Turmeric is an exceptional spice, not only because it is a delicious addition to most meals. It is also proven to aid in health and drastically reduce the symptoms of certain ailments — even curing some. This vibrantly yellow rhizome has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia and has been implemented for its medicinal qualities in South-Eastern Asia for almost 4000 years. More recently, Western science has conducted research on the plant and the results have only confirmed what ancient medical systems taught for epochs: turmeric has the potential to transform ones health and heal sickness.
The main healing agent within turmeric is a compound named curcumin, which is found to possess potent anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory effects, with the ability to battle diseases ranging from diabetes to depression. Whether sipped as an infused tea, taken as a supplement or sprinkled onto culinary dishes, this herb and its active constituents can be used to form a daily ritual contributing towards disease prevention and symptom alleviation.
There are a number of articles out there proclaiming the miraculous effects of turmeric, and their claims are almost unbelievable. However, the proof is in the science, and there’s plenty of it at this point. For one, author and medical doctor Andrew Weil suggests ingesting turmeric on a daily basis to prevent and combat chronic disease.
Below are a few of turmeric’s positive effects on the human body, as proven by scientific research:
1. Contains anti-cancer substances.
In a study conducted at the Jiangsu Institute of Cancer Research, China, curcumin was found to produce potentially cancer-reversing results in a laboratory setting. In our bodies, normally functioning cells maintain a self-destruct mechanism which is put to use when reproduction becomes too rapid or cells become harmful to the body. However, in cancer cells this process is switched off, allowing for mass cell growth and replication. Through its administration, curcumin manages to turn this switch back, triggering a process called apoptosis which swiftly destroys abnormal cells.
A human study involving 25 patients undertaken by the Department of Internal Medicine at the Taiwan University College of Medicine established that supplementation of curcumin kept pre-malignant tissue from developing and spreading in areas of the body such as the mouth, cervix, bladder and stomach. The results suggested that curcumin has a biological effect in the chemo prevention of cancer.
2. Liver maintenance and detoxification.
Scores of toxins enter our bodies on a daily basis, leaving our systems in a constant struggle to eliminate them, to prevent illness and disease. Some of the main detoxification systems reside in the liver, and for this reason it is paramount to keep this crucial organ healthy. Studies produced by the Oncology Department at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, demonstrated that curcumin intake catalyzes a powerful increase in enzymes within the liver that assist in the detoxification process. Thus, curcumin can prevent toxins from accumulating and leading to health complications, including many different forms of cancer.
3. Helps to relieve inflamed joints and arthritic pain.
Research orchestrated at the Nirmala Medical Centre in India, during 2012 found curcumin to be more effective than diclogenac, the standard anti-inflammatory drug administered for arthritis, in treating most areas of the disease. The curcumin works to target the root cause of the disease, the painful inflammatory response, as opposed to just masking the discomforting symptoms. In addition to this obvious benefit, curcumin works to this effect without the array of negative side effects — from nausea to bleeding — that often accompany standard drug therapy.
Curcumin was observed to suppress at least five factors within the human body that contribute to inflammation and joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis, giving it a far wider scope than pharmaseutical drugs.
The turmeric-derived molecule has also displayed promise in treating osteoarthritis. One of the key features of this immobilizing disease is the breakdown of cartilage which exists between joints that keeps them lubricated and functional. Based upon findings from the Musculoskeletal Research Group of Munich, curcumin can benefit this disease significantly by keeping the cartilage preserved and protected. It does so by directly countering inflammatory molecules. The Integrated Cancer Prevention Centre in Tel Aviv, Israel pinpointed that curcumin suppresses the growth of cells that cause inflammation. The Munich Institute of Anatomy contributed to this arsenal of discoveries by establishing the molecules’ ability to inhibit enzymes that devour the vital cartilage.
