Curcumin is a natural product found in turmeric, a plant native to southwest India and often hailed as “the spice of life." Curcumin is often used as a supplement for its various pharmacological activities such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It has beneficial effects in preventing many chronic diseases including, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. It could be added as an adjuvant to other established drugs or food products. Its market was estimated at $59 million in 2009 and is anticipated to grow to $94 million by 2022. However, many potential applications of curcumin have been limited because of its poor oral bioavailability, due to low aqueous solubility and stability and rapid metabolism. Current industrial approaches have come short of these issues to effectively increase the oral bioavailability of curcumin.
SDSU researchers have invented a curcumin formulation (Ora-curcumin) with high oral bioavailability through enhancing its aqueous solubility, and improving its stability in aqueous buffers. The aqueous solubility of curcumin was increased by over 20,000 times compared to unformulated curcumin. In addition, with this innovative technology, the solubility of the curcumin could also be engineered to dissolve at desired pHs of GIT. The formulation is stable at various gastrointestinal pHs unlike unformulated curcumin. Importantly, the bioavailability was also enhanced by 20 times in animal studies.
This technology is highly effective, practical and easy to scale up and adapt for large scale production. Importantly, all the ingredients are FDA approved for oral use and cost effective for daily supplemental application. It is compatible with current industrial formulations to increase their efficiency. By increasing the bioavailability, this technology would allow much lower dosage of curcumin than currently needed and therefore greatly increase the profit margin for the manufacturer and open up many new opportunities for curcumin in both animal and human health care business.