There are just a few plants deserving of the honored title of “Super Food”. Turmeric is certainly one of them. The broad range of proven health benefits is impressive. There is an excellent reason that people in India and many other countries consume turmeric in their food and beverages every day—it keeps them healthy! Turmeric (curcuma longa) is the spice that gives Indian curry its yellow color. The popularity of turmeric tea may be one of the reasons that Okinawans have one of the world’s longest lifespans. Its well-deserved nickname in India is “the spice of life”.
Turmeric is a rhizome, related to ginger, that is native to Asia. It has been highly respected and valued for at least 4,000 years for its wide range of health promoting benefits. It is the richest source of beta carotene delivering extraordinary antioxidant effects. Bright yellow-gold in color, and bitter, astringent and pungent in taste, turmeric has a long history of delivering health benefits.
In the last decades many scientific studies have proven what Ayurveda and Chinese medicine practitioners have been saying for millennia: Turmeric is VERY good for us.
- Supports a weight loss program by A) increasing metabolism, B) improving liver function, C) lowering LDL cholesterol and D) reducing inflammation.
- Promotes healthy skin– historically the blood purifying effects of turmeric were shown to help promote healthy and beautiful skin, so it may support people with psoriasis, eczema, hives and (Use caution if applying it topically–it stains.)
- Soothes and repairs the digestive system; and support, stimulate, detoxify and protect liver health and function.
- Mood elevating effects– Researchers have found that curcumin may enhance the important brain chemicals serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.
- Provides anti-inflammatory effects which appear to surpass hydrocortisone–for joints, and for respiratory issues including allergies, asthma and bronchitis
Turmeric contains constituents called “curcuminoids” that demonstrate antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-genotoxic, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory activity. The most important of these constituents is called curcumin, which makes up 3% of the total content of turmeric. Curcumin has a molecular structure similar to the plant pigments “resveratrol” found in grape seeds/skins and “catechins” found in green tea, etc. Plant polyphenols share natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties–just another reason fruits and vegetables are so essential for great health.
Pain and Inflammation
When injured, inflammation is part of the healing process. But when it becomes chronic it is a disease. Inflammation is now understood to play a major role in the development of most diseases including pulmonary (lungs), diabetes, cancer, neurological and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and the most familiar–arthritis. In most cases, degenerative diseases are steadily worsened by chronic, sub-clinical inflammation. Numerous published studies consistently show that curcumin offers powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, supporting reduction of arthritis pain (both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis).
Studies have proven that curcumin passes through the blood-brain barrier, explaining why it can help reduce depression and memory impairment. Evidence also shows that curcumin is showing potential heart health benefits as well. There are studies being conducted all over the world to learn how well curcumin may potentially slow or reverse the progress of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
This natural remedy is shown by clinical research to reliably reduce the build-up of dangerous levels of iron in the body (especially helpful for those with inherited Hemochromatosis). Curcumin is a biologically active iron chelator that can lower ferritin by chelating iron from the body. (For those with a tendency to anemia please see the section below on important contraindications.)
Evidence shows that fatty liver disease (when fat cells make up between 5 and 10 percent of the weight of the liver) affects 25 to 30 percent of American adults. Excess fat building up in the liver has several causes ranging from alcohol abuse, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol/triglycerides and insulin resistance. Accumulation of abdominal fat is one indicator of fatty liver disease, which is often triggered and aggravated by excess cortisol, the stress hormone. The cortisol-lowering effect of long-term curcumin supplementation is just one more way the liver is supported (and excess liver and abdominal fat is reduced).
For maximum assimilation (since it is fat soluble) it’s important to always take turmeric/curcumin supplements with a meal containing healthy fats or a flaxseed oil or fish oil capsule. There is likely no benefit to taking it on an empty stomach.
Now that scientists can isolate and concentrate curcumin into supplement form, researchers worldwide are busy studying curcumin’s effects– and what they are discovering is significant. Not all brands and sources of curcumin are good quality though, and may contain contaminants. If you want to experience the full effects choose a patented form delivering 100 to 150 mg of curcumin extract per capsule and avoid mega-dosing.