Turmeric

Rooting for Health: The Healing and Protective Powers of Turmeric

by Deep, Radi, and Mithu on October 27, 2009

in Healing Herbs and Spices

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

Turmeric is obtained from the root of Curcuma longa, a species native to India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other tropical parts of Asia. Its role in traditional cultures goes back around 6000 years and it holds an important and honored place in the Indian system of Ayurveda. It is also considered to be highly auspicious in India and is used in various rituals and religious ceremonies in this country.

NUTRITIONAL PROFILE:

Turmeric contains over eighty important dietary nutrients including a variety of vitamins, minerals, fats, and amino acids. It is an excellent source of iron and manganese and a good source of Vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fiber.

TURMERIC IN SANSKRIT AND ITS TRADITIONAL ROLE IN INDIAN AYURVEDA:

The many beneficial qualities of Turmeric or haldi, as it is commonly known in India, are described in Sanskrit. A sampling of these include: bhadra (auspicious), dirgha raga (of long standing coloration), hridvilasini (delightfully heartening), jvarantika (destroyer of fever), krimighni (destroying germs), varna datri (dye-yielding), vishaghni (destroying poison), and mehaghni (destroying urinary disorders).

In Ayurveda, turmeric is described as tasting pungent and bitter, dry and light in quality, hot in virility, and bitter in post-assimilation. Its external application removes edemas and swellings, alleviates pain, cleans and heals wounds, and is generally useful in skin diseases including leprosy.

Within Ayurveda, turmeric is considered to act as an appetizer and to regulate digestive function by purging the body of toxic and waste matter. It also expels worms.

It affects the circulatory system by purifying the blood, promoting blood formation, and inhibiting excessive blood flow.

Turmeric helps in the expulsion of phlegm and is also a diuretic.

The Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita includes turmeric among its ten most famous anti-poison drugs for inner and outer cleansing of the body. It is specifically mentioned as an important medicine for jaundice, and Sushruta, a famous classical Indian author, refers to it for treating eye diseases and disorders such as cataracts, bleeding from the nose, urinary disorders, and epilepsy.

Turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in the Indian and Chinese systems of medicine and historically as a condiment, healing remedy, skin beauty treatment, and fabric dye.

TURMERIC AND THE TRADITIONAL PRACTICE OF CHINESE MEDICINE:

Traditional Chinese physicians used turmeric to treat liver and gallbladder problems, stop hemorrhaging, relieve menstrual discomforts, and clear chest congestion. It was also used in treatments for depression and other mental conditions.

MODERN THERAPEUTIC USES OF TURMERIC:

Recent research has indicated the following potential benefits of turmeric:

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agent and Pain Reliever:

Curcumin, the yellow pigment and biologically active phytonutrient constituent of turmeric, along with its volatile oil content, possess significant anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects in fact compare favorably with some potent NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) without their common side effects such as ulcer formation, intestinal bleeding, and decreased white blood cell count. In this context, curcumin could become an effective and inexpensive treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis.

While it is not yet known exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects, it appears that apart from its antioxidant activity, it could also inhibit a major cellular inflammatory agent known as NF kappa-B even in doses as low as 0.25 percent.

Joint Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis:

When taken regularly, the powerful antioxidant properties of curcumin, by neutralizing the free radicals that cause painful inflammation of the joints and their eventual deterioration, can reduce joint swelling, thereby alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Interestingly, studies and testimonials indicate that turmeric pairs very well with systemic enzymes such as serrapeptidase and bromelain, doubling the power of these two potent anti-inflammation agents. You can learn more about enzyme therapy by reading our article: Those Wonder-Working Enzymes: Healing in Depth.

Lung Diseases and Cystic Fibrosis:

Experimental evidence with animals has shown that curcumin relieves lung injury and fibrosis caused by toxicants, chemotherapeutic agents, and radiation. Studies indicate that curcumin plays a protective role in a variety of lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lung injury acute respiratory distress syndrome, and allergic asthma. Its therapeutic action is on preventing or modulating inflammation and oxidative stress.

According to an animal study published in Science (April 2004), curcumin appears to be able to correct a genetic defect responsible for cystic fibrosis. This life threatening disease causes the lungs to be filled with thick mucus and damages the pancreas, inhibiting the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The most common mutation of the gene involved, known as Delta F508, results in the production of a misfolded protein. Mice with this defect, when treated with curcumin, were seen to produce Delta F508 protein with a normal appearance and function.

However, it is important that cystic fibrosis patients do not attempt to self-medicate with curcumin since possible adverse interactions of curcumin with conventional medication have not yet been identified.

Protecting Cardiovascular Health:

Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body, thereby having a protective role against damage of arteries and the building up of plaque which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. In particular, by preventing oxidation of new cholesterol, it could help to limit the progression of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Cancer Protection:

Curcumin has somewhat oxymoronically been described as “nutritional chemotherapy.” Antioxidants in curcumin protect colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA, resulting in mutations that lead to cancer. Curcumin also inhibits the synthesis of a protein, which could be responsible for tumor formation, and prevents the development of an additional blood supply necessary for further cancer growth.

Studies have also shown that regular use of turmeric lowers rates of breast, prostrate, lung, and colon cancer.

According to researcher Bharat Agarwal (cited by George Mateljan), curcumin acts against and shuts down many of the transcription factors or “master switches” that regulate all the genes needed for tumor formation. When these are turned off, some of the genes involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells are also turned off.

Teamed up with onions, which contain the antioxidant quercetin, curcumin has been found to safely reduce pre-cancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract. As a result, regular intake of turmeric and onions could protect against colorectal cancer. In combination with cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage which contain phenethylisothiocyanates, curcumin retards the growth of human prostrate cells reducing tumor growth and its spread.

