Turmeric and curcumin are not household words for the Western world- yet. But, Indians have used this spice for centuries. In India, turmeric is used as a common spice for making curies and for seasoning purposes. But that’s not it; there is a lot more to turmeric than just being a simple household spice. Let’s dig a bit deeper and see what amazing benefits this golden spice holds for us!
Turmeric belongs to the family of ginger. The most important ingredient of turmeric, which gives it its golden color, is “curcumin”. People in the West often eat highly processed, fried and fatty foods. According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention 1)http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm, 1 in 4 deaths in America are due to heart diseases. Heart wreck is now becoming the leading cause of death worldwide- especially in the West. These stats are on the rise in Asian countries too, but still a lot less people die due to heart attack in Asia than in America or other Western countries. Why is that so? We don’t know the answer to this question exactly, but that’s perhaps because of the difference in the ways of eating. Asians usually eat fresh food, full of healthy spices like turmeric, which protect them from a lot of dreadful conditions. Now researchers in the West have started to verify that Asian spices, especially curcumin (Turmeric), have bunch of health benefits.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
Researchers have always shown keen interest in curcumin because of its potent, versatile and abundant health promoting effects. Curcumin has shown its efficacy in conditions ranging from heart disease to even cancer! There is a lot more to curcumin that we still need to understand, but let’s discuss what recent research says about health benefits of curcumin
1. Curcumin and Arthritis
Arthritis is a painful condition that takes away the comfort of life. The pain, at times, becomes so excruciating that it becomes difficult to even move around- physical activity aside. If you ask a qualified nutritionist to recommend you some supplements for arthritis issue then one of the many supplements that the dietician may recommend you will definitely be “Curcumin”!
Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that puts a stop to the chemical processes involved in triggering pain and inflammation. Curcumin puts a stop to cyclooxygenase and leukotriene pathway- two most important pathways of inflammation in human body. Results of a recent study 2)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22407780 showed that use of Curcumin was just as effective, in fact superior, to the use of diclofenac sodium- the mainstay drug for treating arthritis.
Researchers tested 45 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The individuals were either given 500 mg curcumin or 50 mg diclofenac sodium. The results were indeed surprising! Researchers found that the group taking curcumin had HIGHER reduction in joint pain as compared to the group using diclofenac sodium. Moreover, the curcumin group experienced no side effects, unlike the diclofenac group.
Similar results came out of a study 3)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20657536 conducted at the Chieti-Pescara University, Italy. In that study, the Osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers were given a curcumin supplement for 3 months. After 3 months of treatment, researchers noted 58% decrease in OA symptoms in sufferers using curcumin supplements!
2. Curcumin and Heart Health
Heart attacks are the leading killers worldwide. The most common cause of heart wreck is acute coronary syndrome (ACS). The vessels supplying the heart slowly get clogged with cholesterol plug. A point comes when the blood supply of the heart gets compromised to such a limit that it ceases to work and starts to fade away. Abnormally high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol are the causative factors for this condition. Patients with ACS can save themselves from life-threatening heart attack if they can lower their blood cholesterol and keep bad fats under control. Here, again, curcumin comes to the rescue!
The results of a study 4)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19151449 conducted at Jakarta proved the beneficial effects of curcumin supplementation for patients with ACS. The study included 75 patients suffering from ACS, who were given curcumin at an increasing dose. The results of the study showed that curcumin supplementation effectively reduced abnormally elevated levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, and total cholesterol. Moreover, curcumin was also found to increase the levels of HDL (good cholesterol).
3. Curcumin and Diabetes
If you were to make a list of modern scourges that take the lives of millions every year then diabetes would certainly be on that list too. Sugar is essential for body cells to function properly, but very high blood sugar turns into a toxin. Diabetes is a silent killer because by the time you know you’ve this condition, a lot of damage has already been done. Elevated blood sugar in diabetes adversely affected almost every organ of your body, including heart, kidneys and eyes. Diabetes is either because of decreased production of insulin (glucose metabolizing hormone) or body’s ability to use blood sugar effectively (insulin resistance). Curcumin targets both these defects and is therefore beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes sufferers.
Recently a breakthrough research 5)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22773702 has been conducted at the Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand. Researchers took 240 pre-diabetics and either gave them curcumin capsules daily or placebo drugs. After 9 months of therapy, researchers found that at least 17% of the pre-diabetics on placebo therapy developed type 2 diabetes. Whereas, none of the individuals on curcumin therapy developed diabetes.
In fact, they showed better insulin levels and improved glucose tolerance.
Moreover, several studies 6)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23116316 have repeatedly proven that use of curcumin is an effective approaching in dealing with diabetes complications like kidney damage, vascular damage and vision disturbance.
4. Curcumin and Obesity
Obesity is not a disease on its own, but serves as the root of thousands of other disease- like hypertension and diabetes. Why spend thousands of dollars on artificial weight losing measures like tummy tuck and liposuction when you can get lasting results by going all natural? The answer here, again, is curcumin! Research 7)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23339049 shows that use of curcumin decreases the ability of fat tissues to multiply. This way, it puts a stop to abnormal weight gain.
