Turmeric has long been cited as a spice with AMAZING health benefits. There is definitely more than the brilliant yellow colour than meets the eye! Traditionally originating from India, turmeric is highly prized in Ayurvedic culture for its health properties. There are increasing amounts scientific-based research articles that have been published in favour of turmeric for the prevention of chronic disease and illness. Everything from brain tumours to Alzheimers disease and endometriosis to knee osteoarthritis, the healing power of turmeric has been proven to be successful in many cases.
Curcumin is the antioxidant flavonoid predominately present in turmeric. It has been the subject of much media attention lately, as the Western world continues to discover its potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Lets compare the evidence-based use of turmeric against some of the more common medications prescribed in present day society…
A fairly recent study has shown that not only is turmeric effective in treating those with depression, but, that it may even be more effective in treating major depressive disorder than Prozac and some of the other common anti-depressive medications on the market.
Turmeric is perhaps most well know for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Curcumin has been shown to be AS effective as Ibuprofen for knee osteoarthritis treatment. It exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by targeting specific molecular steps in the inflammation pathway.
Curcumin has been found to have beneficial effects on cancer stem cells by down-regulating interleukin 1, 6 and 8. IL-1 is a family of pro-inflammatory cytokines that respond to injury and infection. IL-1 Beta plays a major role in the stimulation of cancer stem cells and thus, cancer cell growth. IL-6 is also a pro-inflammatory cytokine which is released by the immune system and modulates immunity and inflammation. When it is over expressed, there is more inflammation, leading to higher risk of cancer development. IL-8 is another pro-inflammatory cytokine that is released after tumour cell death. It acts like a fertiliser, stimulating the cancer stem cells to regrow the tumour and resist medical intervention such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The study further outlines 5 other molecular mechanisms by which curcumin moderates cancer cell activity. The study further outlined that cur cumin is selective in its cytotoxicity, citing reasons such as malignant cells hold on to more curcumin than benign cells and that curcumin alters the microenvironment of cells in a way that makes them adverse to malignant stem cells and beneficial to normal stem cells.
Other evidence-based benefits include….
Turmeric also works to reduce oxidative damage, one of the major contributors to the development of chronic disease and illness. It does so by cleansing the blood and increasing its oxygen carrying capacity. Turmeric exerts antioxidant benefits by both reducing free radicals and boosting the body’s own antioxidant enzymatic activity.
Turmeric helps increase blood circulation, providing for better tissue formation and healing, a more supple and glowing complexion and the reduction of potential cardiovascular disease risk. Turmeric has been found to be as effective as exercise in improving endothelial function which reduces the potential of blood clot formation. It has also been shown to be as effective as Atorvastatin in reducing cardiovascular risk associated with endothelial dysfunction.
Turmeric exerts amazing anti-ageing benefits which helps to increase our longevity. Curcumin targets specific mechanisms that suppress the pro-inflammatory state that acts as a catalyst for the formation of age-related disease.
Turmeric has no well know side effects, unless it is consumed in large amounts. This gives it a major advantages over prescription medication.
It is important to note that whilst turmeric is often praised for its actions, its bioavailability is quite low. In terms of the golden spice, this means that it exhibits a low absorption rate and a rapid metabolic rate. Absorption of turmeric can be enhanced in a number of ways:
- Consuming it alongside black pepper.
- Consuming it with a source of fat (because its fat soluble) e.g. coconut oil, nuts, seeds.
- Taking a mixture of curcumin and quercetin, a flavonoid found in foods such as onion, apples and citrus. Quercetin works to inhibit the enzyme that inactivates curcumin. Apple cider vinegar can be used as it contains quercetin.
- As a paste made with heated water. Heated water is recommended as heat increases turmerics solubility in water.
- As a ready made supplement that contains said absorption enhancers.
All in all, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the big wide world of turmeric. If you are interested in looking into incorporating this ‘queen of all spices’ as a supplement or seeing if it is right of you…I suggest you contact a healthcare professional (like myself) who can advise on need, use and dosage.
As always, thanks for reading!