Despite the so many engineered alternatives in medicines at our beck and call, many people are still going back to the ancient medicinal practices – using herbal medicines to contribute to a healthy mind and body. Turmeric especially is one of the most sought after medicinal herb that brings about many health benefits to us.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is called ‘golden spice’ because of its color and usually used as an additive flavor to curry dishes. But most importantly, turmeric secures its high seat in the hierarchy of most effective medicines because of its known healing ingredient which dated back in ancient Indian system of medicine Ayurveda — where its utilization to treat respiratory conditions and other conditions is deemed effective. Even up to this day, it is used as home remedies to ease a sore throat or an upset stomach. Yet, more and more interests in the spice’s possible health benefits soar high as a number of researches come out to prove turmeric’s undeniably effective components. One study leads to more discoveries and breakthroughs come to light to understand which components of turmeric could be causing such amazing effects. An active compound within turmeric called curcumin is the key to all of these miraculous deeds.

What is curcumin?

Turmeric possesses amazing substances and one of which is curcumin which seems to have the greatest health-promoting effects. Curcumin impacts positively our overall health because of its anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant properties which are all beneficial to our body. Turmeric’s benefits, from simple sore throat to cancer remedy, have been known worldwide.

How does Turmeric work for inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response often causing localized redness, swelling, pain, or heat (1). When this happens, an infection invades our body and our immune system is fighting it. Indeed, it is the immune system’s response to injury and infection which, in turn, can be beneficial for us in order to understand the struggle our body has to go through to combat infection. Inflammation shows that the body and tissues are healing as well as defending itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. When inflammation does not occur as a physiological response, wounds would become septic, and infections could worsen. Acute inflammation is typically a protective and localized response to infection or injury (2). Sometimes inflammation continues longer than necessary, causing more harm than benefit (3). That is chronic inflammation and could be very serious. This is where we look for anti-inflammation remedies. Turmeric may have just the right substance you are specifically looking for. Anya Guy, a Mayo Clinic dietitian, says that turmeric contains anti-inflammatory compounds called curcuminoids which are associated with a positive effect on various diseases (4). Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory property is in fact one of its most promising benefits. A study suggests that this certain curcumin is a highly pleiotropic molecule which has the ability to interact with vast molecular targets involved in inflammation (5).

A large scale research shows the mechanism by which persistent oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation may cause many chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases, pulmonary diseases, diabetes and cancers (6). Oxidative stress is defined as a disturbance in the balance between the production of reactive free radicals and reactive metabolites and antioxidant defenses as their elimination by protective mechanisms (7). Due to curcumin’s chemical structure, it acts as a natural free radical scavenger that alleviates oxidative stress, inflammation in chronic diseases and regulates inflammatory and pro-inflammatory pathways related with most chronic diseases (8). Many researches have proven the effectiveness of curcumin for inflammation. One research reveals that in studies on animal models, it shows that curcumin is effective in preventing ulcerative colitis (UC) and inflammation (9). Chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and most chronic diseases are closely linked in which the curcumin’s antioxidant properties play an essential role in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammation diseases, says one research (10). There are, indeed, a number of diseases associated with an ongoing inflammatory process.

What is turmeric curcumin good for?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic relapsing inflammation disease characterized by oxidative and nitrosative stress, leucocyte infiltration and up-regulation of proinflammatory cytokines (11). Researches conduct studies to assess curcumin’s effectivity as an anti-inflammatory without significant side effects in patients with IBD. A study finds that curcumin is deemed as an orally bioavailable blocker of TNF and other pro-inflammatory biomarkers (12).

Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that gets worse quickly and may lead to a more permanent damage. Based on cell culture and animal model research methods, clinical trials reveal curcumin may be therapeutic candidate in pancreatitis. In a study of rats, model of induced pancreatitis, curcumin dramatically reduced inflammation (13).

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. Epidemiological and clinical trials establish a strong and consistent relationships between the inflammation markers and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Curcumin, being anti-inflammatory, protects against inflammation, cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis by the inhibition of p300-HAT activity and downstream NF-κB, GATA4 and other signal pathways (14).

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system – which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints (15). Curcumin has raised interest as an agent of potential use in therapy of RA with the regulatory function of the related inflammatory factors associated with anti-oxidation.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. In a study, curcumin may be responsible for alleviating disease in animal model suffering CKD. The curcumin treatment decreases macrophage infiltration in the kidneys of chronic renal failure rats and to block transactivation of NF-κB (16).

Final Thoughts

There are still chronic diseases which turmeric can be of use. The benefits of turmeric particularly lies in its amazing property which is curcumin. As a therapeutic natural plant product that dates back years ago, Curcumin has been the subject of many researches and lab trials where results appear to be promising as a potential medicine to various diseases. However, it is important that this herb cannot be used as substitute to proper and healthy lifestyle. And when it comes to turmeric supplementation, consultation with your medical expert is still advised.