Turmeric is a well-known spice. It is also one of the most effective nutritional supplements. Numerous scientific studies have reported the tremendous health benefits of consuming turmeric, especially with regard to the brain.
The medicinal properties of turmeric have been attributed to a class of compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin is one such curcuminoid found in turmeric that has the strongest anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
However, the actual curcumin content of turmeric is only around 3%; which is quite low.
As a result, most studies were conducted on a concentrated extract of turmeric containing at least 1 gram of curcumin, which is the optimum daily dosage.
In order to fulfill the daily requirements of curcumin, it is advisable to take curcumin supplements.
In addition, curcumin is usually taken along with black pepper to enhance absorption by the body. This is because black pepper contains an active compound called piperine, which increases the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.
Most curcumin supplements contain piperine. It is recommended that these supplements be taken after a fatty meal, as curcumin is a fat-soluble compound.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of turmeric:
Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory agent
Inflammation signals the body’s natural defense against infection and injury. Acute, short-term inflammation plays an important role in damage repair and protection against pathogens. However, when the inflammation becomes chronic, the immune system can be tricked into attacking the body’s own organs and tissues. This could lead to potentially life-threatening diseases.
Scientists believe that chronic inflammation is associated with many chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and certain autoimmune diseases.
Scientific studies have shown that curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory compound that may help alleviate the symptoms of these chronic diseases, without causing the side-effects of long-term drug use.
Curcumin inhibits NF-kB, a molecule that enters the nuclei of certain cells and activates the genes linked to inflammation.
Protection Against Heart Disease
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. There are many factors associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
The cells lining the walls of arteries, veins, and capillaries are essential for the smooth flow of blood, regulation of blood pressure, and other processes. Improper functioning of these cells is considered a major cause for heart disease.
Scientific studies have shown that curcumin improves the functioning of endothelial cells, matching the efficacy of the drug Atorvastatin.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin also
A clinical trial was conducted on 121 patients with heart disease. Some of the patients were given 4 grams of curcumin while the others were given a placebo for a few days before and after they underwent coronary artery bypass surgery. The study found that the group of people who were given curcumin had a 65% decreased risk of experiencing a heart attack in the hospital.
Oxidative damage is associated with several chronic diseases and premature aging. Not only does curcumin have strong antioxidant properties it also stimulates the body's own antioxidant defenses.
Brain health and protection against neurological diseases
Neurons were once thought to be incapable of dividing and multiplying after childhood. However, they have now been shown to form new connections, and multiply in certain areas of the brain.
One of the ways curcumin has been found to influence brain health is by increasing the amount of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth hormone found in the brain. Low levels of this hormone are associated with an increased risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
Curcumin supplements have been shown to reverse the signs of aging, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin may help prevent and treat cancer:
Cancer is soon to become a very common cause of death. While there are many different types of cancers, most of them are characterized by an unbridled growth of cells.
Scientific studies have shown that curcumin supplements are beneficial to cancer treatment. Curcumin has been shown to influence cancer growth, development, and spread. Curcumin is also found to be associated with killing tumor cells and preventing metastasis.
A month-long trial was conducted on 44 men with pre-cancerous lesions in the colon. The participants of the study were given 4 grams of curcumin every day. The results indicated a reduction in the number of lesions by 40%.
Curcumin supplements help alleviate arthritis
Scientific studies have shown that people with arthritis respond well to curcumin supplements. Arthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is characterized by painful, swollen and deformed joints.
The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin have already been established by numerous trials. well-known could be the reason why curcumin supplements help patients with arthritis.
One particular study showed that the daily intake of curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug.
Curcumin may help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world. It is the leading cause of dementia among people of the older age group. Curcumin has been found to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it a promising ingredient in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The key feature of Alzheimer’s is a build-up of protein tangles called amyloid plaques in the brain cells; inhibiting them from functioning properly. Scientists have found that curcumin can help clear these plaques, though this would have to be supported by further research on human subjects.
Curcumin may delay aging and contribute to longevity
Curcumin has become popular as an anti-aging factor, because of its antioxidant effect. Scientific studies have shown that curcumin can fight both oxidative stress and chronic inflammation- the two key factors in the mechanism of aging.
Curcumin supplements are beneficial for longevity by lowering the risk of chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
Curcumin may help treat depression
Curcumin supplements have also been shown to improve symptoms associated with depression. Studies have compared its effects to that of the antidepressant drug Prozac.
A study was conducted on 60 people with depression randomized into three groups. One group was given Prozac, another group was given one gram of curcumin, and the third group was put on both Prozac and curcumin.
After 6 weeks it was found that all three groups showed improvement after treatment. The group that took curcumin fared similarly to the group that took Prozac. The group that took both Prozac and curcumin fared the best.
Curcumin is known to boost brain health by increasing the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), as well as the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Depression is also linked to reduced levels of BDNF, and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area with a role in learning and memory. Hence curcumin can be used to develop better drugs with fewer side effects to treat neuropsychiatric ailments.