Turmeric: The Spice of Life

There are just a few plants deserving of the honored title of “Super Food”. Turmeric is certainly one of them. The broad range of proven health benefits is impressive. There is an excellent reason that people in India and many other countries consume turmeric in their food and beverages every day—it keeps them healthy! Turmeric (curcuma longa) is the spice that gives Indian curry its yellow color. The popularity of turmeric tea may be one of the reasons that Okinawans have one of the world’s longest lifespans. Its well-deserved nickname in India is “the spice of life”.

Turmeric is a rhizome, related to ginger, that is native to Asia. It has been highly respected and valued for at least 4,000 years for its wide range of health promoting benefits. It is the richest source of beta carotene delivering extraordinary antioxidant effects. Bright yellow-gold in color, and bitter, astringent and pungent in taste, turmeric has a long history of delivering health benefits.

In the last decades many scientific studies have proven what Ayurveda and Chinese medicine practitioners have been saying for millennia: Turmeric is VERY good for us.

  • Supports a weight loss program by A) increasing metabolism, B) improving liver function, C) lowering LDL cholesterol and D) reducing inflammation.
  • Promotes healthy skin– historically the blood purifying effects of turmeric were shown to help promote healthy and beautiful skin, so it may support people with psoriasis, eczema, hives and (Use caution if applying it topically–it stains.)
  • Soothes and repairs the digestive system; and support, stimulate, detoxify and protect liver health and function.
  • Mood elevating effects– Researchers have found that curcumin may enhance the important brain chemicals serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.
  • Provides anti-inflammatory effects which appear to surpass hydrocortisone–for joints, and for respiratory issues including allergies, asthma and bronchitis

Incredible Curcumin!

Turmeric contains constituents called “curcuminoids” that demonstrate antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-genotoxic, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory activity.  The most important of these constituents is called curcumin, which makes up 3% of the total content of turmeric. Curcumin has a molecular structure similar to the plant pigments “resveratrol” found in grape seeds/skins and “catechins” found in green tea, etc. Plant polyphenols share natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties–just another reason fruits and vegetables are so essential for great health.

Pain and Inflammation

When injured, inflammation is part of the healing process. But when it becomes chronic it is a disease. Inflammation is now understood to play a major role in the development of most diseases including pulmonary (lungs), diabetes, cancer, neurological and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and the most familiar–arthritis. In most cases, degenerative diseases are steadily worsened by chronic, sub-clinical inflammation. Numerous published studies consistently show that curcumin offers powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, supporting reduction of arthritis pain (both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis).

Studies have proven that curcumin passes through the blood-brain barrier, explaining why it can help reduce depression and memory impairment. Evidence also shows that curcumin is showing potential heart health benefits as well. There are studies being conducted all over the world to learn how well curcumin may potentially slow or reverse the progress of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

Hemochromatosis

This natural remedy is shown by clinical research to reliably reduce the build-up of dangerous levels of iron in the body (especially wonderful for those with inherited Hemochromatosis). Curcumin is a biologically active iron chelator that can lower ferritin by chelating iron from the body. (For those with a tendency to anemia please see the section below on important contraindications.)

Fatty Liver

Evidence shows that fatty liver disease (when fat cells make up between 5 and 10 percent of the weight of the liver) affects 25 to 30 percent of American adults. Excess fat building up in the liver has several causes ranging from alcohol abuse, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol/triglycerides and insulin resistance. Accumulation of abdominal fat is one indicator of fatty liver disease, which is often triggered and aggravated by excess cortisol, the stress hormone. The cortisol-lowering effect of long-term curcumin supplementation is just one more way the liver is supported (and excess liver and abdominal fat is reduced).

Teamwork

There is another botanical with very similar properties and benefits to turmeric– Boswellia serrata. Boswellia is a tree resin which has been used medicinally for eons, and is known as the famous “gift of the Magi” known as frankincense.

Multiple studies show that combining turmeric/curcumin with boswellia in a supplement is more effective than taking either one alone and therefore may result in faster improvements, particularly in reducing arthritis pain. This combination showed none of the side-effects that came from taking NSAIDS, such ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.

Some people advise to take curcumin with black pepper, but for many this is very irritating to the stomach and beyond. Instead, for maximum assimilation (since it is fat soluble) it’s important to always take turmeric/curcumin supplements with a meal containing healthy fats or fish oil capsules. There is likely no benefit to taking it on an empty stomach.

Now that scientists can isolate and concentrate curcumin into supplement form, researchers worldwide are busy studying curcumin’s effects– and what they are discovering is significant. Not all brands and sources of curcumin are good quality though, and may contain contaminants. If you want to experience the full effects choose a patented form delivering 100 to 150 mg of curcumin extract per capsule and avoid mega-dosing.

Important Contraindications Regarding Turmeric/Curcumin Supplements:

Please make a note to discuss curcumin with your physician if you are taking prescription medications or have any of these issues:

  • Iron deficiency anemia— Avoid turmeric/curcumin until your blood ferritin level is in the healthy range. Turmeric binds to iron in the gut and prevents absorption. If this is an issue for you, avoid taking large amounts and supplement with turmeric/curcumin only as needed. Supplement with chelated iron (as needed) and vitamin B12 (as methyl cobalamin) to support your healthy red blood cells.
  • Gallbladder— Do not take turmeric/curcumin supplements if you have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction. (Conversely, turmeric is known to reduce risks of developing gallstones by increasing bile production and stimulating the gallbladder.)
  • Liver disorders such as hepatitis, or if you develop liver problems while taking it.
  • Diabetes— Curcumin may cause a decrease in blood sugar in diabetics, so use with caution as it may lower blood sugar excessively.
  • GERD— Curcumin may make stomach problems such as GERD worse, so don’t take it if your symptoms get worse.
  • Blood thinning medications– Turmeric, even in foods, may slow blood clotting by increasing the effects of the medications. It’s suggested that you be sure to speak with your doctor before adding this supplement to your regimen if taking anticoagulant medications.
  • Pre-surgery– Stop taking turmeric/curcumin supplements at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
  • Pregnancy— Eating curry at mealtime is considered safe, but concentrated curcumin supplements may stimulate the uterus or cause a menstrual period.
  • Breastfeeding--As a food it’s considered safe, but it’s a good idea to avoid supplements until baby is weaned.

Fortunately, turmeric is not known to cause allergic reactions, but there may be a few people who experience nausea, diarrhea or dizziness, especially when consumed in large quantities.

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Healthy Habits® is here to support you to stay vitally healthy in order to live your happiest and most satisfying life. Thank you for sharing our articles and information with your loved ones. We pride ourselves on being a quality resource for you and your family.

References:

http://alzheimer.neurology.ucla.edu/Curcumin.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/18/turmeric-health-benefits-curcumin_n_5978482.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1906592/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27270872

https://hemochromatosishelp.com/turmeric-benefit-for-hemochromatosis/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853174/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22211691

http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=16554

https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/ingredient/Turmeric/12

http://herbalisl.blogspot.com/2009/11/turmeric-friend-to-liver.html

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