Results of a study 8)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25632052 conducted at the University of Palermo, Italy showed that individuals using a supplement with curcumin as an ingredient lost as much as 2-3 kg with 4 months of use. Not to mention, the individuals also experienced a bunch of added benefits like improved heart health, better glucose levels and improved lipid profile.
5. Curcumin and Gut Health
Curcumin is extremely beneficial for issues related to gut health. It benefits simple things ranging from heartburn and difficulty in eating to more serious conditions like peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and H.pylori infections.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an extremely waxing condition characterized by symptoms like flatulence, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Researchers at the University of Reading, UK 9)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673996 tested the use of curcumin tablets in the sufferers of IBS. Researchers concluded that at as much as 60% of the individuals included in the study experienced significant fall in the IBS symptoms.
Peptic ulcers are extremely painful sores that can show on any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The sufferers can’t enjoy daily food due to extreme pain. A research conducted in Thailand 10)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11485087/ proved that use of curcumin containing capsules not only relieved the symptoms of peptic ulcers, but completely healed the ulcers in as much as 76% sufferers within 4 to 12 weeks of therapy.
6. Curcumin And The Brain
Aging takes doesn’t only take away your physical beauty, but affects your vital organs too. One organ that suffers the most is you brain. With increasing age, the neurons of brain start to die and functioning of brain becomes extremely slow. Poor memory, decreased attention and hampered thinking capacity are all symptoms of an age related disorder known as “Alzheimer’s disease”.
Results of several clinical trials 11)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/ have shown that use of turmeric is extremely effective in reducing the structural deficits of Alzheimer’s. Moreover, the use of curcumin improves the cognition of the sufferers and improves the levels of anti-oxidants too- which protect brain against oxidative stress.
7. Curcumin And Healthy Skin
It’s an ancient tradition in India that bride would apply a paste of turmeric and other herbs on her face before marriage. It’s an ancient knowledge that use of turmeric improves skin tone, decreases the signs of aging and improves overall skin health. So, if you want to look young for long, try some turmeric!
But, there is more to it. Use of curcumin has therapeutic value in skin conditions like psoriasis, vitiligo and skin cancer. Talking of psoriasis first; it is an inflammatory condition in which the skin becomes dry, red and scaly. Use of curcumin improves the skin texture and might help in complete remission, as shown by a clinical trial. Results of that clinical trial 12)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18249471/ showed that most of the patients with psoriasis responded to therapy with curcumin and some even showed as much as 90% remission in their symptoms.
Vitiligo is a condition of uneven pigmentation of skin. Curcumin and its derivates, due to their anti-oxidant activity, are useful in treating this condition. Results of a Thai study 13)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20961233/ done on 10 patients with vitiligo showed that treating vitiligo with Ultra-violet therapy with a cream containing curcumin produces significant re- pigmentation after the completion of therapy.
8. Curcumin Detox
You might have heard a lot about natural detox these days. What is detox anyways? Detox is eliminating toxins, metals and other harmful chemicals from the body. If you’re looking for a detox formula than look no further! Turmeric curcumin is all you need! Curcumin can detoxify the body against a variety of things like heavy metals, drugs and alcohol.
Anti-tuberculosis drugs like isoniazid and rifampicin are extremely toxic to the liver. However, results from a study 14)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18720535/ showed that use of curcumin extracts can protect the body against the toxic effects of these drugs and helps detoxify the body systems. Only 2 of the 316 patients taking the mixture of the drugs and curcumin extract developed liver toxicity.
Arsenic is a heavy metal that is highly toxic to our cell DNA. Studies 15)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20056736/ have shown that use of curcumin reduces the levels of arsenic in body, fights against arsenic induced oxidative stress and uplifts the body’s natural detox system.
9. Curcumin And Cancer
There is intensive on-going clinical research 16)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/#CR56 regarding the use of curcumin for treating of a number of cancers like skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancers of the mouth, cancers of the head and neck and so on.
There are several qualities of curcumin that make it an excellent anti-cancer agent. First, it specifically targets and kills tumor cells- unlike ordinary treatment therapies that kill normal cells too. Second, it puts a stop to abnormal immune responses and directs the immune response against cancer cells instead of damaging normal body tissues. Finally, it fortifies the ability of body’s own antioxidant system to fight against the chemicals and toxins that might trigger the development and progression of cancer.
10. Other Benefits
Curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory and immune modulating ingredients. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial in conditions caused by over-active inflammatory pathways (like prostatis, uveitis) or conditions in which the immune system functions abnormally (autoimmune conditions like lupus).
Some Practical Advice!
Here we come to the end of the article. It’s understandable that people in the West have a hard time using turmeric, but, it’s not that difficult. You can add it to your meals, soups or salads. If that’s too much work for you then you can simply use curcumin supplements to reap the benefits of its endless health effects.
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