Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric is a perennial plant, botanically related to ginger that is native to India, Chinaand Indonesia. It is a component of curry powder and prepared mustard. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to treat digestive disturbance, menstrual difficulties, pain and protecting the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Curcuminoids are antioxidants that are found on the rhizozomes (root-like structures) of turmeric. Major curcuminoids include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. These substances have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Research appearing in Arthritis & Rheumatism (2006; 54 (11):3452-3464) shows that an extract of turmeric may be helpful to arthritis sufferers. The authors stated that turmeric seemed to work by the same mechanism as many of the new anti-arthritis drugs currently under development. It suppresses the “Cox-2” enzyme (this what makes Vioxx and Celebrex effective in pain control). Where there are concerns about the negative effect these drugs have on the heart, curcumin is actually good for the heart. It can help reduce cholesterol and reduces fibrinogen (involved with clotting and arterial plaque formation).

Curcumin actually protects cartilage and slows joint degeneration, according to the above study and research found in Annals of Anatomy (2005; 187:487-497). Curcumin has works against inflammation by suppressing leukotrienes and by reducing the response of the white blood cells to inflammation.

One of the traditional uses of curcumin is for liver and gall bladder problems. It protects against chemical induced liver damage, much the same way that silymarin does. It also increases bile acid production, suggesting that it may be effective in preventing gallstones.

There are many studies showing that curcumin is effective for protection against cancer, according to many research articles. In the journal, Oncogene (2001 Nov 15; 20(52):7597-609), it was shown to interfere with survival of prostate cancer cells. In the journal Cancer Research (2002 Oct 1; 62(19):5451-6) shows it to protect against chemical activation of cancer cells lining the inside of the mouth. An animal study appearing in the journal Clinical Cancer Research (Oct. 15, 2005) shows curcumin may help keep breast cancer from spreading to the lungs. Research in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (August 2006; vol 4: pp 1035-1038) suggests that it might be valuable in treating colon cancer. Research in the Korean Journal of Gastroenterology(2005; 45(4):277-84) demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells. An animal study presented in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Preview (2005; 14(1):120-5 (ISSN: 1055-9965)) also suggests it may be useful for colon cancer patients. There are many more cancer studies.

There is some indication that curcumin may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. The elderly in India have a much lower rate of Alzheimer’s disease than their Western counterparts. Previous studies have shown that the only 1% of people over the age of 65, who live in Indian villages get Alzheimer’s disease. It is the lowest incidence of the disease in the world. A diet high in turmeric (found in curry) may hold some clues. Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been shown to fight the build up of the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Sally Frautschy, of the University of California, Los Angeles, presented these findings at the 2005 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, California. Her paper was entitled: Curcumin Reduces Oxidative Damage and Amyloid Pathology in an Alzheimer Transgenic Mouse.

Curcumin has many health benefits. It has been used for centuries for a variety of health problems. Research has supported its value in herbal medicine.

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