Turmeric Essential Oils Boost Curcumin’s Ability to Reduce Severity of Colitis in Animal Study

May 22, 2017

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its active constituent curcumin are often poorly absorbed by the body. Previous studies, however, have shown that adding essential turmeric oils (ETO) to curcumin may help increase curcumin’s bioavailability. Scientists at Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas, TX) recently conducted a first-of-its-kind study on the anti-inflammatory efficacy of a curcumin preparation containing essential turmeric oils. The animal study, published in Scientific Reports1, found that while curcumin alone has long been considered an effective anti-inflammatory, the addition of turmeric essential oils may improve turmeric’s ability to reduce the severity of colitis symptoms.

During the controlled study, mice with dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis were fed either standard curcumin or curcumin enhanced with essential tuermic oils (ETO-curcumin). The ETO-curcumin was Dolcas Biotech’s (Chester, NJ) proprietary BCM-95 curcumin ingredient. Both the standard curcumin and ETO-curcumin were given at dosages of 5, 25, and 50 mg/kg. Researchers assessed efficacy using disease activity index (DAI) scores as well as examining changes in gene expression in inflammation-related genes.

While both curcumin preparations were found to be effective in mitigating DSS-induced colitis—per reduced DAI scores—the curcumin ETO group demonstrated fewer colitis-related symptoms, confirming the superior anti-inflammatory potential of turmeric essential oils, researchers said.

In addition to achieving greater reductions in DAI, the ETO-curcumin treated mice maintained greater body weight, did not experience a shortening of the colon (an indicator of DSS-induced colitis), and had lower spleen weight than the mice treated with standard curcumin. Neither treatment altered stool consistency, and both were effective in reducing fecal bleeding.

Researchers attributed ETO-curcumin’s greater efficacy to several factors. “Though the ETO-curcumin was better absorbed than plain curcumin, its beneficial activities were not solely the result of absorption, but rather the anti-inflammatory synergism of both compounds,” says one of the study’s authors, Ajay Goel, PhD, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Research and Director, Center for Translational Genomics and Oncology.

The researchers also note that this is the first study to directly compare the effect of curcumin versus curcumin-ETO. “This is the first study that highlights the superiority of curcumin combined with essential turmeric essential oils (curcumin-ETO) over standard curcumin. We have shown that although curcumin works in this animal model of colitis, the essential oils delivered with the curcumin make it much more effective. There is a growing body of data that indicate that the essential turmeric oils, containing compounds called turmerones, also possess significant anti-inflammatory properties,” Goel said.

  1. Toden S et al. “Essential turmeric oils enhance anti-inflammatory efficacy of curcumin in dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis.” Scientific Reports. Published online April 11, 2017.