The turmeric plant, whose scientific name is Curcuma longa, belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. These are perennial herbaceous plants, equipped with rhizomes and cultivated mainly in tropical regions.
In India turmeric has been known and used for at least 5.000 years , as a medicine, spice and even dye.
The plant of turmeric is characterized by long leaves oval-shaped, while the flowers are collected in spikes. Its name derives from the Persian-Indian language and precisely from the word Kour Koum, which means saffron, in fact turmeric is also known with the name of Saffron of the Indies.
- Chemical Composition
- Childhood Leukemia
- Brain Health
- Heart Health
- Benefits to the Skin
- Turmeric Oil
Its rhizomes, which are the part of the plant that contains the active ingredients, or drugs, are boiled for several hours and dried in large ovens, after which they are crushed to obtain a yellow-orange powder that is commonly used as a spice in the South Asian cuisine.
The turmeric is the main spice of the curry Indian and is considered by many as the medicinal herb most powerful of the earth for the treatment of many diseases. Additionally, there are more than 13.000 studies that have analyzed the benefits of this incredible spice and curcumin. ( 1 )
The Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric and is responsible for most of its benefits. The spice has a long history of use in traditional medicine and in particular in Ayurvedic medicine.
The turmeric according to studies may be helpful in preventing heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. For this reason the spice and its active ingredient have become popular, also thanks to the studies, as anti aging supplements. However the curcumin content in the spice is not so high and represents about 3% of the weight. ( 2 )
In practice, in recent times scientific research has begun to support the properties of turmeric that the Indians have long claimed, that is that the spice really contains medicinal compounds. ( 3 )
|Chemical composition referred to 100 grams of turmeric|
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The turmeric also contains hundreds of components. However, the attention of scholars has been concentrated on one in particular: curcumin.
100 grams of turmeric have a calorie intake of 312 kcal.
According to recent studies, it has been found that curcumin could be useful in counteracting the development of at least eight tumors: colon, mouth, lungs, liver, skin, kidneys, breasts and leukemia. The detail that has captured the attention of scholars is the fact that in Asian countries and in particular in India, where the consumption of this spice is very high, the incidence of tumors is very low. ( 4 )
According to a study published in the journal Cancer Research, the spice would play a fundamental role in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. Curcumin has been analyzed for its beneficial effects in the treatment of tumors. The results of the studies confirmed its ability to influence the growth and development of molecular libel tumors. ( 5 )
Research has shown that spice can contribute to the death of cancer cells and can inhibit their development and spread. ( 6 )
An American study of patients with colon lesions that often degenerate into tumors has yielded interesting results. After 30 days of patients taking 4 grams of curcumin per day, the lesions decreased by 40%. ( 7 )
According to Cancer Research UK, a large number of laboratory studies have shown curcumin’s anticancer properties. In particular, this compound is very effective against breast, intestine, stomach and skin cancer. ( 8 )
One of the most common complications of diabetes is nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy .A study in rats found that supplementation with curcumin reduces the pain associated with this disease. ( 10 )
Diabetic neuropathy can also result in kidney failure. An animal study has shown that turmeric protects the kidneys of diabetics. ( 11 )
There are reasons to speculate that the consumption of turmeric can positively influence prevention of leukemia in children. This is what emerged from some studies conducted at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.
According to research, oxidative damage is the basis of aging and many diseases. This mechanism has to do with free radicals , which are a by-product of human metabolism. Antioxidants are important because they have the ability to counteract the activity of free radicals.
Studies have shown that curcumin, thanks to its phytochemical properties, is a powerful antioxidant capable of neutralizing free radicals. ( 12, 13 ) In addition, this compound also appears to be able to stimulate the activity of your body’s antioxidant enzymes. ( 14, 15 )
Recent studies have shown that turmeric , curcumin specifically, is able to increase the levels of this hormone. ( 19, 20 ) According to studies, regular intake of this spice can be useful for delaying or even reversing many age-related brain diseases. ( 21 )
Alzheimer’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and also the main cause of dementia. A key feature of this pathology is the disordered accumulation of protein material in the extra cellular location. This material forms insoluble plaques called amyloid. Recent studies show that curcumin is capable of removing these plaques. ( 22 )
It is now known that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that curcumin has positive effects on both. ( 23 ) Furthermore recent studies have found that the active ingredient in turmeric is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. ( 24 ) This bodes well for future applications of the use of spice in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation is an important process for our body. In fact, it helps the immune system to fight pathogens that might otherwise have the upper hand on our body.
If short-term inflammation is beneficial, it becomes dangerous when it becomes chronic. Indeed, there are several studies that suggest that chronic inflammation plays an active role in almost all diseases. These include cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome and more. ( 25, 26, 27 )
Recent studies have found that curcumin has very pronounced anti-inflammatory properties. Its effect is in fact comparable to that of some anti-inflammatory drugs without having side effects. These properties bring benefits in the case of arthritis. ( 28 )
This pathology is in fact caused by a kind of inflammation of the joints. Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs that are associated with toxic effects (ulcers and white blood cell reduction), turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that has no side effects. ( 29 )
Without going into too much technical detail we can say that curcumin is a bioactive compound thatfights inflammation on a molecular level. This property of turmeric is supported by several studies. ( 30, 31, 32 )
According to the World Health Organization , heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world ( 35 ).
