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Curcumin (Molecule of the Month for November 2017)

Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by some plants. It is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric (Curcuma longa), a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is sold as an herbal supplement, cosmetics ingredient, food flavoring, and food coloring. Chemically, curcumin is a diarylheptanoid, belonging to the group of curcuminoids, which are natural phenols responsible for turmeric's yellow color. It is a tautomeric compound existing in enolic form in organic solvents, and as a keto form in water.

The most common applications are as an ingredient in dietary supplement, in cosmetics, and as flavoring for foods, such as turmeric-flavored beverages in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. As a food additive for gold-orange coloring in turmeric and prepared foods, its E number is E100. Annual sales of curcumin have increased since 2012, largely due to an increase in its popularity. It is present in skincare products that are marketed as containing natural ingredients or dyes, especially in Asia. The largest market is in North America, where sales exceeded US$20 million in 2014.

Although thoroughly studied in laboratory and clinical studies, curcumin has no confirmed medical uses, and has proved frustrating to scientists who state that it is unstable, not bioavailable, and unlikely to produce useful leads for drug development. Despite concerns about safety or efficacy and the absence of reliable clinical research, some alternative medicine practitioners give turmeric intravenously, supposedly as a treatment for numerous diseases. In 2017 there were two serious cases of adverse events reported one severe allergic reaction and one death that were caused by injection of a curcumin emulsion product administered by a naturopath.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Curcumin 3D model

click on the picture of  Curcumin above to interact
with the 3D model of the
Curcumin structure
(this will open a new browser window)

Picture of Curcumin

C21 H20 O6

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for November 2017 )

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