Turmeric: One of Nature’s Most Medicinal Plants

When it comes to medicinal plant foods, turmeric is amongst those on the top of the list. Its many uses are so incredible that if we didn’t see the science we might find it hard to believe.

Turmeric contains a group of compounds known as curcuminoids. The most talked about and best studied compound is called curcumin, which makes up about 3% of powdered turmeric [1]. There are many other important components found in this plant including the essential oils. Some of these oils are turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene.

The nutritional properties of turmeric are quite impressive. It contains appreciable amounts of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, iron, manganese, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains calcium, magnesium, and many other nutrients.

turmeric_curry_curcumin_powder_picAround the planet, some of the oldest cultures have used turmeric as a food and a medicine since ancient times. In ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, it has been used for its anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-flatulence properties to just name a few. Let’s explore the science behind this incredible plant.

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory in the human body. It has been shown to reduce C-reactive protein which is a marker for inflammation measured in the blood, and a known risk factor for heart attack and stroke [2].

Numerous medical studies show that turmeric works in several ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease. The researchers believe that turmeric and its extract curcumin may offer a safe and more effective treatment for Alzheimer's, whichisthe most common cause of dementia [3][4][5][6].

In 2011 the Journal of Periodontal Research published an article concluding that the potent anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin help with periodontal disease.

Turmeric has very potent antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant strength has been measured and found to be among the highest of all herbs and spices on the ORAK scale. Among the many different antioxidant compounds that this amazing plant contains is resveratrol, which is one of the most celebrated antioxidants of the decade.

In 2009, a peer-reviewed medical journal called the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy published an article concluding that curcumin is an antifungal of clinical interest.

turmeric_pieces_root_picAccording to numerous clinical studies, consumption of curcumin or turmeric can suppress several stages of cancer development and many different types of cancer [7][8][9][10]. Turmeric has been shown to be very beneficial for the aggressive type of skin cancer known as melanoma. When turmeric comes in contact with melanoma cancer cells they are more likely to undergo apoptosis (cancer cell death). Studies suggest that turmeric may be able to help prevent cancer as well [11].

The list of disease conditions that turmeric may benefit is more extensive than can fit into a short article. As time goes on, more and more studies continue to reveal the amazing properties of this plant.

According to statistics, the average person in India eats approximately 1 tsp of turmeric per day. I have been adding turmeric to my diet for over ten years. Sometimes I use the powder in my protein smoothie and when I can find it, I use a small piece of the fresh root. Currently there are many products available that have turmeric to them. Some mustard products use turmeric to give the mustard a nice color. Other companies are adding it to their bottled juice. And Sunwarrior has their raw multivitamin in a base of longevity herbs including turmeric.

[1] Tayyem RF, Heath DD, Al-Delaimy WK, Rock CL (2006). "Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders". Nutr Cancer 55 (2): 126–131.doi:10.1207/s15327914nc5502_2PMID 17044766.

[2] Makover, Michael E. and Zieve, David.  C-reactive protein. MedlinePlus. [Online] May 30, 2012 [Cited: June 12, 2012.]http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003356.htm

[3] Dairam, Amichaud. An Investigation into the Neuroprotective Properties of the Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents Tolmetin, Sulindac and Turmeric. Rhodes University. [Online] December 2005. [Cited: July 26, 2011.] http://eprints.ru.ac.za/804/1/dairam-phd.pdf

[4] Kannappan, Ramaswamy, et al., et al. Mol Neurobiol 44(2): Neuroprotection by Spice-Derived Nutraceuticals: You Are What You Eat! PubMed: U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. [Online] October 1, 2011. [Cited: December 21, 2011.] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183139/?tool=pubmed. Author manuscript NIHMSID: NIHMS307525; DOI 10.1007/s12035-011-8168-2.

[5] Sun, Albert Y., et al., et al. Botanical Phenolics and Neurodegeneration. [ed.] Iris F. F. Benzie and Sissi Wachtel-Galor. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2011, Vol. 28 of Oxidative Stress and Disease, 15, pp. 315-332. ISBN: 978-1-4398-0713-2.

[6] Begum, Aynun N., et al., et al. JPET 326(1): Curcumin Structure-Function, Bioavailability, and Efficacy in Models of Neuroinflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease. American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. [Online] July 2008. [Cited: January 26, 2012.] http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/326/1/196.full#abstract-1 ISSN: 1521-0103.

[7] "Health effects of Turmeric". Health effects of Herbs. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 6 January 2014.

[8] Jump up to: a b Singletary, K (2010). Potential Health Benefits of Turmeric. MSI.

[9] Jump up^ Maitra, Anirban; Saraswati kumar (16 July 2013). "A Simple Spice That May Battle Cancer". John Hopkins Medicine. Summer 2013 (21). Retrieved 6 January 2014.

[10] Jump up^ Hylind, Linda. "Johns Hopkins Gazette reports on their study on turmeric".Chemicals in Curry and Onions May Help Stop Colon Cancer. American Cancer Society and National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 6 January 2014.

[11] Servan-Schreiber, David  Anticancer: A New Way of Life. 3. New York: Viking: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009. ISBN: 1-101-16242-2.


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