Turmeric & Disease Prevention

Everyone knows turmeric as a popular spice used in cooking and giving flavor and taste to many recipes. Turmeric has long been used as a traditional herb due to its known medicinal properties. There are numerous research studies conducted to verify its healing properties. Turmeric plant can be grown throughout the year. It grows up to a height of 5-6 feet and mostly found in tropical regions of southern Asia. Turmeric has a strong fragrance and a bitter to sharp taste. India is known producer of turmeric and it is used in every Indian home as the main spice in curry.

“Raw is best”
Natalie Kling, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist, says she first learned about the benefits of turmeric while getting her degree from the Natural Healing Institute of Neuropathy. “As an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiseptic, it’s a very powerful plant,” she says.

Kling recommends it to clients for joint pain and says that when taken as a supplement, it helps quickly. She advises adding turmeric to food whenever possible and offers these easy tips. “Raw is best,” she said. “Sprinkling it on vegetables or mixing it into dressings is quick and effective.”

Curcumin is the main ingredient present in the turmeric. This Indian herb is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogen properties. It is not only used in Indian homes for its healing properties but now western medicine has also started recognizing turmeric as a popular in the treatment of many diseases. Some health benefits of turmeric are discussed:

Role in Cancer prevention
Dr. Andrew Weil is a well-known holistic health practitioner who says that turmeric reduces the carcinogen compounds up to 40%. Dr. Weil also says that turmeric helps in fighting against melanoma and restricts the spread of cancer to other parts. A research conducted at the University of Texas suggests that turmeric helps to slow down the spread of breast cancer cells to other parts in mice. In another laboratory study of human non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cells published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), University of Texas researchers showed that turmeric inhibits the activation of NF-kappaB, a regulatory molecule that send signals to produce a slew of inflammatory molecules (including TNF, COX-2 and IL-6) that promote cancer cell growth.

Acts as a natural painkiller
An article in the July 2009 issue of Time magazine points to a study conducted at the University of Arizona. Researchers found that when rodents were administered a material known to cause joint pain suffered less when the injections were combined with turmeric. The article also cites anecdotal evidence singing the praises of turmeric for fighting a variety of pain that would otherwise be treated with over-the-counter pain medication.

Indigestion or Dyspepsia
Turmeric helps the gallbladder to secrete bile. The German Commission E, which determines which herbs can be safely prescribed in Germany, has approved turmeric for digestive problems. And one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric helps in reducing the symptoms of flatulence and bloating in abdomen.

Ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the digestive tract which occurs in relapses. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people who suffered from continuous relapses of ulcerative colitis took either turmeric or placebo, along with conventional medical treatment, for 6 months. Those who took curcumin had a relapse rate much lower than those who took placebo.

As turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, therefore, it is believed to be excellent herb for the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a comparison between turmeric and phenylbutazone was done and people who took turmeric showed comparable improvements in shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.

Heart Disease
Early studies showed that turmeric may help prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque that can block arteries and lead to heart attack or stroke. In animal studies, an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept LDL "bad" cholesterol from building up in blood vessels.

Prevents cystic fibrosis
Turmeric is also known to correct the genetic defects such as cystic fibrosis suggested by an animal study published in the Science (April 2004). Researchers have found that cystic fibrosis is caused by the mutation in the gene that encodes for a protein and when the gene is faulty it produces an abnormal protein that builds up mucus.

Reduce Risk of Childhood Leukemia
Research presented at a recent conference on childhood leukemia, held in London, provides evidence that eating foods spiced with turmeric could reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia. Childhood leukemia is much lower in Asia than Western countries, which may be due to use of turmeric, has been investigated in a series of studies over the last 20 years by Prof. Moolky Nagabhushan from the Loyola University Medical Centre, Chicago, IL.

Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
A study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry (December 2003) discussed curcumin's role in the induction of the heme oxygenase pathway, a protective system that, when triggered in brain tissue, causes the production of the potent antioxidant bilirubin, which protects the brain against oxidative (free radical) injury.

Research conducted at UCLA and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (December 2004), which has been confirmed by further research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (April 2006), provides insight into the mechanisms behind curcumin's protective effects against Alzheimer's disease.