Turmeric is one of our favorite spices, due to its impressive medicinal profile. From eggless salad to vegan omelets, a nice sprinkle goes a long way. Turmeric powder (the form most of us are familiar with) is made from the dried root of the Curcuma longa plant.
Vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients in turmeric
Manganese, iron, vitamin B6, potassium.*
Potential Health Benefits
The phytochemical curcumin** (the yellow or orange pigment in turmeric) is thought to be one of the main sources of turmeric’s medicinal properties; it is at the very least one of the most studied nutrients in turmeric.
**Although curcumin has received a great deal of attention as an individual nutrient, when you extract one particular compound from a plant you may lose many other beneficial nutrients in the process, and turmeric is no exception.
Turmeric’s volatile oils (essential oils) and the phytochemical curcumin have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
“In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.”
And thankfully, when you’re spicing up your curry with turmeric, you don’t have to worry about ulcers, intestinal bleeding or any of the other side effects that can be caused by the pharmaceutical drugs mentioned above.
2. Relief of depression
A study out of Baylor University Medical Center has demonstrated that curcumin may be nearly as powerful as Prozac for relieving symptoms of depression. Further studies are needed to confirm this study’s findings, but the initial reports are hopeful.
3. Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief
Curcumin, along with being an excellent and safe anti-inflammatory, is also a powerful anti-oxidant. These two properties combine to create an excellent recipe for relief from joint discomfort. In studies comparing curcumin use with phenylbutazone (a common anti-inflammatory drug), curcumin produced comparable improvement in mobility, swelling and morning stiffness.
4. Cancer Prevention
Curcumin and turmeric as a whole food have been widely studied in relationship to cancer prevention and treatment. These studies have suggested that components in turmeric could possibly help prevent/treat everything from skin cancer to childhood leukemia.
Just some of what the research has suggested thus far (refers to studies/research done on curcumin unless otherwise noted):
- Inhibits the growth of skin cancer (melanoma)
- Protects colon cells from free radicals
- Helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells
- Enhances liver function, inhibiting the synthesis of certain proteins needed for tumor formation
- Linked to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer (Research looked at frequent dietary use of turmeric.)
- Slows the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs, when breast cancer is already present
- Turns off genes associated with tumor growth
- Suppresses cancer cell proliferation and promotes apoptosis (cell self destruction) in cancerous cells
- Reduces the risk of developing childhood leukemia (Research looked at foods spiced with turmeric.)
- Inhibits the carcinogenic chemicals created by the burning of carbon-based fuels
- Inhibits radiation-induced chromosome damage
- Irreversibly inhibits the multiplication of leukemia cells (in a cell culture.)
Research suggests that IBD’s such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis may be treated with curcumin.
6. Cystic Fibrosis
Preliminary studies have shown that curcumin may have the ability to correct the genetic defects that are responsible for cystic fibrosis.
7. Improved Liver Function
Studies suggest that turmeric may improve liver function by increasing the liver’s ability to perform its detoxification duties.
8. Cardiovascular Protection
Research suggests that curcumin may help protect the cardiovascular system from disease. It does this by helping to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. This is important because oxidized cholesterol is part of what builds up in plaque that damages blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Turmeric is also a good source of vitamin B6, which is important for cardiovascular health.
9. Lowering Cholesterol
Research has revealed that curcumin can act as a “messaging molecule” to communicate with genes in liver cells. It lowers cholesterol levels by telling the liver cells to create more receptors for LDL cholesterol. With these extra LDL-receptors, the liver cells can expedite the process of removing LDL-cholesterol from the body.
10. Protection against Alzheimer‘s disease
A rising number of studies suggest that turmeric may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s (and possibly multiple sclerosis). This is done, in part, through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin can also cross the blood-brain barrier dissolving “amyloid dibrils” and inhibiting “amyloid-B aggregation,” both of which help prevent plaque from forming between cells (which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease).
“The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, boosts the activity of the immune system in Alzheimer‘s patients, helping them to clear the amyloid beta plaques characteristic of the disease.“– whfoods
As you can see, there is plenty of information out there about the health benefits of enjoying turmeric and the phytochemicals it contains – so enjoy some in your stir fry tonight, your tea tomorrow, or even your morning smoothie.