An Overview of Bioavailable Curcumin Formulas

Theracurmin™ is a nanosized curcumin formula made from a mixture of micronized curcumin and gum ghatti solution. Theracurmin’s particle size is reduced via a wet mill grinding process and then dispersed using a high-pressure blending technique. This creates a colloidal suspension that is highly water soluble.

BCM-95® is a patented curcumin formula that combines curcumin and volatile agents in turmeric essential oil to increase bioavailability. The formula is also comprised of lecithin and medium chain triglycerides to further assist in this process. Turmeric essential oil constitutes approximately 9% of the formulation.

Meriva® uses micelle technology to create a patented Phytosome® complex of curcumin and lecithin without altering the size of the curcumin particles. The curcuminoids and lecithin are combined in a 1:2 ratio. This improves curcumin’s stability in the slightly alkaline environment of the small intestine (pH 7-8), where the majority of curcumin absorption occurs.

NovaSOL® is a micelle formulation that uses Tween-80 instead of lecithin and micronized curcumin to enhance bioavailability.

Although all the delivery methods discussed above do effectively address issues of absorbability and bioavailability, and have studies to prove this, they still can’t successfully evade rapid break down. They absolutely do not yield free form curcumin—only conjugated curcumin, regardless of whatever marketing pitches are given.


Again, there is no clinical data to support this claim for the aforementioned formulas, and data results are often manipulated to show falsified “free form” values. This is done by using an enzyme known as Beta-glucuronidase. This processes de-conjugates the curcumin metabolites by removing the glucuronide or sulphate chain from study blood samples before analysis. Talk about sneaky! Furthermore, the claim that all curcumin is free form curcumin is also in the vein of fake news. The hypothesis that Beta-glucuronidase is excreted at sites of inflammation and can therefore de-conjugate curcumin at the site is just not sound. This idea goes against the laws of human biochemistry and has never been proven with curcumin in humans. For the sake of argument, however, let’s just say this were true. If so, then how would Beta-glucuronidase know to only to liberate curcumin and not other hazardous substances that have been tagged for removal? If this process was actually natural in humans, then would it not render the entire detoxification processes obsolete? If someone ingested a known carcinogen which was then logically conjugated for safe removal, and then de-conjugated again, would it not create a rogue carcinogen? Moreover, would it not then just freely reign and immediately induce disease? Lastly, if all of this were indeed true, the “free form” created would have lost almost all of its therapeutic activity, seeing conjugated curcumin is much less bioactive than true free form (Shoji et al., 2014). Without having a legitimate leg to stand on, this nonsensical assumption seems like more for the sake of a fake argument, than anything else.

To date, there are only two formulas that yield true free form curcumin: Longvida® and CurQfen®, and both have accurate studies to prove this. So what on earth makes these two so very special in comparison to the rest? Longvida® is based on Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle (SLCP™) Technology. This consists of a unique combination of highly purified lipids that coat the micronized curcumin particles. This is different from a micelle, as there are lipids other than just lecithin involved. This combination of minute particles is organized in such a way as to increase bioavailability and absorption, and remarkably avoid rapid break down. This unique formulation allows for each SLCP™ to be taken up through the lymph system as opposed to being absorbed directly into primary circulation and broken down by the liver; therefore, successfully evading rapid breakdown.

Figure 4. CurQfen® at a glance: A fenugreek-curcumin fibre complex with its highly branched “arms” that hide and protect the curcumin deep within.

As mentioned, the liver—our master organ, governs most functions in the body and is responsible for the primary metabolism of substances. This process is known as first pass metabolism. However, depending on the molecular structure of a substance, a secondary, intermediate process known as enterocyte first pass metabolism comes into effect. When a substance has a high molecular weight and is comprised of very specific lipids, such as fatty acids and phospholipids, it is taken up through the enterocytes (nutrient absorption cells) that line the small intestine. It is then carried into the lymph system, which is how it is able to successfully evade rapid breakdown. Unlike the portal blood, the intestinal lymph empties directly into the primary circulation without first passing through the liver. Once in the lymph, it is transported directly to the heart. The heart will then pump this newly “enriched blood” to sites of therapeutic activity such as the brain, lungs, tissues, etc. before it returns to the liver where it will eventually undergo metabolism. Longvida® was the first formulation to successfully achieve this world-wide. 

Now, fast forward to 2015 where a ground breaking formula came to life, embodying the next step in free form curcumin delivery. 

CurQfen® is comprised of fenugreek-curcumin fibre complexes. These little whole food wonders, not only tremendously enhance absorption and bioavailability, they also successfully evade rapid breakdown. Fenugreek is a highly branched, gum like fibre that is extremely sticky. Therefore, it allows high concentration of sub-micronized curcumin to bind deep within the fibre. Here, it remains safe from digestive juices and can be readily absorbed by the gut and then into the bloodstream. Because the nature and structure of these complexes are so unique, they allow for rapid, yet sustained release into the bloodstream. This is due to the tightly wound, sticky nature of the water soluble fenugreek fibre, which adheres to the gut lining like a glue. This glue creates a slow, sustained release effect, because fibre naturally takes longer to break down in the digestive tract. Now you might be wondering how exactly does it absorbs rapidly, if the glue creates a long lasting effect? The answer is in how it evades rapid breakdown. Because the complexes are so tightly wound, and the fenugreek so highly branched, curcumin particles are able to literally hide deep within the complex. This is also a result of the strong bonding between the fenugreek and curcumin. Furthermore, the fibre has a hydrophobic (fat-loving) side that faces inward which is strongly bound to the hydrophobic curcumin particles. Conversely, the fenugreek fibre also has a hydrophilic (water-loving) side that faces outward in the direction of the water molecules, making the complex more water soluble. Thus, it is this tightly weaved tapestry that acts like a Trojan horse, as it carries its precious curcumin cargo right to and through liver, ensuring they remain undetected during first pass metabolism!

Figure 5.  Evading rapid breakdown: Methods of preserving Curcumin’s “Free Form”. Left: CurQfen® is taken up through primary circulation. Due to its structure, it effectively shields the curcumifrom phase II liver enzymes. Right: Longvida® is taken up through the enterocyte into secondary circulation, i.e. lymph. It’s carried to the heart and then the organs, effectively retaining its Free Form. Because standard curcumin doesn’t have the fenugreek shield, it goes through the liver; wherein, most of it is conjugated and excreted.

Pretty neat, right? Apart from fenugreek’s incredible ability to protect curcumin, the very fact it is a highly soluble, well tolerated, gentle fibre opens the doors to the potential healing of a vast array of inflammatory bowel disorders.

Unlike Longvida® which bypasses phase II enzymes by escaping to the lymph system, this simple, food-based delivery method tricks the liver’s guard dogs as it passes by! In turn, this ensures the effective delivery of free form curcumin to all tissues. Believe it or not, CurQfen® actually goes one step further with evidence proving bioaccessibility. In 2016, Kumar and colleagues were able to prove that curcumin not only gets into the bloodstream in its free form, it is able to penetrate and saturate various organs and tissues within the body. This is the first study of its kind on the tissue distribution kinetics of free form curcumin, showing actual uptake of CurQfen® by target tissues. Moreover, due to the fact it is a truly synergistic formula, studies have demonstrated positive effects with anxiety, energy levels and depression due to the presence of fenugreek (Kumar et al., 2016; Sudheeran et al., 2016). Lastly, several health benefits are also attributed to fenugreek, including maintaining healthy blood glucose and reducing elevated blood lipid levels (Sharma and Raghuram, 1990; Al-Habori and Raman 1998; Neelakantan et al., 2014).

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