Natural Health Tips

Turmeric: A Remarkably Powerful Disease-Protective Spice

Turmeric is a very versatile, vividly colored spice with powerful antioxidant and health protective properties. It contains curcumin, a strong antioxidant chemical that detoxifies carcinogens and calms inflammation, protects against conditions like Alzheimer's, controls obesity, and many other conditions. With its many virtues, turmeric should form a regular addition to the diet.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It is the ingredient responsible for making curry and mustard yellow-orange in color, and is one of the most health-protective ingredients in a curry. Rhizomes, rootlike extensions from the stem of the plant, are the parts used to make turmeric powder, and are also used in making mustard, coloring butter or cheese, and flavoring various foods.

Turmeric contains important vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, potassium, vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. curcumin is a phytochemical found in turmeric which gives it its vivid golden color, and has strong antioxidant properties that have been well researched for its cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties. Many spices would have excellent effects if they were not eaten in such small quantities. turmeric, however, is such a strong anti-inflammatory that even a small amount is enough to reduce the risk of illness.

Health Benefits

obesity

A recent study from Tufts University found that curcumin from turmeric reduces weight gain and suppresses fat tissue in mice, and researchers concluded that "Our findings suggest that dietary curcumin may have a potential benefit in preventing obesity."

The study also found that the mice showed lower blood cholesterol levels and lower fat in the liver.

Dementia and Alzheimer's

Many studies, including several recent studies, have found associations between curcumin and reducing the risk of types of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.

One study found that diets rich in the turmeric extract helped dissolve amyloid protein plaques in the brain of mice that are believed to cause dementia, and also helped to prevent development of new plaques.

Another study confirmed that curcumin significantly lowers oxidized proteins and inflammatory cytokines associated with Alzheimer's. Elderly people who ate curry at least once a month scored better on tests to measure cognitive function than those who reported they ate curry less frequently.

brain injury

In a rat study, supplementation with curcumin was found to counteract the oxidative damage and cognitive impairment encountered in the injured brain.

skin cancer

In an animal study, turmeric was shown to reduce skin tumor size by thirty percent and skin tumor occurrence by eighty-seven percent compared to the control group.

A study from the University of Texas MD Anderson cancer Center, treated three melanoma cell lines with curcumin. Cell growth was inhibited and increased tumor cell death was observed.

breast cancer

Researchers found that curcumin inhibited metastasis to the lungs of mice with breast cancer. The researchers also found that curcumin helps make taxol, a chemotherapeutic drug for breast cancer, less toxic, and more effective.

prostate cancer

In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that curcumin reduces the expression of prostate cancer genes, tumor volume and quantity of nodules in treated groups.

Colon cancer

In a small study, patients who had precancerous polyps were treated with curcumin for six months. The average number of polyps dropped sixty percent, and the average size dropped by fifty percent.

Tips on Using Turmeric

  • Choose fresh turmeric roots that have a strong spicy fragrance. If buying in powdered form, buy in small quantities to ensure maximum freshness.

  • Be careful when preparing turmeric - it will stain your hands and clothing.

  • Use ground turmeric in curries, stews, soups, and rice dishes to add flavor and color.

References

  • Ejaz et al. Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and obesity in C57/BL Mice. Journal of nutrition, 2009; 139 (5): 919

  • Mishra S, Palanivelu K.The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer's disease: An overview. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 2008, Vol 11(1): 13-19.

  • Wu A, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F. Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Exp Neurol., 2006; 197(2): 309-17.

  • Villasenor IM, Simon MKB, Villanueva AMA. Comparative potencies of nutraceuticals in chemically induced skin tumor prevention. Nut and cancer. 2002;44:66-70.

  • Swiak DR et al. Curcumin-induced antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in melanoma cells are associated with suppression of IkappaB kinase and nuclear factor kappaB activity and are independent of the B-Raf/mitogen-activated/extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase pathway and the Akt pathway. cancer. 2005 Aug 15;104(4):879-90.

  • Aggarwal BB et al. Curcumin suppresses the paclitaxel-induced nuclear factor-kappaB pathway in breast cancer cells and inhibits lung metastasis of human breast cancer in nude mice. Clin cancer Res. 2005 Oct 15;11(20):7490-8.

  • Singletary K. Inhibition of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a] anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary turmorigenisis and DMA-DNA adduct formation by curcumin. Cancer Letters. 1996;103:137-141.

  • Hong JH. The effects of curcumin on the invasiveness of prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo. Prostate cancer Prostatic Dis. 2006;9(2):147-52.

  • Cruz-Correa M et al. Combination treatment with curcumin and quercetin of adenomas in familial adenomatous polyposis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Aug;4(8):1035-8.

  • Asai A, Miyazawa T. Dietary curcuminoids prevent high-fat diet-induced lipid accumulation in rat liver and epididymal adipose tissue. J nut. 2001;131:2932-2935.

  • Lim GP, Chu T, Yang F, Beech W, Frautschy SA, Cole GM. The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse. J Neuro Sci. 2001;21:8370-8377.

  • Ng TP et al. Curry Consumption and Cognitive Function in the Elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Nov 1;164(9):898-906.