Turmeric is a spice that I am sure many of you are familiar with. Originating from the plant known as Cucuma Longa, It’s the spice that gives curry powder a bunch of flavor as well as that canary yellow colour that manages to stain everything it touches! Turmeric has been used in Ancient Aryvedic medicine as far back as1500 BCE for the treatment of a wide range of conditions and diseases. In the early 1900’s, scientists were extremely curious how turmeric displayed such beneficial effects on health. By 1910, they discovered the constituent in Turmeric know as Curcumin (also known as curcuminoids). This polyphenol was found to be the main reason that the spice portrayed so many positive therapeutic effects and why it has now been classed as one of nature’s best wonder drugs!
Upon isolation of Curcumin, scientists were able to begin further studies examining the specific therapeutic actions that Curcumin displays in the body. These investigations showed that the primary reason Curcumin was so successful in treating such a smorgasbord of health defects was due to its unsurpassed anti-inflammatory capabilities. The polyphenol curcumin is a naturally occurring COX-2 inhibitor. To put it simply, COX-2 is a major inflammatory pathway and is responsible for acute and chronic inflammatory reactions. The inhibition of COX-2 results in an increased healing potential and reduction of disease/inflammatory symptoms.
But don’t I only need anti-Inflammatory medications if I’ve got a swollen knee, red thumb or sore tonsils? Not quite!
Inflammation not only happens to play an integral role in the manifestation of almost ALL chronic diseases, it also greatly influences the bodies own healing mechanisms. Aside from the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, the constituent has also shown powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal potential. Thus, using curcumin whilst suffering from a simple flu’s or infection is a great option to aid in a fast recovery.
CURCUMIN and CANCER
In more recent times, studies on curcumin have identified its role in cancer treatment and prevention. Despite the down regulation of inflammation being a primary treatment goal when it comes to treating cancer, Curcumin’s effect on the apoptosis of cells is what has all the scientists buzzing.
Researchers have found that Curcumin has the ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells, thus killing the cells. Now when focusing on prevention, curcumin inhibits angiogenesis and therefore helps to deter cancer cell growth. Furthermore, it also stimulates phase II liver detox and bile production. This leads to a dramatic reduction in the build up of toxic intermediate metabolites as well as aids the body to detoxify through increased bile flow.
So now your thinking….how can I incorporate some of this amazing spice into my life? Adding some fresh or dried Turmeric into your meals is a fantastic way to start utilizing this spice. Depending on what part of the world you live in, you may be able to find fresh Turmeric at your local farmers market. With an appearance similar to ginger yet with a yellow coloring, it’s not hard to recognize. If fresh turmeric is not available in your area, you should still be able to find it in its dried and powdered form. However, keep in mind that Curcumin has an extremely low bioavailability in the body. In fact, studies have shown that curcumin has quite poor absorption, a rapid metabolism and fast elimination. Luckily it is pharmacologically safe even in high doses so you can add as much as you like to your meals.
Here are a couple of handy tips that will aid in Curcumin’s absorption in the body:
Fats facilitate the transport of Curcumin across the small intestine lining; therefore combining some healthy fats with your Turmeric will increase absorption and bioavailability.
The addition of an agent called piperine, which is an alkaloid derived from black pepper, dramatically increases the absorption of Curcumin. Therefore simply add some back pepper to meals containing Tumeric.
Although this form of curcumin consumption is great for maintaining optimum health, it is NOT potent enough for the treatment of most conditions.
In the treatment of disease, supplements offer a way to take large amounts of the bioactive polyphenol Curcumin without consuming bucket loads of turmeric powder. Therefore, when it comes to therapeutic Curcumin consumption, supplements are the gold standard.
In saying that, you do need to be a bit picky with what curcumin
supplement you choose!
Some supplements do not contain any constituents to aid in Curcumin’s absorption, thus leaving them not much better than the Turmeric powder in your dinner. The Curcumin supplements that have been highly effective in a therapeutic usage, all tend to include phosphatidylcholine in their ingredients (also known as Meriva Curcumin Phytosome). Prior to packing, the Curcumin is bonded to phosphatidylcholine (an emulsifying fat) thereby directly facilitating its absorption and bio-availability. Studies have shown a 20-45X increased blood concentration compared to Curcmin preparations without phosphatidalylcholine bond. This dramatic increase in absorption allows for lower doses as well as the possibility to attain higher levels of curcumin in the blood.
Considering the wide range of uses curcumin displays and understanding the simple differences in supplements, there’s no reason not to use this natural wonder drug that is not only vital in the treatment of disease but also an important component in healthy living.