It is rightly said that some of the best known remedies for a number of problems can be found in your kitchen. Eating as much unprocessed, organically grown food as you possibly can is beneficial for health. One important way that you can improve your health is by making use of unprocessed and organic herbs and spices as they are low in calories, contain numerous vitamins and are mostly thermogenic. Sometimes, you may need to throw a few of these ingredients together to get the antidote that will cure a certain ailment, but the rest of the time, a single ingredient by itself can work wonders. One such ingredient that you will always benefit from having at home is turmeric or curcumin.
Difference between Turmeric and Curcumin
Though many a times, we have classified the two items as being the same, this is in fact not true. A difference does exist between them.
- Turmeric – Known for its mild fragrance that is reminiscent of orange and ginger, turmeric has a warm, peppery and bitter flavour to it. It is derived from the root of the Curcuma Longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. For years now, turmeric has been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory product in both the Chinese and Indian medicinal culture. Traditionally known as “Indian Saffron” it has long been used as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.
- Curcumin – Turmeric has three curcuminoids. One of which is curcumin and the other two, desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is a component of the Indian spice turmeric, a type of ginger. It was first identified as a separate substance in 1815. Obtained from the dried rhizome of the turmeric plant, this rhizome or the root is processed to form turmeric, which contains just 2% to 5% of turmeric. So taking an unstandardized turmeric root would mean that large amounts would be necessary to get the benefits of curcumin. The curcuminoids are responsible for the yellow color of turmeric and curcumin is thus used as food color and food additive.
Turmeric and Curcumin – Effective Treatments for Numerous Health Issues
When it comes to addressing issues related to our health, these two ingredients have proven to be most essential. Each having its own numerous health benefits, it comes as no surprise that they were always used as treatments for various diseases since ancient times. We shall now look at some of the many health benefits of turmeric and curcumin.
Turmeric has been traditionally used in India as a disinfectant and treatment for laryngitis, bronchitis and diabetes apart from being a culinary spice. Some of the useful applications of turmeric would include:
- Turmeric extract serves as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug – Turmeric has been found to display anti-inflammatory properties for a number of conditions like jaundice, menstrual difficulties, flatulence, bloody urine as well as for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.
- It has been used to treat almost anything from ringworm to liver problems to depression in traditional medicine. Most of its health benefits revolve around one of its photo nutrients – curcumin. This is responsible for treating a number of health related issues. Some of which we shall mention below.
Medical Benefits of Curcumin
Known for being an anti-inflammatory agent, curcumin is good for reducing inflammation and may also have an important role in the treatment of cancer. Some of the health benefits of curcumin would include:
- Prevents cancer cell growth and metastases – There are many different types of cancer, but they all possess some basic commonalities. Curcumin affects cancer growth, development and spread right at the molecular level. It is capable of reducing the transformation, proliferation and spread of tumours by regulating transcription factors, inflammatory cytokines, growth factors and other enzymes. It interrupts the cell cycle and induces cell death, thereby preventing proliferation. It is also known to inhibit the activation of carcinogens through the suppression of certain cytochrome
- Natural Anti-inflammatory Drug – Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effectshave been found to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Curcumin targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway, at the molecular level.
- Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease– Curcumin is now being seen as an inexpensive, well-tolerated, effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. This is perhaps due to its anti-oxidant properties and its ability to inhibit the action of a major cellular inflammatory agent.
It helps suppress micro-inflammation in the GI tract associated with inflammatory bowel disease
- Treating Alzheimer’s Disease – Known as one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases in the world, no good treatment has been found for Alzheimer’s Disease yet. The main feature of this disease is the build-up of protein tangles called Amyloid Plaques. Whether curcumin is effective in slowing down or reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease is still under debate, however, it has been found to be effective in clearing the presence of Amyloid Plaques.
- Increases anti-oxidant capacity of the body – Anti-oxidants protect our bodies from free radicals. Due to its chemical structure, curcumin serves as a potent anti-oxidant that neutralizes free radicals. Apart from this, it also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
- Treats colon cancer – The anti-oxidant properties of curcumin protect colon cells from free radicals that damage cellular DNA. Because they replicate so frequently, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells more quickly. Curcumin works by destroying the mutated cancer cells so that they cannot spread and cause any more harm in the body. It does this by enhancing a person’s liver function as well as by inhibiting the synthesis of a protein that is thought to be instrumental in tumour formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply which is necessary for cancer cell growth.
- Boosts Brain –Derived Neuro-trophic Factor – Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)is a growth hormone that functions in the brain. Many brain disorders including depression and Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone. However, curcumin has the ability to increase the levels of BDNF in the brain, thereby delaying or reversing brain diseases as well as age-related diseases and even increasing brain function.