4. Strong anti-oxidant qualities.
In research published in 2008, the Ataturk University of Turkey showed curcumin is able to successfully and effectively scavenge free radicals from the body. These are harmful molecules that can cause unwanted change within the body, including direct damage to our DNA. They can enter our bodies through poor diet, pollution, radiation, smoking etc. So it stands to reason that adding turmeric to the diet can be an easy and potentially very effective means of overall healing and disease prevention.
5. A potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Via the mechanisms of its strong anti-inflammatory actions, curcumin is theorized to eventually play a role in the cure of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the UCLA Department of Neurology in Sepulveda, California. One of the contributing factors to Alzheimer’s is the chronic inflammation of nerve cells. The department’s findings conclude curcumin is able to inhibit certain enzymes and chemicals that cause these inflammatory responses and thus lower problematic inflammation. Another of the contributing causes to Alzheimer’s is the build up of proteins, which eventually form plaque within the brain and obstruct communication pathways between cells. The immune system’s line of defense comes in the form of macrophages which work to remove the build ups. Macrophages in patients who were treated with curcumin were found to uptake and ingest plaques with improved efficiency.
In another study looking at three individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, conducted by a team of scientists at the Toyota General Hospital in Japan, the subjects showed a significant improvement in psychological state and behavior upon administering 100mg of curcumin/day for a period of only 12 weeks. Symptoms such as agitation, apathy, irritability were relieved in patients and basic social coherency — such as making nurses aware of the need to go to the bathroom — was restored.
6. Chelates heavy metals from brain tissue.
Another of curcumin’s anti-Alzheimer’s effects is due to its efficiency in chelating heavy metals from tissue in the brain. Curcumin thus helps prevent the neurotoxicity that is normally associated with them. Research at UCLA’s Department of Neurology demonstrated that lead-induced damage to neurons was severely lowered in rats when they were injected with curcumin.
7. Aids in digestion.
Dyspepsia is a broad term used to describe conditions that fall into the category of gas, bloating, nausea, digestive issues, appetite loss and similar symptoms, but only when the cause is not related to a serious underlying illness. Research at the University of Maryland determined that turmeric stimulates bile production in the gall bladder which is believed to improve digestion. In some countries, including Germany, turmeric is prescribed for dyspepsia for this reason. It has also been found to reduce the symptoms of gas and bloating for people susceptible to indigestion.
The Maryland team found Curcumin also shows promise in helping people with ulcerative colitis stay in remission, as a control group taking turmeric had a far lower relapse rate than those that only received a placebo.
8. Soothes Eczema and itching.
A study published in the journal Plant Archives in 2006 discovered turmeric can offer safe, natural relief for skin disorders due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial action. Tinctures, extracts and oils containing the active constituent curcumin can be applied topically to irritated areas of the skin where it lowers the expression of enzymes that cause the inflammatory response.
9. Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Diabetes Journal found curcumin to be highly effective at preventing people who were pre-diabetic from entering a diabetic state. After a period on nine months, 16.4% of the placebo group were diagnosed with type two diabetes, whereas none of the subjects receiving curcumin treatment developed the disease. The treatment also appeared to improve overall function of unique cells within the pancreas responsible for producing, storing and releasing insulin.
10. Helps to battle depression and enhance cognitive health.
Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier with ease due to its low molecular weight. During animal studies at the National Institute of Health in Maryland, curcumin demonstrated the ability to trigger the growth of new cells within the hippocampus region of the brain, making it a potential treatment and preventative measure against depression. It may be particularly effective in humans, as a prominent link has been discovered between depression and stress-induced damage to the neurons within the hippocampus, based upon the findings of a study published within the Biological Psychiatry Journal in 2000.
Curcumin has also shown — during research performed at both the Panjab University in India and the University of California in Sacramento — to modulate the release of certain neurotransmitters within the brain. One of them is dopamine, which is associated with the pleasure and reward systems within the brain, which lead to feelings of enjoyment and motivation. Curcumin has also shown to influence the levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the functions of mood and sleep, according to researchers at the National Institute of Health in Maryland. Chronically low levels of serotonin are one of the key factors of depression and turmeric offers a safe means of raising levels naturally.