{What it is} This phytochemical found in the Curcuma longa — or turmeric — root is responsible for curry's bright color. Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to aid digestion and increase energy, this antioxidant is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

{Benefits} Curcumin helps relieve menstrual cramps, suppress inflammation, ease gastrointestinal upset, heal wounds, and may reduce arthritis pain. It may also help boost energy and assist in clearing away plaque deposits in the brain linked to Alzheimer's disease.

{News} Curcumin may offer anticancer activity. In a study performed last July by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, 25 pancreatic-cancer patients were given 8 grams of curcumin daily for two months. Two patients experienced no significant tumor growth — and one patient's tumor decreased in size by 73 percent.

{How to take it*} Standard curcumin doses range from 450 mg to 3 grams a day, taken on an empty stomach. Supplementing in combination with a phospholipid, such as lecithin, increases absorption. Curry lovers take note: You would have to consume large amounts of turmeric daily to experience any significant health benefits. One animal study, however, showed that combining curcumin with piperine black-pepper extract — which resembles the traditional way of preparing Indian curry — improved absorption by an impressive 2,000 percent.

{Side effects} Curcumin may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with ginkgo or garlic.

*Talk with your health care provider before starting any supplement regimen.