- Can Help Reverse Risk of Heart Disease – Curcumin plays an important role in improving the function of endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction is the major driver of heart disease,. At the same time, it reduces inflammation and oxidation, both of which are also important contributors to heart disease.
- Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis – Being able to neutralize radicals that cause damage to healthy cells and cell membranes in the body, curcumin is seen to be effective in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is caused mainly by free radicals that cause inflammation and damage to the joints. With its combination of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it is understandable why many people experience relief on using this spice regularly. After using this, many people reported shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.
- Lowers Cholesterol – Curcumin causes genes in the liver cells to increase production of messenger proteins that direct the creation of receptors for LDL (bad) cholesterol. With more LDL receptors, liver cells are able to clear more LDL cholesterol from the body.
- Provides Cardiovascular Protection – Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels, builds up in the plaques and can lead to heart attack or stroke, It is important to prevent oxidation of new cholesterol in order to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Further, turmeric also keeps homocysteine levels (which are responsible for damaging blood vessel walls) from getting too high, as it is a good source of vitamin B6.High levels of homocysteine is considered a major risk factor for heart disease while a high intake of vitamin B6 is seen as reducing the risk.
- Helps Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers – Cystic Fibrosis, a fatal disease that attacks the lung with a thick mucus, causing life-threatening infections can now be battled with curcumin. Curcumin acts by inhibiting the release of calcium, thus allowing the mutated proteins to exit cells via the calcium channels, which in turn, also stops the chloride-driven build up of mucus, which is responsible for damaging the pancreas, and interfering with the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. However, you should not self medicate with dietary supplements containing curcumin as there may be a possibility of adverse effects.
- Enhances Your Outer Beauty – Having anti-oxidant properties, the organic ingredients found in turmeric can help you get healthy skin. By supporting your internal functions and overall well-being, you will have supple, radiant looking skin. It provides nourishment to your skin, cleanses it and maintains its elasticity, thereby leaving you with inner and outer beauty.
Curcumin has many beneficial effects, thereby regarding it as a main solution for a number of health problems. It is like a pharmacy unto itself. Not only is it safe in very large doses, but even a small dose of 0.25 % is seen to be effective. The best part – it is a safe drug as it produces no toxicity.
Turmeric helps, but not always alone…
Sometimes turmeric may not be able to prevent a certain disease independently. But when paired with another natural ingredient, you will once again see how effective it is in treating health related issues. Some, such treatments would include:
Turmeric and Onions for Colon Cancer – Curcumin a photonutrient of turmeric and quercitin, an anti-oxidant in onions, help reduce the size and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract. They inhibit the growth of colon cancer cell lines in humans and abnormal colorectal cells in animals. A liberal use of turmeric and onions can play an effective role in protecting one from developing colorectal cancer.
Turmeric and Cauliflower to prevent Prostate Cancer – The risk of prostate cancer has been attributed to a diet that is lacking in brassica family vegetables and the curry spice, turmeric. Curcumin and phenethyl isothiocyanate, a photochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and others, greatly retarded the growth of human prostate cancer cells. Neither had a protective effect on its own, but when combined it reduced both tumour growth and the ability of the prostate cancer cells to spread. .
However, all in all, whole turmeric is found to be much more effective than isolated curcumin, particularly in the treatment of inflammatory disorders, like arthritis, tendonitis, and autoimmune conditions. However, certain precautions should be taken.
Take Caution When:
- If you have gallstones or bile duct dysfunction, you should not make use of turmeric
- Pregnant women should also steer clear of additional turmeric supplementation, unless it has been approved by their doctors.
- It can sometimes lead to nausea, diarrhoea when taken in high doses or even pose a risk of ulcers. Or even lead to skin irritation.
- In rare cases, extended use of either substance may lead to stomach upset or even heartburn
- If you are being treated for breast cancer, verify with your doctor if consuming curcumin is alright as studies have shown that curcumin may even interfere with a chemotherapy agent that is used in treating breast cancer.
- The FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements the way it regulates food or conventional medicines. Not all supplements are created equal. Certain supplements may react with other medications.
- Lastly, make sure your herbal supplement comes from a certified organic producer committed to quality processes.
This shows turmeric is more than just a spice. When taken as a supplement, turmeric is seen to work quickly and effectively. You should consider adding turmeric to food whenever possible as this will benefit you greatly. It is inexpensive, mild in taste and benefits every system in the body. So start sprinkling it into vegetables or mixing it into dressing or putting it into curries and soups. By adding turmeric in your diet, you will certainly enjoy long-term health.