Turmeric has long been regarded as an effective traditional remedy, particularly in respect of its ability to combat inflammation.
Traditionally it was used as an ingredient in Asian dishes to add a strong flavour and provide a distinctive yellow colouring, and it was believed to have anti-ageing properties that would provide longevity and good health.
In the last 20 years, research has been conducted that validates claims of the spice’s efficacy as a powerful tool in the fight against chronic disease, with studies focusing on its ability to offset the inflammatory reactions which underlie so many of today’s biggest health concerns.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Specifically, it is curcumin, a component that makes up 5% of turmeric that has the beneficial effect on health and is recognised as a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent.
Curcumin itself (or Indian Saffron as it is also known) is made up of three curcuminoids that contribute to different mechanisms in controlling inflammation.
This makes turmeric an asset in combating health conditions related to inflammation including the following:
Inflammation has been found to play a central role in the development of Type ll Diabetes (Adult-onset Diabetes).
There are specific inflammatory agents that are implicated in this situation partly due to the raised blood glucose and insulin levels typically seen in the course of Diabetes.
Curcumin has been found to be effective in suppressing blood glucose levels while also improving insulin sensitivity and regulating production of insulin, helping to manage blood sugar levels.
It is a co-morbidity of diabetes and this, too, has been seen to be improved in studies on curcumin, which have found that cholesterol levels can be improved by supplementation, as can triglyceride (fat) levels.
As well as positively influencing lipid levels, curcumin also increases levels of antioxidants, which is beneficial in cardiovascular disease, where oxidation of lipids and LDL-cholesterol by free radicals contributes to atherosclerosis, potentially leading to heart attacks.
The antioxidant properties also have health benefits for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
The brain uses around 20% of the body’s oxygen supply and as such is a highly oxidative organ. High levels of antioxidants are needed to control and offset the formation of free radicals and so consumption of curcumin helps to ensure that antioxidant levels are sufficient.
These conditions also feature inflammation, and once again curcumin’s compounds have been found to help manage and minimise inflammatory reactions that can contribute to them.
Respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis like many other allergic conditions are underpinned by an inappropriate inflammatory response, specifically, a swelling of the airways that leads to a difficulty in breathing in reaction to allergens (dust, pets, grasses etc).
In each of these conditions the inflammatory markers expressed may differ but the effect of curcumin is fundamentally the same: to dampen down the inflammation that is causing a blockage and to clear constricted airways.
Studies also suggest that the inflammatory agents inhibited by curcumin may also up-regulate the production of IgE antibodies – the specific antibodies produced that cause an immediate allergic response.
In reducing production of the inflammatory agents, curcumin is also minimising production of these antibodies, so reducing the impact of an allergic reaction.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis are characterised by inflammation in all or part of the gastro-intestinal tract. Again, curcumin has been found to be highly effective in the reduction of symptoms (pain, diarrhoea, absesses, swollen joints) associated with inflammatory bowel diseases.
This is attributed to both its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The other group of conditions known to benefit from turmeric/curcumin are arthritide diseases the most common of which are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout.
These are once again, inflammatory conditions and subsequently benefit greatly from intervention with curcumin. Typically allopathic treatment of these conditions is with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
However, the evidence of trials looking at the effect of curcumin on reduction of symptoms (joint pain and swelling) indicates that this ayevedic remedy is a viable alternative and may offer a welcome replacement for those who prefer a more natural approach.
While studies generally use supplementation of curcumin to increase its concentration, inclusion of turmeric in the diet as often, and as creatively as possible, is a good place to start.
Try to include it in curries and spicy dishes regularly, add to stir fries or try this anti-inflammatory recovery smoothie for something different:
½ tsp turmeric
1” piece of ginger
1 tsp honey
Almond milk and water to taste
Blend ingredients together and enjoy!
Aggarwal BB, Harikumar KB (2009) Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2637808/
Jurenka J (2009) Anti-inflammatory properties of Curcumin, a major constituent of curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Alternative Medicine Review. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19594223
Khajehdehi P (2012) Turmeric: Reemerging of a neglected Asian traditional remedy. Journal of Nephropathy. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3886164/