Turmeric has been used for over 4,000 years to treat several conditions. Recent studies have shown that turmeric may help fight infections, reduce inflammation and pain, help fight cancer and treat digestive problems.
Turmeric is used in many cultures for cooking. It gives Indian curry its flavor and yellow color. Turmeric is also used to color mustard, cheese and butter. It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese Medicine as an anti-inflammatory and used to treat digestive problems, skin diseases, wounds and liver disease.
Curcumin (the active constituent in turmeric) also works as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, mutate DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.
Curcumin also lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that lead to inflammation. It can help blood clots from forming by stopping platelets from clumping together.
This SUPER herb has been included in several studies. Although promising, these studies have taken place with animals and may not work as well in humans. Also, some of the studies used curcumin in an injectable form which may have made it more potent. Examining the data, we also see that studies have shown conflicting evidence on the efficacy of curcumin.
The structure and chemical properties of curcumin is what is responsible for its health benefits. For you science nerds, the presence of hydroxyl groups on phenyl ring is responsible for the antioxidant activity of curcumin. The presence of keto groups and double bonds is essential for anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antimutagen activities.
How Tumeric (Curcumin) is therapeutic
-According to Khopde et al. (1999) curcumin is at least ten times more active as an antioxidant than even vitamin E. The curcumin effectively inhibit the free radical damage to bimolecules by prevention and intervention processes which makes it very unique natural antioxidant.
-Curcumin helps decrease inflammation. First we should briefly discuss what inflammation is. Inflammation is a result of our body's immunological response to tissue damage. Many diseases and surgery induce inflammatory reactions. These reactions sometimes create painful conditions. One of the final products of this response are prostaglandins and thromboxanes. Some prostaglandins dilate the blood vessels causes redness, swelling and pain of the inflamed part and leucotrienes cause tissue swelling. Curcumin has anti inflammatory activity in different experimental models e.g., mice, rats, rabbits and pigeons explained by Arora et al. (1971) The oral doses of curcumin required to reduce the inflammatory edema or tissue swelling to half the size (ED50 - a dose effective in reducing edema by 50%) curcumin is also found to be effective in MS., which is an inflammatory disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The main symptoms of this disease are the destruction of oligodendrocytes and myelin sheath in the CNS. Experimental Allergic Encephalomyelitis (EAE) serves as an animal model for MS show that curcumin inhibits EAE thus it can be use for the treatment of MS (Natarjan and Bright, 2002; Banjaree et. al 2010). The antiinflammatory activity of cucumin was evaluated (Padhye et al., 2009) in a group of patients who underwent surgery or suffered from trauma. A double-blind controlled trial (Satoskar et al., 1986) in which three groups of patients received curcumin (400 mg), a placebo (250 mg of lactose powder) or phenyl butazone (100 mg), respectively, three times a day for five consecutive days after surgery (for hernia or hydrocele) curcumin reduced inflammation and was an equally effective as the treatment with phenyl butazone.
-Curcumin can also have an anti cancer benefit. Curcumin is an anti carcinogen. Basically, The curcumin induces the apoptosis (cell death) in the various cancerous cells in culture with a minimum toxicity. Curcumin has been noted to decrease cancer initiation in the cells of skin, mammary glands, oral cavity, fore stomach, esophagus, stomach, intestine, colon, lung and liver. Again, most studies have been done in test tube and animal models but the few that were done in human subjects showed some benefit.
-The benefit of curcumin in arthritis, specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis has also been demonstrated. In arthritis, reactive oxygen species or free radicals are responsible for inflammation and pain in joints. One study from the 1980's observed a significant effect of curcumin (1200 mg day-1) with compared to phenylbutazone (300 mg day-1) in arthritis patients and found that curcumin produces significant improvement in walking time, reduce joint swelling and morning stiffness within two weeks treatment. Curcumin may also help underlying causes of inflammation and reduce damage to bone and cartilage according to a 2007 study and has worked as well as cortisone or phenylbutazone for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and post operative inflammation with no side effect.
There are currently more studies being done on the additional benefits of Curcumin including Alzheimers and other neurological conditions. You can find Turmeric (Curcumin) supplements in your natural food stores. It is still not clear as to the exact effective dosages. I have included below some recipes that include this magical herb! Enjoy!
Curcumin -The Yellow Magic. Asian Journal of Applied Sciences. 2011 (for more info used see references at bottom article)
University of Maryland Medical Center-Turmeric
Turmeric Tea - Adapted from Dr. Weil Balanced living
This is NOT for everyone. If you do enjoy this tea the health benefits can be great!
1. Bring 4 Cups of water to a boil
2. Add 1 tsp. of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes
3. Strain the tea into a fine sieve into a cup, add raw honey and lemon for taste
Some people like to add a teaspoon of ginger along with the turmeric. While ground versions are more convenient, it's worthwhile to experiment with freshly grated turmeric for a more vibrant flavor. These distinctive, deep-orange roots are increasingly available in American grocery and natural food stores.
Curried Potatoes with Cauliflower and Peas - adapted via Vegetariantimes.com
-2 tsp ghee or melted organic butter or vegan butter
-1 10-oz. pkg. diced organic onions, or 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
-4 cloves garlic, minced (4tsp)
-2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
-1 1/2 tsp curry powder
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-1 tsp brown mustard seeds
-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
-6 Yukon gold or other organic potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces (Approx 1 1/2 lbs.)
-1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (1½ lb.)
-1 tsp cane organic sugar