Turmeric, the pillar of health

Salad

In the last few years, I have developed a true fascination and admiration for turmeric, or CURCUMA LONGA (turmeric plant), which belongs to the ginger family.

I have searched the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health website (www.pubmed.gov), and I discovered that 3,666 articles have been published about turmeric since 1945. 1,127 of these articles link the healing properties of turmeric with cancer prevention. I have found that turmeric has disease prevention and therapeutic qualities, as you can see in the chart below.

Curcumin

Turmeric has been used medicinally since ancient times and dates back nearly 4,000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance. It probably reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD, West Africa by 1200 AD, and Jamaica by the 1700’s. In 1,280 AD, Marco Polo described this spice as having qualities similar to saffron. Sanskrit medical treatises and Ayurvedic and Unani systems record a long history of the medicinal use of turmeric in South Asia.

Turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, have been proven to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticarcinogenic activities. Additionally, it shows hepato and nephro (liver and kidney) protection. It is also hypoglycemic and antirheumatic.

Let me briefly mention the composition of turmeric. It contains moisture (>9%), curcumin (5–6.6%), extraneous matter (<0.5% by weight), mould (<3%), and volatile oils (<3.5%). Nutritional analysis shows that 100 g of turmeric contains 390 kcal, 10 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.2 g calcium, 0.26 g phosphorous, 10 mg sodium, 2500 mg potassium, 47.5 mg iron, 0.9 mg thiamine, 0.19 mg riboflavin, 4.8 mg niacin, 50 mg ascorbic acid, 69.9 g total carbohydrates, 21 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugars, and 8 g protein.

If you indeed paid attention to the long list of components, you noticed that curcumin, the active ingredient, composes only 5 to 6.6 % of turmeric. I hope that answers the skeptics’ question, “Why is turmeric supplementation necessary as opposed to a daily curry lunch or dinner or a sprinkling of turmeric powder on salads!”

Simply put, it’s NOT ENOUGH!!

In addition to this, curcumin is known for its poor oral bioavailability. This may be explained by its poor absorption, high rate of metabolism, inactivity of metabolic products and/or rapid elimination and clearance from the body. Curcumin metabolites are found in feces and not in urine. Interestingly, after termination of dietary curcumin intake, tissue levels of curcumin decline rapidly to unquantifiable amounts within 3 to 6 hours.

Even with such a small concentration in the cells, why is curcumin so medically and magically potent?

It turns out that curcumin modulates numerous molecular targets by altering their gene expression, signaling pathways, and through direct interaction.

Curcumin2

Curcumin has been demonstrated to have a wide spectrum of pharmacological properties. Multiple therapeutic activities of curcumin have also been considered to be associated with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Curcumin likely exerts its inhibitory effect on cancer development by several mechanisms such as the inhibition of carcinogen activation and stimulation of carcinogen detoxification, prevention of oxidative DNA damage, and its capacity to reduce inflammation. Curcumin exhibits inhibition and decrease in all three stages of carcinogenesis:

  1. Initiation
  2. Promotion
  3. Progression

It has promising chemopreventive and therapeutic potential for various cancers including leukemia, lymphoma, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary system, breast, ovary, head, neck, lung, and skin.

Turmeric is a potent antioxidant, scavenging free radicals, increasing antioxidant enzymes, and protecting lipids peroxidation. It is neuroprotective via upregulating antioxidants like catalase and super-oxide-dismutase.

Curcumin3

Regarding its safety profiles, curcumin is considerably safe with minimal side effects, which include diarrhea and nausea as well as increased serum alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase levels. Curcumin dosages of up to 8 g/day have been taken for 3 months without serious adverse effect in clinical trials.

Overall, turmeric is an amazing disease prevention and therapeutic remedy.
I would strongly encourage you to research it online. And, yes, add it rather liberally to your nutrient dense plant based diet, make turmeric or ginger tea, and, indeed, consider turmeric supplementation.

To our health, with love and God’s blessings,

Sveta

References

  1. Cancer Prevention with Promising Natural Products: Mechanisms of Action and Molecular Targets.
    ARTICLE in ANTI-CANCER AGENTS IN MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY · MAY 2012
    Breast Cancer Res Treat (2010) 122:777–785 DOI 10.1007/s10549-009-0612-x
    PRECLINICAL STUDY
    Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine
    Madhuri Kakarala • Dean E. Brenner • Hasan Korkaya • Connie Cheng • Karim Tazi • Christophe Ginestier • Suling Liu • Gabriela Dontu • Max S. Wicha
  2. NEUROGASTROENTEROLOGY AND MOTILITY DISORDERS OF THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT (S RAO, SECTION EDITOR)
    Chili Peppers, Curcumins, and Prebiotics in Gastrointestinal Health and Disease
    Tanisa Patcharatrakul1,2 & Sutep Gonlachanvit1,3
  3. Bioavailability of Curcumin: Problems and Promises
    Preetha Anand, Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara, Robert A. Newman, and Bharat B. Aggarwal Mol. Pharmaceutics, 2007, 4 (6), 807-818• DOI: 10.1021/mp700113r • Publication Date (Web): 14 November 2007 Downloaded from http://pubs.acs.org on April 2, 2009
  4. Review Paper: Polyphenolic Antioxidants and Neuronal Regeneration CrossMark Amin Ataie1, Mohammad Shadifar2, Ramin Ataee3*
    Cellular and Molecular Research Center, Babol University of Medical Sciences, Babol, Iran.2. Amol Center, Pasteur Institute of Iran, Amol, Iran.3. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center, Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, Sari, Iran.
    www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/ Oncotarget, Advance Publications 2016
  5. Dietary phytochemicals and cancer chemoprevention: a review of the clinical evidence
    Ritesh Kotecha1, Akiyoshi Takami2 and J. Luis Espinoza3
1 Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, United States of America
    2 Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology, Aichi Medical University, School of Medicine, Nagakute, Aichi, Japan
    3 Department of Hematology Oncology, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Science, Kanazawa, Japan

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