavailability as well as Low pharmacokinetics. Vareed et al. 2008 in his study have found that even after a single oral dose of 10 or 12 g of curcumin, it was barely detected in human plasma. Numerous factors are accountable for the low bioavailability of curcumin that includes low solubility in aqueous gastrointestinal fluids, low chemical stability at physiological pH, low absorption in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), and rapid metabolism in the GIT and liver.
Since curcumin is known to possess multiple therapeutic effects, therefore, considering the utmost importance of this polyphenol, plentiful approaches have been tried to boost up the bioavailability of curcumin. Recently reported approaches that are being used to enhance the bioavailability of curcumin are- given in Table.

Toxicity of curcumin
Some reports suggest that curcumin may be toxic under some specific conditions. For example, time- and dose-dependent induction of chromosomal aberration in mammalian cell lines was reported at a concentration of 10 g mL-1 of turmeric. Similarly, curcumin at the concentrations of 5 g mL-1 and 2.5 g mL-1 were shown to induce nuclear and mitochondrial DNA damage. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies on turmeric oleoresin revealed that ingestion of turmeric oleoresin resulted in an increased incidence of inflammation, hyperplasia, and ulcers of caecum and colon in male rats and thyroid gland follicular cell hyperplasia in the female rats. Similarly, in one of the studies, it was reported that curcumin can promote lung cancer in mice.

In fact, the number of reports showing a positive effect of curcumin is much higher than those showing the toxic effect, which may be due to the fact that more scholars are busy evaluating the positive effect of curcumin than its toxicity. It is the opinion that future research is needed to establish the benefit-to-risk ratio of curcumin.

Curcumin is listed with numerous applications such as food colorants, medicinal and other health benefits. But still, it is hard to find a direct application in medicine due to its low bioavailability. Although numerous methods have been evolved to increase bioavailability still it is necessary to find out the best suitable method which is effective and economical. One area of further research in curcumin is to validate the health benefits along with its toxicity nature which is also being reported by some researchers.

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