Turmeric is an herbaceous plant native to South East Asia, that belongs to the same family as ginger. Turmeric is used as a spice in tradition Asian cuisine. It is what gives curry its vibrant yellow color. In this post, we shall look at some of the amazing health benefits of turmeric and curcumin. Why curcumin?
Turmeric or Curcumin
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and which the health benefits are attributed. Turmeric and curcumin have been referred to interchangeably, and we shall refer to them interchangeably.
Curcumin is derived from the roots of the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa), which are crushed to produce curcumin extract. Because of this, and because of its color, it’s referred to as “yellow root” in some languages. It is also sometimes called Indian saffron.
Besides being a great spice, turmeric has been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine including Ayurvedic medicine. It is also used as a food coloring agent.
10 Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
Turmeric has a composition of various chemical components. The most significant of these, and one you will hear most about, is curcumin. This is because while it makes only about 3 percent of the total weight of powdered turmeric, it is associated with most benefits of turmeric.
Following are the top 10 health benefits of turmeric:
1. Anti-inflammatory: The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds available. Several human trials have demonstrated it to be safe as an anti-inflammatory. One study found curcumin to be potentially beneficial in the treatment osteoarthritis.
2. Antioxidant: Curcumin is a very powerful natural antioxidant. Due to this, it may help reduce risk of heart disease and slow aging. The antioxidant effects may be obtained just from regular consumption of turmeric in food.
3. Reduces risk of cancer: Antioxidants are key components of the fight against cancer. And as we have seen (#2 above), turmeric has powerful anti-oxidant properties. Curcumin in turmeric may help fight against some forms of cancer including breast cancer, lung cancer, and throat cancer.
4. Regulates blood sugar: Diabetes is a major health concern in world today. Many people with type 2 diabetes are seeking natural ways to manage their blood sugar. Turmeric may help regulate blood sugar levels. A study done in China found curcuminoid (curcumin) supplementation to significantly reduce blood sugar. Turmeric may also help prevent diabetes in people who are “pre-diabetic”.
5. Lowers blood pressure: Curcumin has been found to have beneficial effects on blood pressure. Curcumin also has ability to dilate artery and therefore facilitate easier blood flow. It also supports blood vessel health.
6. Improves digestion: Turmeric has been shown to reduce symptoms of bloating and gas. One double-blind placebo study found much lower relapse rate for people with ulcerative colitis. Curcumin may stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile, which may improve digestion. A study found curcumin to have therapeutic potential in digestive diseases.
7. Anti-aging and skin care: Besides its antioxidant properties (#2 above), turmeric is a great anti-aging agent. For many years, women in India have used turmeric to reduce the signs of aging. Two split-face studies showed turmeric may improve appearance of facial spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Turmeric has been shown to inhibit tumors of the skin.
8: Improves brain health and function: One study showed curcumin as “promising” as a treatment for Alzheimer’s diseases. In India, prevalence of Alzheimer’s is lower in areas where turmeric is eaten daily. It can also promote brain health in general. One study showed it may encourage growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit.
9. Promotes healthy joints: Curcumin may help relieve joint pain in people with osteoarthritis (see #1 above) as well as relieve pain, inflammation and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, it has been shown to inhibit joint destruction due to arthritis.
10. Lowers cholesterol: Turmeric may prevent cholesterol levels from rising by improving liver metabolism of cholesterol. It may also help scavenge cholesterol more efficiently from the blood, and improve fat metabolism rates. A randomized double-blind study showed that administration of low-dose curcumin may reduce overall cholesterol levels as well as reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Turmeric Safety and Side Effects
Turmeric/curcumin is safe for most people when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in food. However, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before taking it in concentrated or medicinal amounts, such as found in supplements. Greater caution should be exercised during pregnancy when taking supplements.
Turmeric may slow blood clotting and should therefore be avoided if you have a bleeding disorder. Its blood sugar-reducing effect can be a two-edged sword and should therefore be used wit caution for those with diabetes.
Buyer Beware: What You Should Know Before Buying Turmeric or Curcumin
As a spice, turmeric is available in powder form in virtually any store that carries food. Turmeric and curcumin supplements are available in various forms including powders, capsules, and liquid. However, as with virtually anything else, some due diligence is called for.
If you’re looking for supplements, what you want a curcumin supplement – or curcumin extract – as these contain the active ingredient of turmeric.
All the same, whether buying turmeric/curcumin as a supplement or spice, not all brands are created equal. For one, its yield of compounds depends greatly on how and where the plant is grown. Farming methods, climate, and conditions are important when it comes to quality.
Some plants yield a very low percentage of curcumin content (less than 3 percent) while others can yield as high as 6-8 percent.
Some turmeric growers use only natural fertilizers and practice sustainable agriculture (that protect the environment). It is best to choose organic.
Curcumin Supplements Bioavailability
With all the benefits of curcumin, there is a downside when it comes to supplementation. Supplements makers use a standardized form of curcumin, which is not well absorbed by the body. Because of this, is optimum benefits may not be achieved in the short-term. Quality supplements contain compounds that may help boost absorption.
One of the methods used improve turmeric absorption is to mix it with black pepper. This combo packs a punch, being that black pepper is a powerful natural medicine in its own right.
Regular dietary consumption of turmeric may negate some of the bioavailability issues of curcumin, perhaps due to cumulative effect. This may explain the low rates of Alzheimer’s in some communities in India where people consume turmeric regularly.
What’s better than turmeric? A synergistic blend of curcumin and other compounds designed for maximal absorption. Click here to check it out now.
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