Possible Health Benefits Of Turmeric
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow colour and it has been used for thousands of years in India as a spice and medicinal herb. Recent studies have backed up the Indians faith in the product by finding that it does contain compounds with medicinal properties and can provide benefits for your body and brain.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is the root stalk of a tropical plant that is part of the ginger family. It is widely available in a dried powder form in supermarkets and is widely used in Asian cooking, mustards and pickles.
Turmeric has been used for many thousands of years in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for conditions such as diarrhoea, fibromyalgia, heartburn, stomach bloating, colds and depression. It can also be applied to the skin to treat ringworm and infected wounds as it is said to have anti-bacterial properties.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and it has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant. However, the content of curcumin in turmeric is only about 3% by weight so it would be difficult to obtain beneficial quantities purely by adding turmeric to your food. If you want to achieve the full beneficial effect, you may need to take an extract which contains significant amounts of curcumin. Additionally, as curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, it helps to consume black pepper with it as this enhances the absorption by 2000%.
Possible health benefits of curcumin
- Type 2 diabetes – A small study in Thailand in 2012 found that a daily supplement taken over 9 months seemed to prevent new cases of type 2 diabetes among certain people at risk.
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – It is known that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and curcumin has been shown to have beneficial effects on both. It can also help clear the build up of protein tangles called Amyloid plaques that are characteristic of the disease.
- Cancer – Studies have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumours in test animals. The treatment has yet to be tested in humans. However there is some evidence that curcumin may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system.
- Liver damage – Researchers in Austria and the US in 2010 suggested that curcumin may help in the fight against liver damage in that it seems to delay the onset of cirrhosis.
- Arthritis and tendonitis – Arthritis is a common disorder characterised by joint inflammation. Studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis and in some cases is more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Depression – In a small study of 60 depressed patients, it was shown that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression.
- Heart disease – The main benefit of curcumin is thought to be its effect on improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Endothelium dysfunction is a major driver of heart disease and involves an inability of the endothelium to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors.
- Indigestion and heartburn – Curcumin works with the gallbladder, stimulating it to make bile, which may help with digestion. Some research shows that it may help upset stomach, bloating and gas. It may also help reduce the occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Are there any risks to taking turmeric?
It can sometimes cause diarrhoea and nausea if taken in high doses or after long term use. People who have gallstones should also use caution. There may also be a risk of ulcers if taken in high doses. If you have any medical conditions such as immunity problems, bleeding disorders, gallbladder or kidney disease or diabetes, you should speak to your GP before taking supplements. Some medicines may interact with turmeric supplements so always ask your doctor if you are concerned.
While turmeric has a long history of health giving properties and there have been many studies into its effects on a variety of ailments, it is important to note that many of these studies have not been carried out on humans and much more research is needed.
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