Turmeric – The Spice With Health Benefits

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Many modern pharmaceutical drugs have been derived directly from plants and fungal species that have been shown to demonstrate remarkable abilities to improve wellbeing or have an effect on diseases at a molecular level. Notable examples include aspirin from willow bark and the discovery of penicillin from a mould by Alexander Fleming. Increasingly, scientists continue to discover plant compounds that demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties, intervene in cell mutation, have powerful antimicrobial and antiviral properties, and may also slow down the ageing process due to their antioxidant properties. Turmeric is one such compound that has been, and still is, studied extensively for all the above benefits.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which country turmeric originated from, there is a huge likelihood that it was first grown in India. Indian cuisine not only includes the wonderfully fragrant and flavourful ginger, chilli and cardamom, but also turmeric, which is widely used in many curry dishes. Turmeric is not only used in Indian cuisine but it has been revered by Chinese medicine and in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties for more than 3000 years.

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used extensively because of its ability to curb inflammation and helping in the treatment of a variety of disorders. It is mixed with honey to form a thick paste, which can be taken orally for sore throats and colds or applied to skin for infections and inflammatory skin concerns. Turmeric powder is also commonly used in Asia for the relief of stomach complaints and for kidney and bladder infections. In Chinese medicine, turmeric has been used for the relief of arthritis for thousands of years.

These faith-based claims have been the subject of hundreds of experiments to evaluate if turmeric really does have beneficial properties. What has emerged from these studies is that turmeric contains a group of polyphenol plant pigments called curcumin, and it is this compound that is responsible for some of turmeric’s remarkable properties.

What are the health benefits of turmeric?

The health benefits of turmeric are primarily due to its curcumin content. Curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its distinctive canary yellow colour, is not found in plant foods other than in turmeric. A small amount of curcumin may be found in ginger, a close relative of turmeric, but significant amounts have only ever been found in turmeric.

Anti-inflammatory - Curcumin has been found to exhibit potent anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a normal process that occurs when your body is exposed to foreign bacteria or viruses and it sends over white blood cells and antibodies to counter these. However, when there is excessive inflammation in the body, this can lead to pain, swelling, redness and heat. Asthma, allergies, auto-immune concerns, cell mutation, heart disease, cognitive decline and numerous other concerns are all linked to excessive inflammation in the body.

Natural Antiseptic – Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat wounds and infections. In fact, Johnson & Johnson used turmeric in plasters to heal scrapes and cuts faster. Current scientific research shows that turmeric inhibits pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi including many candida species.

Antioxidant - A good immune booster, turmeric displays very powerful antioxidant properties some 5 to 8 times more potent that vitamins C and E, and is even strong enough to quench the hydroxyl radical which is considered to be the most reactive oxidant responsible for damage to the body.

Cell Protective - In its role as an antioxidant, curcumin from turmeric inhibits damage to the cells within our bodies and thus may help to prevent cell mutation. Curcumin has also been shown to initiate the destruction of damaged cells and to inhibit the replication of damaged cells. Numerous studies published in peer reviewed medical journals detail curcumin’s cell protective ability. Curcumin has the most evidence based literature backing up its cell protective property claims – more than any other nutrient. Interestingly, curcumin appears to be universally beneficial for just about every disease associated with cell mutation. There are many diseases associated with cell mutation and the incidence of these diseases is considerably less in countries that use turmeric in food.

Relief of arthritis – Due to its potent ability to reduce inflammatory compounds such as C-reactive protein, turmeric helps to protect against joint pain and swelling. An Italian study over a three month period, researchers found a 58% decrease in overall reported pain and stiffness as well as an overall improvement in joint flexibility among those taking curcumin.

Cholesterol lowering and cardiovascular protection – Curcumin acts to lower total cholesterol levels and interestingly it has been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Equally important is its ability to prevent the peroxidation of lipids which results in the formation of plaque that adheres to the walls of arteries resulting in the ultimate narrowing and thus increasing the chances of cardiovascular concerns.

Brain Health – Inflammation in the body is responsible for the degeneration of many of the body’s vital structures including the heart and brain. Curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory properties are theorised to offer protection against cognitive decline which occurs with age. The incidences of cognitive decline are markedly lower in populations whose diet includes turmeric and although full blown clinical studies need to be carried out to confirm this, it does nevertheless appear that there is a link between the ingestion of turmeric and brain protection.

There are many anecdotal reports on turmeric’s additional benefits including aiding in weight loss, controlling acne, strengthening bones and helping to counter pigmentation problems.

What is the best turmeric supplement?

With so many different manufacturers producing turmeric supplements, the choice of which supplement to buy can be confusing. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and is normally found at concentrations of roughly five percent. Therefore supplements containing only turmeric powder will only have five percent curcumin. Aim for a supplement which contains 95 percent curcumin since this is the sort of strength that provides the benefits from turmeric that I have mentioned above.

