It is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. Commonly used in Asian food.
You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry.
It has a warm and bitter taste and is often used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters and cheeses.
But the root of turmeric also has medicinal properties.
Turmeric contains a yellow chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics.
Belonging to the ginger family, turmeric has been used in East India and the Middle East for thousands of years, and is now one of the most prized spices in the world.
Actually, it is not clear if it was used for the first time because of its spicy taste and the unique flavor and color it provides to the food.
Recently, science has begun to support what the Indians have known for a long time … it actually contains compounds with medicinal properties.
These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti- inflammatoryeffects and is a very strong antioxidant.
However, the curcumin content in turmeric is not so high, it is around 3%, of the total weight of the spice.
Most studies on this herb use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with doses that generally exceed 1 gram per day.
It would be very difficult to reach these levels simply by using the spice of turmeric in your food.
Therefore, if you want to experience the full effects, then you need to take an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin.
How does black pepper allow curcumin to be more effective?
Keep in mind that the biggest problem with turmeric is making sure your compounds are absorbed by the intestine.
Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which inhibits the metabolic degradation of turmeric compounds in the intestine and liver.
This allows higher levels of turmeric compounds to remain in the body (that is, increases their bioavailability), which can increase the effects of turmeric.
Keep in mind that this can also affect the breakdown of other compounds, including certain medications.
On the other hand, curcumin is absorbed much more effectively if it is consumed together with a meal that contains fats or oils.
Benefits of turmeric
The basic nutritional aspects of turmeric include 26% daily value in manganese and 16% in iron.
It is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and healthy amounts of vitamin C and magnesium.
Turmeric has been used for millennia as a potent anti-inflammatory in Chinese and Indian medicine.
Curcumin, the main pharmacological agent in this spice, contains proven effects in this area that are comparable to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents, as well as some prescription medications.
But curcumin does not produce the toxic effect that synthetic drugs sometimes cause, such as ulcer formation, internal bleeding and even a lower white blood cell count.
Other reported health benefits of turmeric include relief of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis , reduction of joint inflammation and a greater range of motion when used regularly.
It is another case of the spice that has effects similar to those of a prescribed medicine, but with fewer symptomatic drawbacks.
Some research suggests that turmeric may be useful to treat inflammatory bowel diseases, reduce cholesterol levels , protect the heart, relieve indigestion, improve liver function and even prevent Alzheimer’s.
The prevention of cancer and the inhibition of the growth of cancer cells, specifically cancers of the breast, colon, prostate and lung, and childhood leukemia, are also on the list of possible benefits.
Turmeric helps keep your skin healthy in many ways:
- It keeps pimples at bay by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause pimples and by reducing the secretion of oil by the sebaceous glands.
- The constant use of turmeric clears acne scars, which makes your skin flawless and shiny.
- Its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties accelerate the healing of a cut and soothe the irritation of the skin.
- Curcumin, the main component of turmeric, loaded with antioxidants, combats the signs of aging such as wrinkles and pigmentation by slowing down the growth of free radicals.
The golden spice, turmeric, helps speed up the rate of metabolism and allows your body to burn a significant amount of calories, leading to weight loss.
It is also useful for reducing fat mass and liver detoxification, which are essential contributions when it comes to weight loss efforts induced by diet.
In addition, with curcumin, turmeric can be an ideal supplement to lose weight, since it reduces the levels of bad cholesterol and is responsible for suppressing inflammatory messages in muscle, pancreatic and fat cells.
So, although your body does not fight inflammation, you can easily focus on reducing weight.
It works as a natural anti-inflammatory
The main reason to use turmeric in almost any health condition is its anti-inflammatory property.
Curcumin is the compound in turmeric that has a powerful anti-inflammatory property.
As an anti-inflammatory agent, it inhibits the activity of nuclear factor kappa B, the master protein that regulates the inflammatory process.
Like conventional anti-inflammatory agents, it inhibits the activity of inflammatory enzymes such as COX and LOX.
In addition, it inhibits the activity of various inflammatory chemicals and proteins such as TNF-alpha, interleukin, etc.
An advantage over conventional anti-inflammatory agents is that turmeric does not cause gastric side effects. Curcumin-free turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Treats gastrointestinal problems
Turmeric has long been used as a stomach ally and is particularly useful in the treatment of constipation, cramping and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin also comes into play here, since it decreases the chances of developing ulcers, bleeding in the intestines and, in general, eliminates irritation throughout the intestine.
