What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is an inexpensive, tasty, yellow spice used extensively in Asian food. It is also used as a dye for saris and Buddhist monk’s robes. Turmeric is a perennial plant that is native to South and Southeast Asia. It requires warm temperatures (68-86 degrees Fahrenheit) and a rainy environment.It has a long history of use spanning thousands of years in both India and China as a cure for many ailments. Turmeric has played a part in Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, Unani, and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. More recently western researchers have investigated turmeric and have discovered evidence of many health benefits. One active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has shown its power for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. More than a billion people regularly consume curcumin in their diet.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
One key to health involves preventing free radical damage throughout your body. Free radicals are atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons that cause chemical reactions (oxidative damage) with cells in your body. They can damage lipids, proteins, DNA, or cell membranes. Free radical damage prevents the body from functioning normally and often causes inflammation or even cell death.
Unfortunately, there are many things in our environment that can create free radicals. Free radicals can be generated by the foods we eat, various drugs and medicines, air and water pollutants, pesticides and exercise to name a few. Oxidative damage caused by free radicals has been associated with various chronic diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases as well as aging.
To the rescue come antioxidants. These free radical scavengers either prevent free radicals from forming or react with existing free radicals to neutralize them and make them safe. By reducing damage, any inflammation to aid in repairing cell damage is less necessary.
Curcumin has a “potent anti-inflammatory property” that helps keep free radical contained. It’s antioxidant property is 5 to 10 times stronger than vitamins C and E.
But, you should not consider curcumin as a medicine to be taken when you become ill. It is best used daily to help contain free radicals and reduce inflammation. It is a key nutrient that you should take every day.
What Free Radical Damage Diseases Can Turmeric and Curcumin Help Prevent?
Oxidative stress has been a known factor in many diseases such as:
- autoimmune disorders
- rheumatoid arthritis
- cardiovascular disease
- neurodegenerative diseases
Subash C. Gupta, Sridevi Patchva, and Bharat B. Aggarwal in their article Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials in American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Journal citing half a century of research on curcumin indicated:
Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, uveitis, ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, idiopathic orbital inflammatory pseudotumor, oral lichen planus, gastric inflammation, vitiligo, psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, atherosclerosis, diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, diabetic microangiopathy, lupus nephritis, renal conditions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, β-thalassemia, biliary dyskinesia, Dejerine-Sottas disease, cholecystitis, and chronic bacterial prostatitis.
Clinical trials of turmeric and curcumin are ongoing. Some clinical trials are looking various types of cancers (breast, prostate, pancreatic, lung and colorectal), type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, dermatitis, cognitive impairments and depression.
Clinical trials show that when consumed, the bioavailability of curcumin is relatively low. The liver rapidly clenses the bloodstream of curcumin, quickly making it ineffective.
Several studies has shown that both black pepper and fats greatly help the absorption and retention of curcumin. So, it’s best not to take curcumin on an empty stomach, but rather with a meal including some fats and black pepper.
How to get the most of Curcumin. Should you take pills or whole turmeric? How do you increase the bioavailabilty of curcumin? What other foods should you eat with turmeric? These questions and much more are answered in this video!
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