Curcumin, an active compound in the well-known spice tumeric, has many health benefits that go beyond simply tasting great.
Curcumin provides anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant benefits. In India, curcumin is used to prevent infection from cuts and burns as it promotes healing and stimulates recovery. Because it provides anti-inflammatory benefits, curcumin is also used as a supplement to alleviate symptoms caused by various inflammatory bowel diseases.
In Chinese medicine, curcumin is believed to improve the function of the liver, regulate womens’ menstrual cycles, and relieve arthritis pain. Some researchers suggest that curcumin can stimulate the immune system as it activates the T-cells, B-cells, nuetrophils, macrophages, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells.
What are the sources of curcumin?
Curcumin is the yellow pigment in turmeric; bright yellow food often contains tumeric. These include:
Mustard – Turmeric is often added to mustard, providing its yellow pigment.
Indian food – Turmeric is readily available and abundant in Indian food.
Curry – Thai cuisine is known for their famous curry dishes. Curry, in general, contains curcumin from turmeric, which again provides a bright yellow color.
Turmeric is a staple spice in Indonesia. Dried leaves of turmeric are pounded into powder. Examples of Indonesian cuisine that contain turmeric/curcumin include: yellow rice (Nasi Kunig), Beef Rendang, Chicken Satay and Chilli Paste.
Caribbean food – Caribbean cooking is often blended with curries that are rich in curcumin. This includes pumpkin curry, among others.
Staples – You might be surprised to learn many staples provide a curcumin fix: eggs, fish, fresh meat, and their by-products. You can also get it from essential oils, fats, and edible ices. Some food products such as cereal products, soups, sauces, protein shakes, and beverages may also contain curcumin. Read labels!
Food supplements – Turmeric food supplements are readily available and can be a good source of curcumin. However, consult your doctor before taking such supplements! Common side effects of tumeric include heartburn, upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea. If problems occur, immediately stop consumption and seek medical help. Tumeric may also cause gallbladder contractions; if you have gallbladder and/or duct problems, do not take this supplement.
Health benefits of curcumin
Although it doesn’t promise surefire treatment, tutermic can relieve and alleviate many symptoms:
Improve immune system – becase of its powerful antioxidant properties, curcumin is a great immune booster. It helps cleanse your body from harmful toxins and free-radicals that may compromise your health. This saves you from catching even simple illnesses such as colds and coughs. Overall, it does help keep your health at optimum level.
Lower cholesterol – Curcumin helps lower your body’s cholesterol level, which results into lowered risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Cancer and Alzheimer’s prevention – Several studies have shown that curcumin helps prevent cancer by influencing the abnormal cells to kill themselves without causing potential threat to the healthy ones. This can be explained by curcumin’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. The same natural properties help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease by clearing up neural pathways of the brain.
Rheumatoid arthritis- Curcumin’s natural anti-inflammatory property makes it a great herbal remedy to alleviate pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Bowel Inflammatory Diseases – Curcumin is known to improve and alleviate symptoms manifested by bowel inflammatory diseases such as diarrhea and gastric pain.
Curcumin and cancer
Plant-based medicines are widely used to prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells. Curcumin has been used to treat several illnesses including cancer. It has the ability to interfere with various cellular activities in the body including cell cycles, apoptosis, proliferation, survival, invasion, angiogenesis, metastasis, and inflammation.
Several studies report that curcumin has the ability to interfere with cancer growing cells. It has been tested with leukemia and lymphoma, gastrointestinal cancers, breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, and neurological cancers.
Curcumin is most effective in alleviating hormone-dependent forms of of the disease, like breast cancer. Researchers determined that curcumin is able to introduce apoptosis (cell death) in resistant cells in breast cancer, especially those that lack estrogen receptors. Curcumin targets that abnormal cells or the cancerous cells to damage and kill themselves by targeting the mitochondria or the brain of the tumor cells.
In colon cancer, curcumin may slow the progression of cancer cell growth. Generally speaking, it is the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin that make it highly effective in the prevention of cancer growth.
Warnings and contraindiction
Dietary intake of turmeric may prevent the effectiveness of some chemotherapeutic agents that are used to treat several forms of cancer, specifically cyclophosphamide, which is used to treat breast cancer. It is advisable for breast cancer patients to limit turmeric/curcumin consumption during treatment.
Patients with gallbladder problems such as bile duct obstruction, stomach ulcers, gallstones, and hyperacidity are discouraged to take curcumin.
While there are many known health benefits of curcumin, it always best to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.