Curcumin, the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric has significant anti-inflammatory properties and is a potent antioxidant, so it is widely used in natural medicine.
Fresh turmeric root
Turmeric comes from the root of the curcuma longa plant and is traditionally used as a potent anti-inflammatory in Chinese and Indian medicine. It has dark brown skin, orange flesh, a spicy and bitter taste, and its fragrance is reminiscent of ginger and orange.
Turmeric is traditionally called Indian saffron and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy in Ayurvedic medicine and as a dye for clothing.
Much of turmeric’s recent popularity in the West is due to its therapeutic properties.
Not only is turmeric delicious as a spice in the kitchen (it is one of the main spices in curry), it also contains bioactive compounds with medicinal properties, the most important of which is curcumin, the main active ingredient which is a very strong antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Chronic inflammation is a common element in many Western diseases. The main reason why antioxidants are so beneficial is that they protect our body from free radicals.
What are the main properties of turmeric root?
Turmeric in tablet and powder form
Turmeric has been shown to be a natural substitute for some conventional medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen
Turmeric root is widely used in medicine. It is an excellent source of iron, manganese and potassium, vitamin B6 and dietary fiber. Its nutritional profile includes a wide range of nutrients: carbohydrates, sugars, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Turmeric is popular in treating a wide variety of conditions, including, flatulence, jaundice, hepatitis, menstrual difficulties, urinary problems, bleeding, toothache, breast pain, cramps and diarrhea.
It improves liver problems, its detoxification capacity, and liver function. Early research also suggests that turmeric improves kidney function in people with kidney inflammation.
Curcumin what it is and properties
There is extensive clinical research on the anti-cancer potential of curcumin.
In India, an average of 1.5 to 2 grams of turmeric is consumed per day (between a quarter and half a teaspoon).
No wonder that, at the same age, Indians have eight times less lung cancer than Westerners, nine times less colon cancer, five times less breast cancer, and ten times less kidney cancer. And that’s because Indians are highly exposed to numerous cancer-causing chemicals than the Western world.
Curcumin is the yellow-orange pigment in turmeric and is the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric with significant anti-inflammatory activity and without the toxicity associated with commercial drugs.
Curcumin’s antioxidant power allows it to protect cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA. This is important in many diseases such as arthritis, or in the prevention of cancer.
Curcumin has been shown to be effective in relieving the symptoms of depression. It is also popular for use against headaches. Other uses include bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, fever, and menstrual problems.
Some people apply turmeric topically for skin diseases and infected wounds, irritations, chronic itching, rashes, ringworm, and to treat bruises.
Mouthwash with turmeric appears to be effective in reducing gum disease and bacteria in the mouth, but not in reducing plaque.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Oral turmeric is used for digestive system problems such as dyspepsia, stomach pain, stomach ulcers caused by helicobacter pylori bacteria, diarrhea, gas, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, loss of appetite, jaundice, and gallbladder disorders.
The clinically studied chemical properties of curcumin are promising in the treatment of many modern Western diseases
Curcumin can be effective in inflammatory bowel diseases such as crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. One study found that people with inflammatory bowel disease who took curcumin reduced their symptoms and their need for medication.
Turmeric is used for arthritis. Some research shows that alone or in combination with other herbs it may help reduce some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by inflammation of the joints.
Curcumin effective against cancer
Extensive clinical research over the past 50 years on the anti-cancer potential of curcumin has indicated how this polyphenol can prevent and treat cancer due to its ability to suppress the proliferation of a wide variety of tumor cells. Curcumin has been described as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent capable of suppressing tumor initiation, growth and metastasis. Laboratory experiments have shown that curcumin can prevent tumor formation.
Epidemiological studies conducted in populations that consume large amounts of curry have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer.
Some researchers believe that combining cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and turmeric may be an effective therapy for preventing prostate cancer or inhibiting the spread of already active cancers.
Research shows that eating foods flavored with turmeric may reduce the risk of developing leukemia. Childhood leukemia is much lower in Asia than in Western countries, which may be due to differences in diet and frequent use of turmeric.
Other uses of turmeric
Turmeric is also known to be effective in cardiovascular health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Curcumin reduces cholesterol and prevents its oxidation in the body.
Curcumin improves brain function and decreases the risk of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The clinically studied chemical properties of curcumin are promising. Experimental research in mice found that curcumin appears to slow the progression of the disease. The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, increases immune system activity in Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and the leading cause of dementia.
They also suggest that curcumin may block the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Research suggests that taking curcumin for tuberculosis patients can reduce bacteria levels, improve wound healing, and reduce liver toxicity.
In eye inflammation it may improve the symptoms of long-term inflammation in the middle layer of the eye.
Side effects of turmeric
Turmeric is not an allergenic food, but as with any other food, it is advisable to avoid taking excessive doses.
Turmeric generally does not cause significant side effects. However, some people may experience stomach upset, nausea, dizziness or diarrhea.
Turmeric is SAFE to consume when taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Always consult your doctor for a prescription.
It may cause blood sugar to be too low, so people with diabetes should use it with caution. It may also delay blood clotting in people with clotting disorders.
Taking high amounts of turmeric may also prevent iron absorption so people with iron deficiency should use it with caution.
Turmeric can make gallbladder problems worse.
Turmeric may cause discomfort in some people with reflux or stomach problems.
Special precautions during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Although it is safe when taken orally in amounts normally found in food, there is not enough information to evaluate its safety or side effects if it is consumed medicinally in higher doses.
Turmeric should be used with caution in people trying to have a baby. Consult your doctor or health care provider.
Tips for using turmeric
To experience turmeric’s positive effects, you need to take it as a supplement
Curcumin, turmeric’s main healing agent, is poorly absorbed by the body. To experience the positive effects of turmeric you need to take an extract or supplement containing a large amount of curcumin.
At the same time, in order to encourage the body’s absorption of curcumin, it is necessary to help the body by consuming black pepper, which contains piperine, thus multiplying its bioavailability. Without this substance most of the curcumin is wasted. Supplementation with bioperine (another name for piperine) improves absorption by 2000%.
When the researchers tried to treat cancerous tumors with turmeric supplied in capsules, they discovered that the digestive system barely absorbed it.
In fact, when not mixed with pepper, turmeric does not cross the intestinal barrier. Pepper increases the body’s absorption of turmeric by a factor of two thousand.
Because it is fat-soluble, consuming it with some quality vegetable oil such as extra virgin olive oil also promotes its absorption.
Turmeric as a spice in the kitchen
As a spice, turmeric can be used in the kitchen in many ways. You can add it to salads, to rice as a colouring, as an ingredient in curry, in fried foods, soups and creams… Turmeric complements and is perfect in recipes with lentils.
You probably also know that turmeric is one of the main ingredients of curry. Its bitter and slightly spicy taste is often used to give flavour and colour to many oriental dishes.
Turmeric’s essential oil is used in perfumes, and its resin is used as a color and flavor component in foods.
Where to buy curcumin supplements
You can buy them at herbalists and health food stores, also online.
Curcumin in spice is available in supermarkets in the spice section, you can also buy it online through health food stores and herbalists. As with other foods, opt for organically grown turmeric, as this will give you the assurance that the product has not been irradiated.
If you decide to take supplements with curcumin extract, make sure you take it with piperine, a natural substance that helps with the absorption of curcumin.
Pure turmeric powder has the highest concentration of curcumin, averaging 3.14% by weight compared to curry samples containing very small amounts.
Fresh turmeric should be stored in the refrigerator, while spices can be stored in a dark, dry place.
The main commercial producers of turmeric are India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti and Jamaica.
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