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Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

Updated on January 27, 2015
Spices for Butter Chicken Including Tumeric
Spices for Butter Chicken Including Tumeric | Source

Use of Turmeric

As a Food

Turmeric, a plant native to Southeast India, is used as a spice and is most well known for the distinctive color that it gives to curried dishes. Turmeric is the spice that imparts the distinctive yellow color to many mustards. While most dishes made with turmeric are savory ones, sweet dishes can be made as well. This spice is most widely used in its dried form but turmeric can also be prepared fresh just like ginger. It is often pickled. Some South Asian countries use fresh turmeric leaves to wrap prepared food in and cook the food with the turmeric leaf which imparts a distinctive flavor to the dish.

As a Dye

Turmeric was first used as a dye and then later used for its medicinal properties. While turmeric does not make a great fabric dye since it is not very color fast, it is still traditionally used in Indian clothing dyes for saris and monk's robes. Turmeric, like annatto, is used to naturally color food products.

As a Ceremonial Component

Turmeric is considered to be very holy in India and is used in many Hindu rites. Hindu monks use turmeric to color their robes. Turmeric produces a bright yellow color which is representative of the sun and also represents the solar plexus chakra. Whole turmeric plants are offered as gifts to the sun god and Indian couples tie turmeric tubers around their wrists. This practice is similar to that of exchanging wedding rings.

As a Medicine

The active compound found in Turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin makes up a little over 3% of turmeric. Curcumin is thought to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral, it is an antioxidant and has the potential to reduce tumors. Curcumin is being studied for its uses to fight cancer, irritable bowl syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, arthritis, kidney diseases, depression, arthritis and more.

Tumeric Plant
Tumeric Plant | Source

Using Turmeric Curcumin Supplements

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Effective Dosage of Turmeric

The effects turmeric or curcumin have on the body depend on the dosage and how it is ingested. Turmeric contains 3% curcumin by weight. Curcumin belongs to a group of compounds called curcuminoids. Studies done about ingesting turmeric for health benefits are usually done based on the curcumin levels being at a gram or more per day. It is very hard to reach these levels just by eating turmeric as a spice by itself. Usually an extract of concentrated curcumin is needed to be an effective supplement. This is why it is common to see turmeric supplements or curcumin pills being sold.

It is the curcumin extract that has the most benefits. However, most people are unaware of the fact that curcumin is not readily absorbed by the body. It is recommended to take black pepper with a curcumin supplement. This can be easily achieved by swallowing a couple of whole black peppercorns when you take a daily curcumin supplement. Black pepper increases the body's ability to absorbed curcumin by almost 2000%.

Tumeric
Tumeric | Source

Curcumin as an Anti-inflammatory

When the body is constantly battling inflammation it can become easily fatigued and long term inflammation may lead to a host of other diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Curcumin helps the body fight inflammation.

Some studies suggest that curcumin may be as powerful at fighting inflammation as some anti-inflammatory drugs. Curcumin helps to combat inlammation in the body at the molecular level since it contains an inflammation blocking key. Nf-kb is a molecule that travels directly in to cells and activates inflammation. Curcumin shuts off the body's production of Nf-kb.

Arthritis suffers may find relief from a daily dose of curcumin. Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis patients have shown improvements in their arthritis symptoms in studies where they took curcumin.

Curcumin as an Antioxidant

Free radicals harm the body. Antioxidants play an important role in destroying free radicals and curcumin can help in two ways. Curcumin destroys free radicals and it also helps to boost the body's own ability to produce antioxidants.

Curcumin May Assist Brain Function

Our brain needs a growth hormone called BDNF or Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This hormone assists the brain by helping neurons form new connections. It is thought that brain related diseases like Alzheimer's disease arise because of a lack of BDNF. Curcumin may help with this since it stimulates the production of BDNF by crossing over the blood - brain barrier..


How Turmeric Curcumin Helps High Blood Pressure and Cancer

Turmeric Curcumin and High Blood Pressure

It is well known that constant inflammation affects the heart. High blood pressure may be the result of endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is a weakening of the blood vessels. Curcumin, in studies on heart disease, has been shown to improve this function. Curcumin therapy may be as effective as exercise for the heart. Curcumin also improves oxidation. By allowing more oxygen to get to the heart and other organs, high blood pressure may be lowered.

Curcumin and Cancer

There is some evidence that curcumin therapy through supplementation may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place. It has been shown that curcumin inhibits cancer growth and the spread of cancer at a molecular level. Studies have shown positive hope for cancers of the digestive system. In one study on colorectal cancer, 44 men with lesions in the colon, 4 grams of turmeric curcumin pills per day were taken for 30 days and the results showed that curcumin helped reduce the number of lesions by 40%.

Perhaps turmeric curcumin supplements will be used with conventional cancer treatment in the future. For now, it’s too early to say, but studies and over all effects look promising. Special thanks to Kris Gunnars from AuthorityNutrition.com for much of this information.

© 2014 Corey

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