In addition to its protective effects against cancer, curcumin, by enhancing liver function, helps to destroy mutated cancerous cells and inhibits their spread within the body.

Research into curcumin’s protective and therapeutic properties against pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, and oral cancer is ongoing.

Liver Detoxification and Reducing the Risk of Childhood Leukemia:

In recent years, incidences of childhood leukemia have increased due to prenatal and postnatal exposure to known risk factors such as environmental pollutants, radiation and certain chemotherapeutic drugs. Inclusion of turmeric in the diet can mitigate some of these risks as result of turmeric’s role in liver detoxification.

Consumption of turmeric can elevate two very important liver detoxification enzymes – UDP Glucuronyl Transferase and Glutathione-S-Transferase – which help with the elimination of zenobiotic (toxic) chemicals. Its culinary use may also counter the effects of several dietary carcinogens.

Turmeric can also help to increase the liver’s ability to clear LDL (bad cholesterol).

Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases:

Studies have shown that turmeric could protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. In India where turmeric is widely used as a culinary spice, incidences of both of these diseases are very low.

Curcumin’s protective effects against Alzheimer’s appear to lie in its ability to turn on a gene that codes for the production of antioxidants such as bilirubin, which protect the brain against oxidative injury and inflammation.

In multiple sclerosis it may have a protective role by interrupting the production of IL-2, a protein that could be associated with the destruction of myelin, the sheath that protects most nerves in the body.

Turmeric and Eyesight:

Turmeric is believed to be beneficial for maintaining eye health due to its ability to reduce oxidation of the lens protein, which is one of the main causes of eye problems especially cataracts. It can be used as a salve with water and applied to the eye for treating conjunctivitis and reducing pain.

Weight Management:

Turmeric may aid in fat metabolism and weight management. It stimulates bile flow, which helps to digest fats, and is also a lipotropic agent, helping to prevent excess fat build up and emulsifying fats for easy transport through the blood stream.

HOW TO SELECT AND STORE TURMERIC:

It is best to buy organically grown turmeric in root form or as a ground powder from ethnic markets or specialty stores since these have not been irradiated.

The turmeric content of “curry powder” very minimal and is not therefore recommended for health benefits.

As with other dry spices, turmeric powder should be kept in sealed containers in a cool, dark, and dry place. The fresh roots should be refrigerated.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE USE OF TURMERIC IN ONE’S DIET:

Vegetables can be lightly sautéed with turmeric and other spices and topped with virgin cold pressed olive oil, salt and pepper. Turmeric can also be added to salad dressings, including yoghurt or healthy mayonnaise for color and bite. Happy experimenting!

TURMERIC SUPPLEMENTS:

When using turmeric therapeutically as an aid for treating serious health conditions, high doses are required. However, curcumin has poor bioavailability (absorption) when consumed orally due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal walls. It may therefore be wise to combine dietary intake of turmeric (with all the health benefits of the whole spice) with curcumin supplements, available in many health food stores.

Based on our review of turmeric supplements, we would recommend Curcumin-X4000, a unique high utilization formulation. This is an extremely powerful curcumin supplement with 450 mg. delivering the equivalent benefits of 4000 mg. of ordinary Curcumin 95 percent capsules according to a recent study. Each capsule of Curcumin-X4000 contains 200 mg of highly effective Curcumin Phytosome, and has demonstrated an increased utilization up to 45 times compared to ordinary Curcumin 95 percent. The attachment of curcumin to phosphatidylcholine, which is very well absorbed by our bodies,  makes this product unique, allowing the curcumin to reach the cells that can benefit from it.  To learn more about this valuable therapeutic product, please click on the link below:

http://applesanddoctors.com/Recommends/CurcuminX4000

CAUTIONS ON USING TURMERIC:

  • Immediately after using turmeric, you should thoroughly wash your hands to avoid staining. Milk may be helpful in removing turmeric stains.
  • People with congestive heart disease, the cause of which is not known, should consult with their doctors before taking turmeric for therapeutic purposes.
  • Some possible contraindications for using turmeric are people suffering from gall stones or bile obstructions, and stomach ulcers.
  • Pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking turmeric since it can be a uterine stimulant. It is also recommended that women who suffer from fertility problems should consult with their physicians before using turmeric.
  • People with a blood clotting disorder should exercise caution in using turmeric.
  • Although use of turmeric is considered to be safe, prolonged use of higher than recommended dosages could cause stomach upsets and other gastrointestinal disturbances excess acid in the urine, and possibly kidney stones.
  • People with health problems who are on prescription drugs should consult with their physicians before using turmeric therapeutically.

Please Note: In order to obtain the full benefits of turmeric’s numerous healing properties, it is essential to ensure that you use pure and organic turmeric. For our recommended source of the finest quality turmeric, please visit Organic Herbs and Spices.

Key Reference Sources:

  • George Mateljan Foundation. The World’s Healthiest Foods: Turmeric (http://www.whfoods.com)
  • Health Diaries. 20 Health Benefits of Turmeric. (http://healthdiaries.com)
  • Krishnamurthy, K.H. (n.d.) Ginger and Turmeric. Health Series: Traditional Family Medicine. New Delhi, India: Books for All.
  • Nutritional Supplement Educational Centre. Turmeric Benefits. (http://www.nutrional-supplement-educational-centre.com/turmeric-benefits)

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Apples and Doctors is affiliated with Good Health USA.

1 Comment

  • At 2009.11.03 06:34, Olav said:

    This is an excellent article….I have been using turmeric powder whenever the need arises and I must say that it does have tremendous curing powers.

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