Turmeric (Curcuma longa
), a versatile natural plant is truly one of the marvelous medicinal spices of the world. It is an indispensable ingredient of the curry powder that gives a musky flavor and yellow color to the curries. It has been used by Ayurvedic and Unani practitioners in India from ages. It is used in Indian traditional medicine as a drug to strengthen the stomach and promote its action and also as a tonic and a blood purifier.
The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin and it is obtained from the underground stem (rhizome) of the turmeric plant. Curcumin possesses antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits.
Health benefits of turmeric include the following disease preventions and treatments. Prevention of Cancer
Research conducted at the University of Michigan, by Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy in 2009, showed that curcumin in turmeric helps regulate cells by inserting itself into the cell membranes and interfering with molecular pathways that lead to cancer development and spread. This causes the cells to become less susceptible to infection and even to cancer. It has shown its positive effects on the following type of cancers: Human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC):
Turmeric intake showed inhibition in the growth and increase in death of tumor cells Oral cancer:
On application to the affected area in the mouth, it inhibited the growth of chemically-induced oral cancers. Hepatic cancer:
Turmeric decreased growth and increased tumor cell death in animal models. Colon cancer and polyps:
Oral administration has been shown to inhibit polyp formation as well as increase cell death in animal models.Heart Health Benefits
Curcumin has shown to improve several aspects of cardiovascular health. High homocysteine levels and plaque formation:
High homocysteine affect the endothelial cells. Endothelial cells line the inside of the blood vessels and prevent blood from clotting. Dietary curcumin is effective in the treatment of patients with high homocysteine levels. Oxidized-LDL levels:
Oxidized low density lipoproteins (LDL) induce production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that promote development of atherosclerosis leading to heart attack and stroke. According to research on turmeric,curcumin given at a dose of 1.66 mg/kg body weight orally to rabbits fed a high fat and cholesterol diet resulted in a significant decrease in oxidized-LDL levels after 7 weeks of treatment. C-reactive protein (CRP)-induced vascular damage:
CRP is a protein which the body produces as a marker of inflammation and has been shown to cause damage to endothelial cells. Treatment with curcumin ingestion has shown to completely inhibit the effect of CRP on these endothelial cells. Anti-inflammatory Properties
A study recently conducted by a team of Danish and American researchers found that curcumin increases the level of a protein called cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) which fights against bacteria and inflammation. Traumatic shock:
Accidents and trauma involving lot of blood loss can cause inflammatory reaction. Curcumin has shown to lower the serum levels of certain inflammatory proteins and restore the body functions. Rheumatoid arthritis:
A trial in humans was conducted to determine the effects of curcumin on rheumatoid arthritis. Eighteen patients were administered a daily dose of 1200mg of curcumin for two weeks and it was found that this treatment regimen resulted in a significant improvement in the painful symptoms of arthritis.Prevention of Diabetes
According to a study conducted by researchers in Thailand, published in the journal Diabetes Care, the curcumin in turmeric has been shown to prevent the onset of diabetes in people who have the highest risk of getting the disease.
The study conducted on 240 people viewed as having pre-diabetes, characterized by high blood sugar levels, involved the administration of capsules containing 250mg of “curcuminoids”, curcumin supplements.
The researchers attribute these benefits to curcumin’s ability to fight inflammation and oxidative damage to the body cells.
Curcumin, the most active curcuminoid found in turmeric, has been shown to possess varied beneficial effects in the treatment of cancers, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation. With this knowledge, many research groups around the country are focused on the use of this plant-derived chemical in humans. Turmeric is already a common ingredient of antioxidant, immune boosting and heart health supplements popularly being sold in the market today. It is also available as a individual high potency supplement in the form of capsules or tablets.