In this time and age, many professionals in the field of medicines are in pursuit of achieving proper nutrition and wellness. More and more breakthroughs came to light and deemed important to human life for thousands of years. Herbs most especially spices are used for decades as food enhancers and more so as medicinal agents. In the past decade, the demands increased for medicinal herbs and spices and their derived products for a variety of functions (1). The National Cancer Institute have identified several commonly used culinary herbs to possess compounds that protect us against cancer (2). One of this is the turmeric. Turmeric is widely known as the ‘Golden Spice of India’ for it has been a part of the Indian medicinal culture for centuries and used in traditional medicine as a household remedy for various common diseases.
What is Turmeric Curcumin?
Turmeric is a plant that has a very long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4000 years and is used not only as a principal spice but also as a component in religious ceremonies in Southeast Asia (3). It is a flowering plant, Curcuma longa of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, the roots of which are used in cooking. The turmeric’s flavorful roots thrive best in warmer climates, but with the proper attention and know-how, one can grow them almost anywhere (4), (5). Hence, it is a very common domestic herb which you can easily find in the neighborhood or even in your own backyard. Its root and rhizome (underground stem) are used medicinally (6). Modern medicine began to recognize its importance, as indicated by the over 3000 publications dealing with turmeric that came out within the last 25 years (7).
As we all know, turmeric’s medicinal breakthroughs reach many people around the globe and many articles are published showcasing its multitudinous medicinal benefits, it is the purpose of this article to enumerate ten proven benefits of turmeric.
10 Proven Benefits of Turmeric Curcumin
- It improves memory and brain function. As far as natural aging process is concerned, our memory may decline as we age. But it is our choice how quick our brain ages. To prevent slipping memories, prevention is better than cure. Recent research shows that curcumin has a potential role in prevention of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer Disease by boosting cell survival pathways (8).
- It reduces the risk of cancer. Curcumin holds a high place in Ayurvedic medicine as a “cleanser of the body,” and today, science is finding a growing list of diseased conditions that can be healed by the active ingredients of turmeric (9). To this date, studies are conducted to establish a more concrete evidence that turmeric can treat cancer. A few laboratory studies on cancer cells, however, several studies show that curcumin has anti-cancer effects and seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing (10). Curcumin is thought to have antioxidant properties, which means it may decrease swelling and inflammation and is being explored as a cancer treatment in part because inflammation appears to play a role in cancer (11).
- It improves digestion. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties and therapeutic benefit have been demonstrated for a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, including dyspepsia, Helicobacter pylori infection, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis (12). A study in the journal Systematic Reviews reveals that volunteers who ate a teaspoon of the turmeric twice a day aided esophagus and colon function, helping them recover from indigestion faster (13). According to Britt Brandon in Turmeric for Health, the potent compounds in turmeric also relieve the underlying issues of acid and bile overproduction, thereby promoting benefits to the body instead of painful conditions and helping to produce good bacteria, minimize bad bacteria, and improve the colon’s ability to absorb beneficial nutrients.
- It is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory that helps maintain healthy inflammation responses (14). This anti-inflammatory ability might reduce the aggravation that people with arthritis feel in their joints (15). There are doctors who are also open to alternative medicine like using turmeric to relieve arthritis pain as well. According to Dr. Minerva Santos, director of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, she recommends it frequently to patients complaining of sore and achy joints, and uses it herself to relieve pain in her joints from sports and exercise (16). Although there are several recent studies that show that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and modifies immune system responses, a 2006 study reveals that turmeric is more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation (17).
- It increases the antioxidant capacity of the body. Turmeric is responsible for stopping damage to the body’s cells by various harmful free radicals. Turmeric has high contents of each of these antioxidants, making it a powerful fighter against cell damage (18). Numerous reports indicate that turmeric could mediate both pro-oxidant and antioxidant roles, making turmeric usage a consumer choice for feeling and looking young; preventing premature ageing; cancer and tumors prevention, liver protection, removing oxidized cholesterol thereby preventing heart attacks; reducing pain and acute (injuries) and chronic inflammations (arthritis) (19).
- It lowers the risk of heart disease and heart attack. It helps promote a healthy heart for it encourages healthy cholesterol levels. Because high cholesterol can cause other health problems like heart disease. The current study suggests curcumin may thwart the development of atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries, a key risk factor for heart attacks and strokes (20). However, Dr. Ronald Cotterel, a Family Medicine doctor at the Sutter Medical Group, shared that turmeric can’t necessarily prevent heart disease, however, the spice could theoretically help prevent heart attacks. And he added that the main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and it’s used as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and has some action as an antiplatelet agent that can slow blood clotting, in a similar but gentler way than aspirin (21).
- It is beneficial in treating depression. Most available research shows that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, reduces depression symptoms in people already using an antidepressant (22). The journal Phytotherapy Research published the results of an amazing, innovative study involving 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), such as manic depression, and split the group to determine how patients treated by curcumin fared against fluoxetine (Prozac) and a combination of the two, later showed that not only was it discovered that all patients tolerated curcumin well, but they discovered curcumin was as effective as Prozac in managing depression (23).
- It helps increase body’s metabolism. It supports weight loss for it facilitates healthy metabolism in the body. It breaks down fats to keep the body at a proper weight. A 2009 study conducted on mice at the Tufts University, found that curcumin can actually suppress fat tissue growth (24). Studies have shown that consuming turmeric naturally reduces inflammation, which allows your hormones to function normally—including the hormones that regulate (and speed up) metabolism (25).
- It is a natural decongestant. Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling in the sinus cavities and a stimulant that will act as a natural decongestant, alleviating sinus pressure and pain (26).
- It balances mood among aging adults. A study conducted shows that a twice-daily dose of this natural supplement led to a nearly 30% improvement in memory and a boost in mood for adults suffering from mild memory loss (27).
Final Thoughts on Turmeric Curcumin
You are what you eat. This is a very common adage which bears truth. We enjoy our food very much without knowing its ill effects to our body. Therefore, we should be vigilant of the food we take in and ensure to give the nutrients our body needs.
Knowledge is power. Understanding the significance of turmeric as both culinary and as a medicinal herb helps us become empowered individuals mindful of our own body’s health and wellness.