Since curcumin, a bioactive ingredient in turmeric, was discovered, it has been shown to have some amazing health benefits with a wide range of physiological effects. Curcumin has been demonstrated to be antibacterial, cholesterol-lowering, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-arthritic, etc. It has also been shown to protect against kidney disease, arsenic exposure, and alcohol intoxication as well as support wound healing. These exciting qualities have made turmeric a hot area in nutritional research. Do you love turmeric and have wondered what the benefits of it are? Or are you considering incorporating curcumin into your routine? Read on to learn more!
Turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa L. plant of the Zingiberaceae family. It naturally grows in India (the largest exporter in the world) and other tropical climates. Harvesting is typically done from January to March while the marketing season is from February to May. When not used fresh, the rhizomes of the plant are boiled and then dried to be used as a spice or colorant. There are two main types of turmeric on the market: “Madras” and “Allepy,” named after the regions of India they are cultivated in. Allepy turmeric, which contains about 4–7% curcumin, is predominantly shipped to the U.S. The Madras type (2% curcumin) is typically preferred by British and Middle Eastern markets. It has a brighter yellow colour and is better suited for curry powder.
Although turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Asia, the scientific evidence for any health benefits didn’t arise until the mid-twentieth century. Its medicinal use has been documented as far back as 6000 years ago in India where it was also used as a dye, beauty aid, and cooking spice. In Chinese medicine, turmeric has been used to support the spleen, stomach, and liver. The long list of health benefits from turmeric is truly remarkable. For that reason, since the beginning of curcumin research in the late 40s, popularity has dramatically risen. By 2012, there were 67 clinical trials published and 35 in progress!
The first indication of the anticancer activities from curcumin was by its topical use, where cancer patients had significant symptom relief from external cancerous lesions. Since then, curcumin has been demonstrated potentially protective against many other forms of cancer, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, lung cancer, oral cancer, and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). It has also been shown protective against inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's), arthritis, H. pylori, GERD, and diabetes. The first report of diabetes protection was in 1972, when curcumin was demonstrated to decrease human blood sugar levels and reduce the dosage of insulin needed in diabetic patients. Curcumin has been shown to modulate inflammatory molecules, enzymes, transcription factors, DNA, RNA, metal ions, etc.
This all sounds great, but what about the bioavailability? Although curcumin has been shown to be effective for quite a few human diseases, it has poor bioavailability (poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination) when in a natural health product concentrated form. As a result, there have been many efforts for improvement. Bioavailability is greatly enhanced in natural health products by reincorporating other components of turmeric. Furthermore, most of the research today on curcumin has used either a curcuminoid mixture or turmeric itself. So to recap, curcumin seems to be the most bioavailable naturally in a food complex whether that’s through the diet or in a natural health product that contains other curcuminoids or turmeric in general.
So how can you incorporate curcumin into your routine? Tumeric and curcumin are sold in varying forms, including capsules, tablets, ointments, energy drinks, soaps, and cosmetics. My personal favorite turmeric natural health product is called “Turmeric Force” by a brand named New Chapter; great product with superior bioavailability. Turmeric is both well tolerated and inexpensive and can be safely added to your routine in a concentrated form. Aside from taking turmeric as a natural health product, you can also get some of the curcumin benefits by simply cooking with turmeric (in curry spice). Turmeric has a distinctly peppery flavor and a mustardy smell that goes great in many dishes.
Clearly turmeric has some promising research; hopefully I’ve convinced you of just how amazing turmeric really is!
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