Turmeric is not only used to make delicious spicy dishes. Due to its main bioactive compound curcumin, turmeric will also promote your health.
Turmeric is a popular Indian spice. It is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and contains many active constituents. Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid found in turmeric. The curcuminoids are polyphenols and are responsible for the yellow color of turmeric. Curcumin is brightly yellow colored. This is why it is widely used as a food coloring additive with the E number E100.
What is turmeric and what are its properties?
Turmeric is a common spice mostly used in Indian dishes like curry and many other meals. Turmeric has also been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. This extraordinary herb has found its way into the spotlight because of its wide range of medicinal benefits. Curcumin, the main active constituent found in turmeric, is as powerful and antioxidant as vitamins C, E and Beta-Carotene. This is why turmeric is your best choice if you want to protect your liver and yourself against premature aging.
Several published studies also show that turmeric inhibits the growth of several different types of cancer cells. In addition, turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory, easing conditions such as arthritis and back pain. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory action is likely due to a combination of three different properties:
- First, turmeric lowers the production of histamine. Histamine is a substance that induces inflammation in our body.
- Secondly, it increases and prolongs the action of cortisol. Cortisol is a natural hormone that prevent inflammation.
- Finally, turmeric improves circulation. This way, it helps flush cellular wastes and inflammatory compounds from the small joints where toxins are frequently trapped.
Research has also confirmed the digestive benefits of turmeric. Turmeric acts as a cholagogue. That means that it stimulates bile production. Bile helps the bodies digest fats better, improves the overall digestion and stimulates the liver to eliminate toxins.
What are the main active constituents of turmeric?
Turmeric has many active constituents such as flavonoid curcumin (diferuloylmethane) and various volatile oils, including atlantone, tumerone and zingiberone. Other constituents include sugars, proteins, and resins. Curcumin is the most active constituent and it comprises 0.3–5.4 percent of raw turmeric. Almost about 15-60% of curcumin we eat does not pass through the gastrointestinal tract. And the small percentage that of flavonoids that we absorb is metabolized in the intestinal mucosa and liver. This low rate of absorption may reduce the beneficial effect of curcumin on our health. That’s why bromelain, an active compound found in pineapple, is usually added to curcumin to increased absorption and enhanced anti-inflammatory effect.
What are the main health benefits of turmeric?
1 | Turmeric will help you fight free radicals
Turmeric water- and fat-soluble extracts contains components that exhibit strong antioxidant activity, comparable to vitamins C and E. A study demonstrated that curcumin pretreatment decreased changes in the heart due to ischemia. Another study on stress proteins showed that curcumin enhances cellular resistance to oxidative damage.
2 | Turmeric will protect your liver
Turmeric has an hepatoprotective characteristic similar to silymarin, an active compound found in thistle. Turmeric protects your liver from a variety of toxic substances such as paracetamol and aflatoxins. This hepatoprotective effect is mainly due to the antioxidant properties of curcumin and other turmeric compounds, as well as its ability to decrease the formation of cytokines, which are substances that our immune system cells produce to trigger inflammation.
Studies also showed that curcumin significantly decreases liver injury. In addition to the protection it gives to the liver, turmeric may also help reduce production of fungal aflatoxin production by 90 percent when given to farm animals. Turmeric and curcumin also stimulate gallbladder activity thus increasing biliary excretion of bile salts, cholesterol, and bilirubin, as well as increasing bile solubility, therefore possibly preventing and treating cholelithiasis.
3 | Turmeric will counteract inflammation
The volatile oils and curcumin of Curcuma longa exhibit potent anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers found that oral administration of curcumin in instances of acute inflammation is as effective as cortisone or phenylbutazone usually used by doctors to alleviate inflammation, and one-half as effective in cases of chronic inflammation. Oral administration of Curcuma longa do also significantly reduce arthritis inflammation. Curcumin anti-inflammatory properties may be attributed to its ability to inhibit both immune cells function such as neutrophils during inflammatory states, and biosynthesis of inflammatory prostaglandins from arachidonic acid. You can also use curcumin as topical application to counteract inflammation and irritation during skin conditions and allergies. However, you should be careful to prevent staining of clothing from the yellow pigment.
4 | Turmeric will help you fight cancer
In vivo as well as in vitro studies utilizing human cell lines, have demonstrated that curcumin is able to inhibit carcinogenesis at three stages:
- Tumor promotion
- Tumor growth
According to studies of colon and prostate cancer, curcumin inhibits cell proliferation and tumor growth. Turmeric and curcumin are also able to suppress the activity of several common mutagens and carcinogens in a variety of cell types in both in vitro and in vivo studies. These anticarcinogenic effects are due to directly scavenge free radicals and enhance the antioxidant status of the body of turmeric and curcumin. They may also increase glutathione levels, thereby aiding the liver to eliminate mutagens and carcinogens.
5 | Turmeric will help you treat bacterial, fungal and parasitic diseases
Researchers found that turmeric extract and essential oils of Curcuma longa inhibit the growth of a variety of bacteria, parasites, and pathogenic fungi. Studies on some caecal parasites demonstrated that turmeric reduces small intestinal lesion scores and improves gastric tissue condition. Another study on dermatophytes and pathogenic molds, found that topically applied turmeric oil inhibits dermatophytes and pathogenic fungi and improves skin lesions due to dermatophyte and fungi infections. Not only that, but the lesions completely disappear seven days after turmeric application. Curcumin has a strong activity against many other types of parasitic organisms.
6 | Turmeric will protect your heart and enhance its performance
Turmeric has many protective effects on the cardiovascular system. These effects include lowering bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreasing the ability of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to damage cell structures, and inhibiting platelet aggregation. Even with low doses, many studies proved the protective effect of turmeric on the cardiovascular system. Turmeric extract’s effect on cholesterol levels is probably due to its ability to reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestines and increase conversion of cholesterol to bile acids in the liver.
7 | Turmeric will protect you against gastric ulcers and intestinal spasms
Constituents of Curcuma longa protect your gastrointestinal tract in several ways. They inhibit intestinal spasm and increase secretion of gastroprotective substances such as gastrin, secretin, bicarbonate, and pancreatic enzymes. Turmeric inhibits ulcer formation caused by stress and alcohol by significantly increasing gastric wall mucus.
8 | Turmeric will enhance your immunity
Curcumin can help the body fight off cancer cells. It also increases the number of immune cells that are essential to fight infectious microorganisms and enhances immunity in general. Researchers found that turmeric stimulates antibody production and immune system action.