Medicinal herbs that promote healing and support health have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese, Indian and Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric is freely used in Indian cuisine and is responsible for the yellow color of curries. Research shows that elderly villagers in India, who consume turmeric daily, have some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease. The advantages of turmeric and its chief active component, curcumin, are almost too numerous to list. Curcumin contains curcuminoid polyphenols, which are the primary antioxidants and anti-inflammatories found in the turmeric root. These antioxidant properties are the reason for the majority, but not all of the health benefits associated with turmeric.
A member of the ginger family, brightly colored turmeric was first cultivated in the Himalayan region as early as 3000 B.C. In addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar. It contains health benefiting essential fatty acids, healthy levels of vitamin B6, choline, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin C, and good amounts of minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, zinc and magnesium. On the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale, turmeric is considered the fourth most antioxidant rich herb.
Curcuminoids boost the levels of the body’s own potent antioxidants known as glutathione, superoxide dismutase and catalase, all critical to limiting oxidative stress-related damage to body organ systems. Its anti-inflammatory properties are considered strong enough to greatly reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation and reset the anti-inflammatory behavior at the cellular level. The many studies that have been done on turmeric generally involve using turmeric extracts that are standardized to include large amounts of curcumin.
After reviewing 700 studies, Duke University concluded that turmeric appears to have profound effects on certain chronic debilitating diseases without adverse side effects.
- Arthritis – The more than 2 dozen anti-inflammatory compounds found in turmeric include Cox-2 inhibitors, which effectively and selectively block the Cox-2 enzymes that cause pain, swelling and inflammation. Studies show that this multi-faceted herb has demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms by decreasing overall pain and stiffness.
- Alzheimer’s disease – Curcumin has been shown to exhibit neuroprotective properties due to its antioxidant capabilities and its ability to stimulate neuron growth and repair synapses. More than 50 studies reviewed by Duke indicate that turmeric contains natural agents, which block the formation of plaques that slowly destroy cerebral function. Curcumin has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and has been found to boost Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), a brain hormone which increases the growth of new neurons, aiding in the fight against degenerative brain diseases.
- Heart Disease – Curcumin is believed to improve the lining of the blood vessels known as endothelial function. Endothelial dysfunction is considered a major component of heart disease, as the endothelium aids in blood pressure regulation and blood clotting. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties also play a role in improved function. An Ohio State University study found that curcumin contributed to heart health by reducing high levels of triglycerides and increasing levels of nitric oxide, which may help lower blood pressure.
- Anti-aging – As inflammation and oxidation are believed to play a role in the development of chronic disease, curcumin has beneficial anti-aging or longevity properties. As one of the most important herbs for health, turmeric is one of nature’s most effective anti-inflammatories, aiding in the fight against age-related disease.
For optimal absorption of curcumin, combine it with foods that contain healthy fats such as coconut or olive oil. Adding some black pepper also enhances the uptake. To get the full benefits of turmeric, consider supplementing with an extract that contains a significant amount (95%) of curcuminoids, as it difficult to get the full effects from diet alone. As part of an overall healthy lifestyle plan that includes regular exercise, stress reduction, supplementation and an anti-inflammatory diet, adding this spice to daily meals can be a valuable addition indeed.Turmero Active (K-75) by Apex Energetics features a concentrated source of curcuminoids (95%) that provides 400 mg per serving of turmeric extract. Black pepper fruit extract is added for enhanced absorbability. This product is packaged with a syringe, enabling specific serving needs. Meriva-SR Curcumin Phytosome (SF775) by Thorne Research provides a highly bioavailable curcumin/phosphatidylcholine complex in a unique patented time-release formula. Provides 1 gram per serving (2 capsules). Curcumin by Pure Encapsulations provides 20 mg of turmeric standardized to contain 95% curcuminoids for broad support in maintaining a healthy inflammatory response. Curcumin Topical Cream by Neurobiologix provides a curcumin extract that can be applied topically on the arch of the soles of the feet to increase systemic curcumin levels in the body. This product may also be applied to the temples or behind the ear. Careful application is necessary as natural curcumin pigments will stain clothing and fabric.