The dietary fiber content that is found in turmeric is also important since it can help to soften your digestive processes.
Treat menstrual problems
If you suffer from severe menstrual discomfort, cramping, bloating, excessive bleeding or mood swings, turmeric may be just what you’ve been looking for.
The anti-inflammatory and softening nature of the herb’s natural compounds can relieve most of the symptoms of menstruation.
It works as a natural analgesic
The anti-inflammatory property of curcumin contributes to its property as an analgesic.
Its inhibitory action on inflammatory chemicals such as prostaglandins and interleukins helps reduce pain.
It has been found that this analgesic property is useful for treating post-surgical pain and burn injuries.
In addition, curcumin is also found to relieve neuropathic pain that is similar to the feeling of pinpricks and needles.
Even turmeric oil has analgesic properties and research shows that its analgesic properties are comparable to aspirin.
Prevents Cystic Fibrosis
Although this paralyzing and deadly disease is not treated as often as cancer or heart disease, this particular condition attacks the lungs with a thick mucus and with the pancreas.
Curcumin has been shown to be able to correct the protein folding mutation that can cause the development of this deadly disease.
Detoxifies the body
It has also been discovered that turmeric and its active organic compounds improve liver function and reduce levels of toxicity in the body by stimulating the lymphatic system and ensuring that toxins are eliminated efficiently.
This means that the antioxidant activities of turmeric are an ideal solution for liver ailments or toxicity.
Has antioxidant effects
The curcuminoids present in turmeric are strong antioxidants. Its antioxidant activity is comparable to vitamin C and E.
As antioxidants they work in 3 ways:
- Reduce oxidative stress: or the imbalance between prooxidants and antioxidant species in the body.
- Raise the level of antioxidant enzymes.
- It collects free radical species that cause oxidative damage.
Therefore, they improve oxidative stress in conditions such as diabetes and thalassemia.
Curcumin is really a versatile substance, and research has even deepened its effects on the hormonal balance in the body.
Studies have shown that curcumin has an effect similar to Prozac in patients suffering from depression , mood swings, anxiety and stress.
This makes it a powerful alternative to pharmaceutical routes, which often have dangerous or addictive side effects.
It can help prevent and treat cancer
There are many different forms of cancer, but they have several characteristics in common, some of which seem to be affected by curcumin supplementation.
Researchers have been studying curcumin as a beneficial herb in the treatment of cancer.
It can affect the growth, development and spread of cancer at the molecular level.
Studies have shown that it can reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (spread of cancer) and contribute to the death of cancer cells.
However, there is some evidence that it can help prevent cancer in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system (such as colorectal cancer).
In a study of 44 men with lesions in the colon that sometimes become cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of injuries by 40%.
Improve the health of the heart
There are some different angles by which turmeric can increase your cardiovascular health: curcumin and vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 can effectively inhibit the production of homocysteine, which is a negative body byproduct that severely damages cell walls.
These weakened walls can cause a series of complications in the heart, especially when exacerbated by high blood pressure or plaque buildup.
Second, curcumin directly balances your cholesterol levels by removing excess LDL (“bad cholesterol”) from your arteries and blood vessels.
This can help prevent atherosclerosis and when combined with stronger blood vessels, turmeric represents a comprehensive solution for a wide range of heart problems.
Increase cognitive abilities
In traditional medicine, turmeric is often used to increase cognitive abilities, increase concentration and increase memory retention.
Many of those traditional beliefs have been legitimized by research, and turmeric is still considered an herb that stimulates the brain.
In addition to increasing overall cognitive ability, it can also protect neuronal pathways from long-term oxidative stress and plaque buildup.
As a powerful antioxidant herb, turmeric can stimulate neuronal activity and prevent cognitive impairments, which often come in the form of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Numerous studies have shown that curcumin is highly effective in eliminating amyloid plaque, which is an important indication of the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Similarly, one study found that curcumin improves mood and cognitive function in non-demented older people with mild memory problems related to age.
Aid for postoperative recovery
Turmeric has a number of properties that benefit by restoring health and accelerating recovery after surgery.
Its antimicrobial and immunostimulant properties help protect against infections.
Its healing properties of wounds help in the rapid healing of scars. Turmeric combats postoperative fatigue and pain.
Benefits in the pancreas
The onset of pancreatitis goes hand in hand with the onset of inflammation triggered by the causative factors of this disease.
This inflammation is mediated by various proinflammatory molecules, such as cytokines.
