Curcumin, from the spice turmeric, exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, and neurotrophic activity and therefore holds promise as a therapeutic agent to prevent and treat several disorders. However, a major barrier to curcumin's clinical efficacy is its poor bioavailability. Efforts have therefore been dedicated to developing curcumin formulations with greater bioavailability and systemic tissue distribution. However, it is proposed in this review that curcumin's potential as a therapeutic agent may not solely rely on its bioavailability, but rather its medicinal benefits may also arise from its positive influence on gastrointestinal health and function. In this review, in vitro, animal, and human studies investigating the effects of curcumin on intestinal microbiota, intestinal permeability, gut inflammation and oxidative stress, anaphylactic response, and bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections are summarized. It is argued that positive changes in these areas can have wide-ranging influences on both intestinal and extraintestinal diseases, and therefore presents as a possible mechanism behind curcumin's therapeutic efficacy.
Keywords: curcumin; herbal medicine; intestinal health; intestinal microbiota; microbiome; polyphenols; turmeric.
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