Answer: Curcumin has shown some short-term beneficial effects on cognition (thinking and memory). Longer-term studies have generally shown mixed results, although an 18-month study done with Theracurmin (an enhanced bioavailability formula) showed modest improvements in short-term memory, verbal memory, and attention compared to placebo. Be aware that those taking Theracurmin were nearly twice as likely to report gastrointestinal side effects as those taking placebo. Brain scans suggested other possible benefits of Theracurmin, although the value of those findings is unclear. More details about this are found in the Memory, Cognition, and Alzheimer's Disease section of our Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review.
Due to poor bioavailability of curcumin (particularly if not taken with a meal containing fats), many formulas have been developed to enhance curcumin absorption and overall bioavailability. A study of Theracurmin found it to raise blood levels of curcumin much better than regular curcumin powder. However, participants in the study took the products with water, which would greatly limit absorption of regular curcumin powder. If the products had been taken with a fat-containing meal, it's possible that the difference would not have been dramatic. More about this is found in the Absorption and Bioavailability section of the Turmeric and Cumin Supplements and Spices Review, which also discusses and compares curcumin formulas such as BCM-95, Meriva, and CurcuWin, as well as Bioperine — an ingredient often added to curcumin formulas to increase bioavailability. Also see our Top Picks among curcumin supplements in the Review.