Curcumin is known for its important anti-inflammatory action.
The anti-inflammatory response of curcumin is mediated by the suppression of proinflammatory molecules, such as cytokines, TNF-α, etc.
This is done by decreasing the expression of these molecules through interference in various molecular mechanisms.
Curcumin also works by increasing the activity of PPAR-γ (an anti-inflammatory molecule) in cells.
It has been discovered that these mechanisms are responsible for reducing inflammation in the pancreas, so turmeric is an effective agent against pancreatitis.
Turmeric has the potential to prevent damage to pancreatic tissue. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action of curcumin helps to decrease the damage.
It acts on the proinflammatory molecules that lead to the activation of the pancreatic stellate cells.
These stellate cells are responsible for inflammation, fibrosis (thickening of tissues) and tissue-related damage.
On the other hand, turmeric has an anti-hyperglycemic effect, that is, it can reduce blood sugar levels. It is also capable of stimulating the production of insulin.
Reduces the severity of various types of arthritis
Curcumin has multiple ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis :
- It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
- Improves antioxidant defenses.
- Improves autoimmune reactions.
- Protects bone cells
Curcumin supplementation in individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis significantly reduces pain and improves joint function better than conventional therapy.
It can help in the healing of bone fractures
Traditionally, turmeric has been used in the treatment of bone fractures.
The topical turmeric paste is applied to the affected region and the turmeric milk is also ingested to accelerate healing.
The mechanism behind this is that turmeric controls the inflammatory process and helps reduce pain. In addition, turmeric helps protect bone tissue and helps bone remodeling.
Precautions and Side Effects
Although it is not commonly considered an allergenic substance , turmeric can have certain side effects in the body, such as nausea, dizziness or diarrhea, especially when consumed in large quantities.
In certain cases, excessive amounts of turmeric consumed in a medicinal capacity have caused irregularities in the heart.
In addition, turmeric can slow blood clotting by increasing the effects of anticoagulant medications.
Therefore, people who take anticoagulant medications should avoid turmeric.
It is advisable to always talk to a professional before adding this powerful substance to your diet or supplement regimen, and it is important to remember that everything should be taken in moderation.
Negative effects of turmeric
Turmeric contains about 2% oxalate. In high doses, this may contribute to kidney stones in predisposed individuals.
Also, not all commercial turmeric powders are pure.
Some are adulterated with cheaper and potentially toxic ingredients that do not appear on the label.
Studies have revealed that commercial turmeric powders may contain fillers such as cassava starch or barley, wheat or rye flour.
Eating turmeric that contains wheat flour, barley or rye will cause adverse symptoms in people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease .
Some turmeric powders may also contain questionable food dyes, which are added to improve color when the turmeric powders are diluted with flour.
A food coloring commonly used in India is methanol yellow, also called acid yellow 36.
Studies in animals show that methanyl yellow can cause cancer and neurological damage when consumed in large quantities.
While the toxic effects of methanyl yellow have not been investigated in humans, its use in the United States and Europe is illegal.
Some turmeric powders can also have a high content of lead, a heavy metal that is especially toxic to the nervous system.
Negative effects of curcumin
Curcumin supplements are considered safe and no adverse side effects have been reported at low doses.
A study in 10 adults found that taking 490 mg of curcumin a day for a week did not cause side effects.
Other studies showed that taking doses of 1,200-2,100 mg of curcumin per day for 2-6 weeks did not produce any apparent adverse effects.
However, a small proportion of people may experience some mild side effects at higher doses.
These may include:
- Digestive problems: people can experience mild digestive problems such as swelling, acid reflux, flatulence and diarrhea at daily doses greater than 1,000 mg.
- Headache and nausea: doses of 450 mg or more can cause headache and nausea in a small number of people.
- Skin rash: People have reported a rash on their skin after taking a dose of 8,000 mg curcumin or more, but this seems to be very rare.
However, the dose produces the poison.
There is currently no evidence that lower amounts of curcumin cause serious side effects in humans when taken in short periods, although human studies on long-term effects are lacking.
Recommendation to verify the quality of turmeric
Some turmeric powders contain cheap fillers that are not mentioned on the labels.
These adulterated powders are difficult to identify without a chemical analysis. Your best option is to choose turmeric that has been certified by an accredited agency.
If you are taking turmeric or curcumin supplements, select supplements that have a quality certification from a third party. Several companies provide quality certifications for supplement manufacturers.