Saturday, May 9, 2015

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

"While turmeric is readily available in the spice section of any grocery store, it’s important to realize that if you’re looking for clinical results, it’s not enough to simply use turmeric in your cooking. The turmeric root itself contains only about three percent curcumin concentration, and curcumin is poorly absorbed by your body to boot. When taken in its raw form, you’re only absorbing about one percent of the available curcumin."
Turmeric is a yellow-pigmented curry spice that is often used in Indian cuisine. But this spice is far more than a cooking staple. It also has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine as well as Ayurvedic medicine.

Traditional medicinal uses include the treatment of liver disease, skin problems, respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments, sprained muscles, joint pains, and general wound healing.

Its benefits have since been well documented in the medical literature, and curcumin — one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric — has been found to promote health and protect against a wide array of health conditions.

It actually exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, as well as potent anti-cancer properties that have been intensely studied. For example, curcumin prevented the development of type II diabetes in a study done in pre-diabetic participants. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit proteins related to the progression of colon cancer.

Joint Health
Curcumin has also proven effective in treating joint pain. In two different studies examining the benefits of curcumin in joint health, researchers found that curcumin significantly reduced total number of inflamed joints by 97% and curcumin was better at relieving joint pain than conventional medicine.

Another common condition that can benefit from curcumin’s anti-inflammatory activity is osteoarthritis. Research published in 2011 found that patients who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility compared to the control group. Earlier research also found that a turmeric extract blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.

Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis is a condition that is characterized by the production of abnormally thick mucus by the cells of the mucus membrane. Research has been conducted to find ways to correct this genetically linked disease; and although treatments have been found, more natural approaches are being investigated to ameliorate symptoms related to cellular defects. Curcumin is known to reduce calcium uptake into a specific part of the cell responsible for breaking down proteins. In cystic fibrosis patients, the CFTR protein is key to proper functioning, but it is frequently broken down in the cell or function abnormally. In one study, Curcumin improved the functioning of the CFTR protein by 61%.

Cardiovascular Health
With regards to cardiovascular health, curcumin was found to restore proper functioning of the blood vessels by improving arterial dilation by 92%. Furthermore, this result was confirmed in another study performed in postmenopausal women. According to the study, 150mg of curcumin daily resulted in a 70% increase in arterial dilation.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Inflammatory Conditions
Curcumin is capable of crossing your blood-brain barrier, which is one factor that has led researchers to investigate its potential as a neuroprotective agent for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s disease.

The potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin suggests it may also promote brain health in general. In the case of Alzheimer’s, recent animal research has discovered another bioactive ingredient in turmeric, besides curcumin, that adds to its neuroprotective effects.

This compound, called aromatic turmerone, help endogenous neutral stem cells (NSC) to grow, and these stem cells play an important role brain repair and regeneration activities. According to lead author Adele Rueger:
"While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine. Our findings on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal."

Curcumin may also be helpful. Previous research has shown that curcumin helps inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, as well as break up existing plaques associated with the disease. People with Alzheimer's tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, and curcumin is perhaps best known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. It can inhibit both the activity and the inflammatory metabolic byproducts of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX) enzymes, as well as other enzymes and hormones that modulate inflammation.

Furthermore, in a study done in Singapore, researchers found that the elderly who consumed curcumin had higher mental functioning than those who did not. In another study, it was shown that curcumin could improve memory.

Antimicrobial Activity
Curcumin can also help you maintain a healthy digestive system, and may be useful against health issues caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori), such as gastritis, peptic ulcer, and gastric cancer. H. pylori is thought to affect more than half of the world's population, and has been identified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Traditionally, H. pylori infections are treated with antibiotics, but with rising drug resistance, such treatments are becoming increasingly threatened.

The good news is, curcumin may be a viable alternative. According to a 2009 study, curcumin has been shown to effectively stop the growth of H. pylori in vitro, regardless of the genetic makeup of the strains. In mice, curcumin “showed immense therapeutic potential against H. pylori infection as it was highly effective in eradication of H. pylori from infected mice as well as in restoration of H. pylori-induced gastric damage,” the researchers noted.

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