In cultures that are thousands of years old, there tend to be deep traditions of cooking daily meals with medicinal roots and herbs. Turmeric is one such medicinal root that has made its way into many Indian recipes.
Research shows that turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties. Inflammation, if left untreated, can become a chronic health issue. And unlike aspirin or ibuprofen, turmeric's curcumin reduces inflammation naturally, without damaging the liver or kidneys.
Healthier Talk reports:
"It has been found especially helpful in treating conditions like arthritis, sports injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, tendonitis and various autoimmune diseases. Some research even suggests that curcumin may also help those suffering asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and, yes, even cancer."
Ayurveda, an ancient holistic system of medicine and natural healing from India, is based on preventive medicine, and this is why you'll often see a variety of medicinal herbs and spices built right into their daily meals.
This includes not only the wonderfully fragrant and flavorful ginger, chili, and cardamom, but also turmeric, which is widely used as an ingredient in the region's well-known curry dishes.
Eastern cultural traditions, including traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, have valued turmeric for its medicinal properties and warm, peppery flavor for more than 5,000 years. Curcumin -- the pigment that gives turmeric its yellow-orange color -- is the active ingredient behind many of the emerging health benefits…
A Powerful Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Curcumin is most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The compound has been shown to influence more than 700 genes, and it can inhibit both the activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation.
Inflammation is a normal and beneficial process that occurs when your body's white blood cells and chemicals protect you from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.
You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy. However, it's also possible, and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.
If your immune system mistakenly triggers an inflammatory response when no threat is present, it can lead to excess inflammation in your body, a condition linked to asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer and other diseases, depending on which organs the inflammation is impacting.
Inflammatory processes also cause irritation to tissues characterized by pain, redness, swelling, and heat, such as is often experienced by osteoarthritis patients.
Curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects help to reduce these symptoms. One recent study found that osteoarthritis patients who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan experienced reduced pain and increased mobility,i whereas the control group, which received no curcumin, experienced no significant improvements.
Other research also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids (plant-based nutrients that contain powerful antioxidant properties) blocked inflammatory pathways,ii effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
Many patients turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and analgesics, like Tylenol, for pain relief, but the regular, chronic use of these types of medications is associated with significant, and very serious, side effects such as cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal harm and kidney and/or liver damage. Curcumin may be able to provide safe, natural pain relief, provided it is absorbed (more on this later).
People in India Refer to Turmeric as 'Holy Powder'
India has long revered turmeric as "holy powder," and has used it for centuries to treat wounds, infections, and other health problems. Modern research is now confirming many of its folklore claims, finding an astonishing array of antioxidant, anti-cancer, antibiotic, antiviral, and other properties.
A general immune system booster due to its high antioxidant capacity, turmeric is five to eight times stronger than vitamins C and E, and even strong enough to scavenge the hydroxyl radical, which is considered by some to be the most reactive of all oxidants.
Recent research has discovered that curcumin acts by inserting itself into your cells' membranes where it changes the physical properties of the membrane itself,iii making it more orderly. When curcumin enters a cell, the study's lead researcher said:
"The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so that information that flows through it can be controlled."
This improves your cells' resistance to both infection and malignancy, and may help prevent a number of debilitating diseases, listed below:
Cystic fibrosis Type 2 diabetes Crohn's disease Psoriasis Rheumatoid arthritis Cataracts Gallstones Muscle degeneration Inflammatory bowel disease
Can Turmeric Even Help Prevent Cancer?
In India, where turmeric is widely used, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers -- colon, breast, prostate, and lung -- is 10 times lower. In fact, prostate cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. men, is rare in India and this is attributed, in part, to the curcumin in turmeric.
Dr. William LaValley from Austin, Texas is one of the top natural medicine cancer physicians I know and he recently shared this important information with me. Interestingly, curcumin actually has the most evidence-based literature backing up its anti-cancer claims of any other nutrient!
For instance, studies looking into this potential cancer-fighting link have found curcumin may:
- Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor, as well as inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells already existing
- Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body
- Enhance liver function
- Inhibit the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation
- Prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth (known as anti-angiogenesis)
Curcumin affects over 100 different pathways once it gets into a cell. Interestingly, this also applies to the metabolite of curcumin and its derivatives, which also have anti-cancer properties. According to researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, curcumin blocks a key biological pathwayiv needed for the development of melanoma and other cancers.
The spice actually stops laboratory strains of melanoma from proliferating and pushes the cancer cells to commit suicide by shutting down nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a powerful protein known to induce abnormal inflammatory response that leads to an assortment of disorders such as arthritis and cancer.
Curcumin One of the BEST Supplements to Treat Cancer
Interestingly, just about every alternative medicine expert I know recommends curcumin for just about every type of cancer as it seems nearly universally beneficial. It is the only supplement that I know of that has this benefit. It is very clear that it will be one of the most widely used anti-cancer nutrient approaches in the future.
To get the full benefits that curcumin has to offer, you will want to look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids that contains only 100 percent certified organic ingredients.
The formula should be free of fillers, additives, and excipients (a substance added to the supplement as a processing or stability aid), and the manufacturer should use safe production practices at all stages: planting, cultivation, selective harvesting, and then producing and packaging the final product.
To fully take advantage of curcumin's therapeutic properties, you'll also need to make sure it is well absorbed.
Tips for Increasing Your Absorption of Curcumin
Curcumin is widely available in supplement form, but relatively high doses are required to achieve its anti-cancer effects, and curcumin is generally not absorbed that well. Typical anti-cancer doses are up to three grams of bioavailable curcumin extract, three to four times daily, and this is difficult to achieve using standard curcumin powders.
One alternative is to make a microemulsion by combining a tablespoon of curcumin powder with 1-2 egg yolks and a teaspoon or two of melted coconut oil. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.
Another strategy you can use to increase absorption is to put one tablespoon of the curcumin powder into a quart of boiling water. It must be boiling when you add the powder, as it will not work as well if you put it in room temperature water and heat the water and curcumin together.
After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12% solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time and in about six hours it will be a 6% solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours. It does have a woody taste, but this is done more for therapeutic benefits than flavor.
One caution: curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren't careful. To avoid "yellow kitchen syndrome," I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the blower on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.
You can also use turmeric liberally in your cooking; it has an earthy, peppery flavor. Choose a pure turmeric powder, rather than a curry powder, as at least one study has found that curry powders tend to contain very little curcumin.