You’ve probably heard of the golden spice turmeric, which is most commonly used in Indian style curries. In Southeast Asia, this herb is not only used as an essential spice in cuisines, but also a component in religious ceremonies. But do you know that this brilliant yellow spice is one of the most researched herbs today, which offers more than 600 health benefits?
Turmeric (botanical name Curcuma longa) is a part of ginger family of herbs and is probably a native of Southeast Asia, although the exact origin of this herb is unknown. People of ancient India regarded turmeric as the “herb of the sun” and it has a documented history of usage as a medicinal plant for at least 6000 years. “Curcumin” is the most active element of turmeric, which makes up to 2-5% of this herb. Curcumin is an orange-yellow crystalline water insoluble powder belonging to the family of chemicals known as Curcuminoids. The bright yellow color of turmeric is due to the presence of Curcuminoids. Let us learn about the powerful health promoting properties of turmeric and curcumin.
For thousands of years, turmeric has been used for treating wounds. Turmeric is mentioned in both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory herb. The reason behind the anti-inflammatory characteristics of turmeric is probably the presence of curcumin, which helps regulating the enzymes and proteins that cause inflammation in our body. However the curcumin free extract of turmeric also has proven to possess anti-inflammatory property. Because of its potent anti-inflammatory abilities, turmeric has received significant attention in the medical community. Recently a group of researchers found that curcumin stimulates the proliferation of neural progenitor cells especially in the spinal cord. A study published in Neurology Research International revealed the turmeric’s possible superiority to corticosteroids, which are conventionally used for treating spinal cord injuries. Hundreds of studies have validated curcumin to have amazing ability to treat hundreds of inflammatory-based diseases.
Treating Gastrointestinal Issues
Turmeric is a remedy for several stomach problems including constipation, cramping and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The anti-inflammatory affect of curcumin also plays a vital role here, as it reduces the chances of stomach discomfort, ulcers, and bleeding in the bowels. Patients of inflammatory bowel disease and even more serious conditions such as Crohn’s disease are often recommended to consume turmeric. Turmeric contains dietary fiber, which helps to smooth the digestive process and promote healthy metabolism.
The anti-cancer properties of curcumin have been studied in many laboratories across the globe. Curcumin seems to be able to kill cancer cells and inhibit the cell growth. Conventional cancer therapies such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy can sometimes increase the risk of developing new cancers by inducing genetic damage over a period of time. The efficacy of those therapies also declines with time, as the cancer cells develop resistance to treatment. This motivated the cancer researchers to perform more research on natural molecules of curcumin, which may derail the progression of cancer at early stage without causing any side effect.
Regulating Blood Sugar
The blood sugar level of your body plays a critical role in how your body metabolizes food and utilizes the energy. When our body fails to generate or use insulin to regulate blood sugar level, it can lead to diabetes. Turmeric reduces the risks of developing insulin resistance, a pathological condition in which the cells in our muscles, bodyfat and liver start resisting the signal, which the hormone insulin is trying to transmit—which is to transfer glucose from bloodstream into the cells. Turmeric helps reducing the oxidative stress observed in diabetes.
Improving Heart Heath
Curcumin’s powerful antioxidant activity may help reverse many steps in the heart disease process. Various studies have concluded that curcumin has the potentials to protect the heart from failure. One study found that the anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, and anti-proliferative characteristics of curcumin can reduce the serum cholesterol level and prevent atherosclerosis. Cumin also protects from endothelium dysfunction by boosting endothelium function in the lining of blood vessels. Endothelium dysfunction is a major pathophysiolocal mechanism that leads toward cardiac diseases. Curcumin can prevent congestive heart failure by inhibiting an enzyme that fuels a process that stimulates heart cell DNA to “swell” cells in the heart muscles. Although turmeric is not a substitute for the best cardiovascular care, incorporating turmeric into your daily supplement regimen will make a difference to your heart health.