Turmeric. Such a common spice. You’ll find it in just about every kitchen and almost definitely in every supermarket. Makes one tend to take it somewhat for granted, but that would be a mistake.
So just what is turmeric good for (apart from delicious curries)? How about cancer, dementia and heart disease to name a few? Below I’ll explain the medical benefits of turmeric. It’s an amazing addition to your natural health quest!
Medicinal Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric Benefits for Cancer
Want to fight cancer with food? Turmeric has been widely studied as a cancer-preventing spice, and may be the single most potent food-derived anti-inflammatory compound available.
The main active ingredient in turmeric is a substance known as curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant which has been shown in numerous studies to protect cellular DNA from free radical damage. DNA damage is believed to be a risk factor for the development of cancer.
Due to its potent anti-inflammatory action, turmeric is particularly effective in tissues which experience a very high rate of cellular turnover. Organs such as the intestinal tract and colon (where cells turn over every three days or so) are very vulnerable to free-radical attack, and so are prime candidates for the tender touch of turmeric!
Drugs such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are believed to help prevent colon cancer. However, clinical studies indicate that curcumin is even more effective! Not only does curcumin help prevent the initial development of cancerous cells, it also blocks the growth and progression of existing cancer cells.
In animal studies curcumin has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 58%. Other rsearch suggests that it may work against skin cancer as well.
In a study designed to measure the effects of turmeric on potential carcinogens generated by cigarette smoke, smokers were given small amounts of turmeric daily. After one month, those smokers taking the turmeric showed a significant reduction in the toxic, cancer-causing compounds. Volunteers in the control group, who were not given the turmeric, showed no changes.
Turmeric has also been shown to slow the growth of tumors, and to promote apoptosis (the death of cancer cells).
Turmeric and Dementia
There is some evidence that a regular intake of turmeric may offer protective and therapeutic benefits for Alzheimer’s disease.
In one study on curcumin (the active anti-oxidant substance in turmeric), it appeared to trigger the destruction of the beta-amyloid plaques common in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. These plaques are believed to contribute to the decline in mental ability in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
It has also been noted that in regions of the world where turmeric is consumed regularly, such as India, the rates of Alzheimer’s disease is lower than in Western cultures. Correlation does not mean causation, but it is additional evidence to be considered.
Turmeric and Heart Disease
Western researchers are discovering that the anti-oxidant action of turmeric that make it effective in protecting against cancer also make it good for your heart.
These days it is becoming more widely believed that total cholesterol is not the villain in heart disease. Rather it is the fraction of total cholesterol that is made up of oxidized LDL, together with the levels of triglycerides, that indicate your risk for heart disease.
Turmeric is believed to inhibit the harmful oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and it also seems to lower triglycerides – a double whammy! It also contains compounds that inhibit clots, the main cause of most heart attacks and strokes.
Turmeric and Chronic Pain
Chronic pain often arises as a result of chronic inflammation, for example in conditions like arthritis. Being such a powerful anti-inflammatory, turmeric can be effective for the treatment of pain due to inflammation.
Did you know that turmeric has been proven to reduce or eliminate pain better than leading prescription medications?
A 2004 study published in the journal Oncogene found that components of turmeric were effective alternatives to the drugs aspirin, ibuprofen, sulindac, phenylbutazone, naproxen and diclofenac, to name a few.
Try 250 to 500 gm of turmeric three times a day with meals for effective relief from chronic pain.
Turmeric and Your Gut
Turmeric is a powerful ally for your gut microbiome. And you want to keep your gut biome healthy!
The condition of gut dysbiosis (when the balance between the “good” gut bacteria and the “bad” gut bacteria is disturbed) can lead to multiple conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, candidiasis (yeast overgrowth) and more.
Turmeric helps to maintain your gut biome balance by soothing and cleansing your GI tract in multiple ways:
- It enhances digestive enzymes, stimulates probiotics, and slows the spread of pathogenic bacteria …
- As a powerful antioxidant, it soothes inflamed “hot spots” …
- A 2009 study showed it even stops the growth of stubborn h. pylori bacteria in the stomach, overgrowth of which causes gastritis, peptic ulcers, and even gastric cancers.
- Plus, it’s excellent for cleansing and stimulating your gall bladder and liver—the GI tract duo responsible for breaking down fat for building important metabolic hormones.
Turmeric and Cataracts
Curcumin has been shown to protect the eyes from free radical damage, one of the leading causes of cataracts. In fact, a laboratory study found that curcumin was able to reduce free-radical damage to the eyes by 52%!
Turmeric vs Curcumin
Whilst curcumin has been found to be the main active component in turmeric, in my opinion it is probably better to take turmeric rather than just curcumin.
Often the different substances in a herb or spice act synergistically, enhancing the action of each. If you take just one of the ingredients you lose out on any potentially positive interactions – many of which we don’t quite understand or possibly don’t even know about yet!
Most anti-inflammatory foods work in one of the following ways:
- They neutralize free radicals in the body (which cause inflammation) with a flood of antioxidants, or
- They stop the body from producing the chemicals that initiate inflammation in the first place (this is how aspirin and OTC pain meds work)
Full-spectrum turmeric (as opposed to an isolated curcumin extract) is especially effective because it operates by both mechanisms of anti-inflammatory action.
Precautions and Side-Effects of Turmeric
Turmeric should not be used medicinally in pregnant women, or by those suffering from bile duct obstruction, gallstones, stomach ulcers or stomach hyperacidity.
Speak to you doctor first if you take anticlotting drugs as too much turmeric could raise the risk of bleeding.
Consumption of the herb as a spice, in small amounts, does not pose a problem.
Dosage of Turmeric:
Ground turmeric: Blend 1 teaspoon (up to a tablespoon if you have already been diagnosed with cancer) with a grind of black pepper, and a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Add to salads, vegetables, eggs or soups for a tasty treat.
Tea: Add 250ml (8 oz) of boiling water to approximately one tablespoon of turmeric and allow to steep for several minutes. Take 2 to 3 times per day.
Tincture: Take 1 to 3 ml (0.04 to 0.12 oz) 2 to 3 times per day
Standardized Extract: Take one 450mg capsule (standardized to 95% curcuminoids) three times per day.
It is a fact that nearly all diseases and ailments can be traced back to inflammation and oxidative stress. Given turmeric’s strongly anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, it’s not surprising that turmeric can be an effective treatment for a number of widely different conditions.
If you are suffering from an ailment linked to chronic inflammation or free radical damage, you need to add this herb to your daily regime.