Not Just a Food Dye: Turmeric is a Wonder Supplement
Turmeric is one of several important ingredients in making curry paste for that sumptuous, savory thick and spicy hot curry dish the Indian subcontinent is well-known for. Its distinct deep yellow color has also been used extensively as a dye for various coloring activities. What many do not know is that turmeric is also an important part of traditional Indian Siddha medicine with principles that are much similar to Ayurveda.
Turmeric More than Just a Dye
Turmeric is an herb that is native to the southwestern portions of India. Its rhizomes are often harvested and processed into what is known as turmeric powder. The other unprocessed rhizomes are replanted for propagation the following year.
The rhizomes of turmeric contain a group of chemicals known as curcuminoids. Curcumin is the component of turmeric that has been extensively studied because it has always been observed as the basis for its use in Siddha medicine.
Studies have shown that curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory agent aside from its observed antioxidant properties. Studies are continuously being made to ascertain curcumin’s effects on certain types of cancers, digestive problems, cognitive disorders, and even mental health conditions. Whether or not these clinical trials will bear fruit in favor of curcumin in particular and turmeric in general, the main question now is how to get sufficient amounts of curcumin into the human body.
Curcumin only accounts for roughly 3.14 percent of the total weight of turmeric powder. This roughly translates to around 31.4 milligrams for every gram of turmeric powder. What this means is that you need to consume significantly vast amounts of turmeric just to achieve the desirable effects of curcumin in the body. Furthermore, curcumin is poorly absorbed in the intestines.
Looking at these two fundamental flaws in the delivery of curcumin in the body – insufficient amounts and poor absorption rates – the solution will be quite obvious. By taking dietary supplements that have high amounts of curcumin will address the first issue. Addressing the second will be a lot trickier. Given that curcumin, be it in its natural form or the commercially available one, is poorly absorbed, the body requires a certain substance to facilitate its absorption.
Piperine, found in black pepper, has been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin in the digestive tract by up to 2,000 percent. A fat-rich diet also enhances curcumin absorption as it is a fat-soluble molecule.
Curcumin and Inflammation
Inflammation per se is not something deadly. Inflammation is the body’s unique defense mechanism of isolating tissue injury so that the reparative processes of the body will be more concentrated on the site of tissue injury. Inflammation is a sign that your body is working on something that might bring more harm to the body.
However, when the inflammatory process has taken a significant amount of time and has shown no signs of letting up, then it already signals the presence of a more severe problem. Normally, once the reparative processes are finished, the inflammation subsides on its own, even without anti-inflammatory medications. It has already served its purpose so it naturally dies down.
When inflammation reaches a point that the reparative processes of the body cannot seem to control the underlying tissue damage, it can only mean one thing – extensive tissue damage beyond the capacity of the normal protective inflammatory process. Heart diseases, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity-related health conditions have all been associated with chronic inflammation.
Several clinical studies have shown that curcumin is effective in reducing the inflammation experienced by patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In other studies, the efficiency of curcumin has been equal to the potency and effectiveness of certain anti-inflammatory drugs. The result is welcome news for patients and doctors who are looking for non-pharmacologic management of chronic inflammation.
Maintenance of the body’s unique chemical equilibrium is vital to the control of the inflammatory process. It has been suggested that the whole inflammatory process is initiated by a unique chemical, the NF-kB, that triggers the inflammatory gene found in the nucleus of the cell. By blocking this molecule curcumin effectively controls the rate at which inflammation progresses.
Curcumin, Aging, Cell Damage, and Brain Function
Studies have shown that curcumin is an effective antioxidant and as a necessary precursor for the body to produce its own array of enzymes that function in the control and elimination of free radicals. The number of free radicals in the body is directly related to the speed of aging in the human body because of oxidative stress.
One study showed curcumin as effective in improving the memory of female rats. Although the study subjects are not humans, its implications are nonetheless appealing. From the said study, Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) synthesis was aptly stimulated by curcumin. BDNF is a hormone that is very important in neuronal genesis. If fully harnessed, this hormone is believed to make dramatic improvements in brain cellular regeneration as well as the reversal of cerebral stress.
It is for this reason that curcumin is being eyed as a possible therapeutic option for Alzheimer’s patients who, unfortunately, have lower levels of BDNF. Curcumin readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and thus can exert its effects on the part of the brain that needs protection against degeneration. Curcumin is also observed to regulate the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin, Heart Disease, and Cancer
The effects of curcumin on heart health are directly related to its ability to improve endothelial function. The endothelium is the inner wall of the blood vessels that is directly responsible for the smooth and efficient flow of blood all over the body. When lesions occur anywhere along the surface of the endothelium, clotting factors in the blood can clump together on the lesion leading to turbulent blood flow and consequent increases in blood pressure. These significantly raise the risk of heart disease. Curcumin curbs this risk by improving the overall integrity of the endothelium. Together with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties curcumin does show a certain degree of cardioprotection.
Although the mechanism is poorly understood, curcumin has been shown to reduce cancer lesions found in the colon. While further research is needed to ascertain the effectiveness of curcumin on other types of cancer, it thus offers great hope in the control of cancer metastasis and the possibility of cancer cell elimination.
Turmeric Natural Health Foods Conclusion
The proven benefits of turmeric in the control of inflammation and cellular aging, promotion of cognitive functioning, prevention of heart diseases, and the control of tumor growth are enough reasons for you to include turmeric in your diet as a natural supplement.