What Is Turmeric Good For?
Turmeric seems to be the buzzword of the moment and is being touted as the a spice that may help everything from alzheimer’s to cancer, and all that’s in between. It’s seemingly endless potential for easing so many diseases and illnesses is making us hurry out to our nearest health food store to stock up on these wonderful supplements.
But you should wait before you spend your money, and be aware that these supplements are not all created equal, and the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ comes into play here. In this post I am going to explain exactly what you should be using turmeric for, it’s amazing benefits, and which supplements are the best to go for.
Turmeric (botanical name curcuma longa) is a a plant that is part of the ginger family, is native to Southeast Asia, and has been used medicinally for over 4,500 years. Turmeric has served a long time part in Ayurvedic medicine which is an Indian system of healing that is still widely used all over the world today.
There are so many uses for turmeric, and so many ways in which it is used that a book could be written on the subject, but for the purpose of this post I have compiled a list of its most revered properties.
The Difference Between the Powdered Root and Supplements:
There are different types and strengths of turmeric supplements, and it’s extracted compound called curcumin that gives it its bright yellow colour and is where its magic lies. The ordinary turmeric powder that we all know and may cook with, is literally the ground down dried root with nothing added and nothing taken away. This turmeric powder only contains 2% of the active compound curcumin, hence why supplementation of higher doses of the extracted curcumins is often recommended for a therapeutic effect, and depending on your problem.
WHAT IS TURMERIC GOOD FOR:
1. ANTI INFLAMMATORY
Inflammation plays an important part in fighting invading pathogens and repairing damage in the body. But inflammation is only beneficial in the short term, and long term inflammation can be a big problem. It is now believed that chronic long term inflammation may play a big role in many chronic western illnesses, including alzheimer’s, some cancer’s, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and degenerative conditions.
The curcumin in turmeric is a powerful bioactive anti inflammatory able to fight inflammation at the molecular level. Several studies have shown its potency matches that of anti inflammatory drugs but without the nasty side effects.
2. ANTI AGING BOTH INSIDE AND OUT
Dermatologists agree that eating a diet rich in antioxidants along with not smoking, avoiding high stress levels, staying out of the sun, and always using an SPF cream, to be the most powerful ways to slow down the aging process.
This is where turmeric can help, as curcuim is a POWERFUL antioxidant, and due to its chemical structure, has the power to neutralise free radicals and stop them from doing damage in the body. It also has the power to boost the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.
Antioxidants Fight Oxidative Damage
Oxidative damage is one of the main mechanisms behind many diseases and the aging process in general, therefore supplementing with a powerful antioxidant such as curcumin can help counteract this. The antioxidants in curcumin are comparable to those of vitamin E and vitamin C for scavenging the free radicals responsible for oxidative stress, whilst also raising the levels of antioxidant enzyme.
3. CURCUMIN AND HEART DISEASE
There is a process on the path to heart disease, and curcumin can play a role in reversing many of these steps towards it. The main benefit being improvement of the lining of the blood vessels. Endothelial (the technical name for these blood vessels) dysfunction plays a major role in heart disease as the endothelium (among its other roles) regulates blood clotting and blood pressure.
4. TURMERIC FOR MUSCLES AND BONES
All of these weaken as we age and as tissues in the joints alter, preventing the surface of the joints from sliding together easily. All this is not only obviousley painful, but can cause damage and affect motion. Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and sarcopenia are the main diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system of older people.
A study of the anti-arthritic potential of curcumin on bone cells suggest that the anti inflammatory effects of curcumin make taking a supplement well worth while, especially for the long term management of these conditions.
5. BRAIN AGING
With age, parts of the brain begin to shrink, which can cause memory loss and a decline in cognitive performance. The changes in blood vessels can cause dementia, alzheimer’s or bring on a stroke. The curcumins in turmeric that serve as an anti inflammatory and antioxidant can act as a neuroprotective agent on the brain.
Curcumin can also control the oxidative stress in Parkinson’s disease by reducing neurotransmitter toxicity, and even delayed cucumin supplementation can still give protection against stroke damage, so it’s never too late.
5. TURMERIC FOR VISION
Our vision is affected in many ways as we age, which can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye and retinal detachment, to name just a few. Curcumin, due to its strong antioxidant properties can help act as a preventative, as oxidative stress is a direct cause of most eye conditions.
6. TURMERIC AND DIABETES
Curcumin can be therapeutic for those suffering from diabetes by helping to deal with the associated complications, such as cholesterol problems, nephropathy, retinopathy an neuropathy. This is all due once again to its amazing anti inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
7. BOOSTED IMMUNE SYSTEM
The benefits of a strong immune system are obvious, as pretty much every illness, disease and virus requires a strong immune system to help ward it off. Turmeric can help stimulate the immune system to fight off foreign invaders, and can control immune response to inflammation.
8. WEIGHT CONTROL
As obesity causes chronic low grade inflammation in the body, it in turn heightens your risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and metabolic syndrome. Curcumin being such a powerful antioxidant, SUPPRESSES the flammatory messages in the fat, muscle and pancreas cells – all of these help with blood sugar levels, cholesterol, insulin resistance and other conditions associated with being overweight.
I wouldn’t say you can just use curcumin supplements alone to lose weight or you may be disappointed, rather use them alongside regular exercise and a healthy eating plan that contains lots of Fat Burning Foods.
For long term health and weight loss then you will need to stick to a long term low GI diet and change your eating habits for life. For help with this please read ‘How to Eat a Healthy Diet‘, and ’10 Steps to Clean Eating’.
9. ANTI CANCER
There are a lot of different types of cancer but they do all have some commonalities, which research suggests may be affected by curcumin supplements by affecting at a molecular level, the cancers growth, spread and development.
Multiple studies are showing curcumin can reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumors, reduce the cancer spreading, and can also contribute to killing cancerous cells. These studies so far have only been conducted in the laboratory and on test animals and have yet to be studied on humans, but it looks promising.
Apart from this, turmeric with its high level of antioxidants can reduce your risk of cancer in the first place, especially digestive system cancers.
10. CURCUMIN BENEFITS DEPRESSION
Is there nothing this super spice isn’t good for? Some studies are showing curcumin to be as effective as an anti depressant, due to its ability to boost the neurotransmitters of the brain- dopamine and serotonin.
It is worth noting here that turmeric is more greatly absorbed by the body when taken with a little black pepper and fat. Many supplements take this into account and add extra ingredients to help make the curcumin compounds more bio available. If you add this spice frequently to food then you will naturally be having other compounds that up absorption along with it.
As anxiety and depression are a big area with so many causes. it must be said (and I’m speaking from personal experience here) that these issues usually need more than any one variable to be helped in the long term.
For maximum benefits you should eat a healthy Low GI Diet to keep blood sugar stable, and you MUST take regular exercise (weight bearing is best) as it will really help burn off the stress hormone cortisol AND send a cascade of feel good chemicals through your body. Please read ‘The Benefits of Physical Exercise’.
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Important: Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements whilst taking other medications, being pregnant, or breast feeding, due to possible interactions. Start with smaller doses and build up depending on your gut tolerance. Sometimes stomach ache or diarrhea may be experienced if dosage is to high to begin with. Turmeric has blood thinning qualities and should therefore be avoided 2 weeks before an operation, OR if already on blood thinning medications.
If you would like to leave any comments or questions about the subject of turmeric, or your own experiences whilst using it, then I would love to hear from you. You can post in the comments box below. Thank you.