The second problem with turmeric is that it is poorly absorbed by the body. Turmeric is quickly degraded by the stomach acids and very little gets into the bloodstream. Research has shown that turmeric is not water soluble but dissolves efficiently in fats. So look for a supplement that either coats the turmeric in an enteric coating, which is expensive, or use one that contains some form of oil to ensure the greatest availability to the body.

The supplement that I tend to recommend is Super Bio-Curcumin by Life Extension, a supplement that contains a patent pending extract of turmeric containing 95 percent curcuminoids in a base containing oils derived from turmeric root for greater absorption. This specific patent pending extract has been shown absorb seven times better than conventional curcumin supplements and remain in the bloodstream twice as long ensuring maximum protection.

Scientific studies on the therapeutic properties of curcumin are ongoing. It is very clear that this plant has powerful healing properties. Unfortunately most of us simply do not use turmeric in our diet. Turmeric appears to protect the genetic material within our bodies, quench inflammation which is the causal factor for many age related diseases and protect the cardiovascular system. We hear of superfoods all the time, such as acai and goji, but I strongly believe that turmeric should be really be labelled as a’ superfood’. The choice to supplement using Super Bio-Curcumin is in my opinion a no-brainer.

 

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This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner.

Shabir Daya | , , , , , , , , ,
  • Lynne Milner

    Will this affect prescribed medication I am taking. Currently thyroxine, aspirin, statin?

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Curcumin supplements from turmeric are perfectly safe to take alongside most medications with the exception of immuno-suppressives and potent blood thinning agents such as warfarin and heparin. Shabir

  • Lizzie65

    “The second problem with turmeric is that it is poorly absorbed by the body. Turmeric is quickly degraded by the stomach acids and very little gets into the bloodstream. ”

    Hi – are you saying that using powdered turmeric e.g. the raw, organic variety in food/cooking etc is therefore not worth it to get the health benefits and that good quality supplements are the only way to get the full absorption required to benefit?

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Lizzie, Absolutely correct unless you use turmeric on a daily basis like many cultures. If you want to get the maximum therapeutic benefits from turmeric, supplementation is the only way but that does not mean that dietary turmeric is not beneficial. Turmeric in the diet will have some effect but you cannot ingest large quantities of this warming spice because you will end up with a stomach upset. Shabir

  • Lizzie65

    Thank you for that clarification Shabir – much appreciated :)

  • hergerbabe

    I’ve been giving turmeric to my partner in an attempt to help his eczema, but he’s had two very bad flare ups since taking it, could it possibly make him worse?

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi, turmeric is unlikely to be the cause of eczema nor is it likely to worsen eczema lesions. In fact, turmeric displays anti-inflammatory properties which couple with its ability to cleanse the blood makes it a good choice for eczema. Have you considered a low acid diet such as reducing dairy, tomatoes and potatoes? Shabir

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Barbara, turmeric supplements can be taken alongside many conventional mood elevating drugs and turmeric does display some mood elevating benefits. Rhodiola,which is I think what you are searching for, is not recommended alongside conventional mood modifying drugs. Best wishes Shabir

  • Claire Jeffery

    Hello Shabir. I am using Superior Joints for arthritic pain. Would you say that Super Bio Curcumin would be more beneficial for me? Thank you .

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Claire, if you needed extra support for the pain then it would be good to add the curcumin supplement but otherwise Superior Joints is the most completely supplement for healthy joints and joint discomfort.
    Best wishes,
    Shabir

  • Claire Jeffery

    Thank you Shabir. I will keep that in mind

  • Ingrid

    I’d like to ask what is the difference between High Potency Turmeric 8200mg and Super bio -curcumin please? It says that they both are 95% curcumin.

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Ingrid, both turmeric extracts have been standardised to contain 95% curcuminoids which are a group of antioxidants, including curcumin, which provide multiple benefits to the body. However the Super Bio-Curcumin contains 400mg per capsule and the High Potency Turmeric contains 200mg. Additionally, the Super Bio-Curcumin contains a patented extract of this called BCM-95 which has been shown to be absorbed highly efficiently and retained in the body for longer than traditional turmeric supplements.
    Best wishes,
    Shabir

  • Ingrid

    Thank you for your quick and thorough answer Shabir.
    Kind regards
    Ingrid

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    You are welcome Ingrid.

  • Annabelle Pacey

    Some medical research of smokers warned against taking anti-oxidant supplements .Would this be the case with Curcmin supplements from tumeric. Also what about some one aged 71 in remission from Hodgkins Lymphoma no longer on medication.(chemo finished 2 years ago)Thank you

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Annabelle, the study in Sweden was carried out on mice and was not conclusive but suggested that antioxidants may shut down an enzyme that suppresses tumours when they are small. The smokers connection was not a direct link too. What was questionable is the quality of supplements used (there was a study which used supplements containing a colour well known for its carcinogenic properties) and the variables that exist. Whether antioxidants promote cell growth still remains to be known but we do know that curcumin provides so many multiple benefits and we also know that the very same nutrient is being used and recommended by some oncologists.
    Best wishes,
    Shabir

  • Annabelle Pacey

    Thank you so much . You are always so safe and knowledgeable Shabir

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    You are welcome Annabelle.