Studies suggest that the active ingredient in turmeric is able to reverse the processes that lead to the development of heart disease. ( 36 )
The main benefit offered by turmeric is its ability to strengthen endothelial tissue, that is the lining of blood vessels.
Studies have shown that turmeric brings improvements to endothelial function with the consequent benefits for the health of the heart and cardiovascular system.
A study analyzed the effects of curcumin on 121 patients who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery. These people were randomly assigned to some placebo and another 4 grams of curcumin per day before and after surgery.
The group that received the curcumin had a reduced risk of 65% of developing a heart attack while in the hospital. ( 39 )
According to an Indian research published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, turmeric, specifically curcumin, would be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. ( 40 )
The study is the continuation of another animal research that had achieved similar results. ( 41 )
Once oxidized, cholesterol settles in the blood vessels with serious health risks that can manifest with heart attacks or strokes.
In addition to this property, turmeric is able to reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels by about 11 and increase good HDL cholesterol levels by 29% .
Its intake reduces the likelihood of developing ulcers and eliminates irritation of the intestine. It is often recommended for patients with inflammatory and more serious diseases such as Crohn’s disease.
Another important property of turmeric is the detoxifying one. Every day we are inevitably exposed to toxic agents that are often associated with increased inflammation the body and the risk of cancer.
According to studies, the active ingredient in turmeric can help the liver quickly detoxify the body of toxins. ( 42 )
The curcumin has proven a substance with many therapeutic properties . Lately scientific research has analyzed its effects on the hormonal balance of the body. Recent studies have shown that this precious spice has effects similar to those of Prozac in affected patients from depression, anxiety and stress. This makes it a valid substitute for pharmaceutical products that increasingly have side effects that should not be underestimated. ( 43 )
Benefits to the Skin
Its regular intake helps maintain healthy skin . Its activity inhibits the formation of bacteria that cause pimples. At the same time it also reduces the secretion of fat by the sebaceous glands. Curcumin also has useful properties to slow down the signs of aging such as wrinkles and the formation of spots typical of old age.
Since the spice is famous for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties , a study has been conducted on patients with arthritis. In the study, an attempt was made to compare the effects of the drug Diclofenac with the benefits of curcumin.
The results showed that curcumin performed best. Furthermore the treatment with this compound was completely safe unlike the drug. ( 49 )
A review of 2016 studies provided scientific evidence that turmeric extract is effective in the treatment of arthritis. ( 50 )
The spice helps speed up the metabolism by allowing the body to burn more calories. This mechanism turns into weight loss. Its intake is also useful for reducing fat mass and detoxifying the liver. These properties are both useful when the body has to support the efforts of a diet.
A study from the University of New York has shown that curcumin can reduce the proliferation of fat cells. The researchers found that the anti – inflammatory properties of the active ingredient in turmeric are effective in suppressing the inflammatory processes of obesity. ( 51 )
Uses of Turmeric
The plant from which the spice of turmeric is obtained is that of Curcuma longa, a plant that lives between 20 and 30 degrees. The first producer in the world is India with its city Sangli, south of India, which represents the main production center.
The powder of turmeric is the ingredient that gives the characteristic color to curry. The flavor is very volatile while, on the contrary, the color remains unchanged over time.
For this reason it is a substance that is widely used in the food branch as a dye, its code is E 100. Foods such as cheese, yogurt, mustard, various canned broths and others are often colored with derivatives of this root.
How to Use Turmeric
For a healthy use it is sufficient to be able to integrate it into our daily diet. A couple of teaspoons a day are the ideal dose. It can be added at the end of cooking of many foods but it can also be added to various types of yogurt or make a sauce.
It is important to remember that turmeric should be taken together with black pepper or green tea to facilitate its absorption. Not only. Even the combination with some fat, such as olive oil, butter, or whatever, facilitates the absorption of turmeric.
Not to be confused with curry, turmeric is a dark yellow powder that derives from a plant belonging to the ginger family. Its absorption by the body is quite low.
This peculiarity makes it very safe to use. In fact it becomes very difficult to assimilate large quantities since they would be harmful to the body.
It is better that the vase is not transparent so as not to filter the light that would damage the properties of the precious dust.
Preparation Turmeric Oil
Oil of turmeric can be used to substitute olive oil in all its uses. It brings benefits to the metabolism of the liver and fats in general.
Ingredients for 50 cl of oil:
50 cl of extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons of turmeric in powder
Put the oil and turmeric in an airtight jar and mix well until the 2 ingredients are completely mixed. Leave to macerate, remembering to shake the container well once a day.
After seven days, do not shake the jar and pour it all into a glass bottle, avoiding letting the turmeric come down which in the meantime will have deposited on the bottom. Thanks to its antioxidant properties it is also called youth oil.
Did you know? A teaspoon of turmeric corresponds to 2 calories.
In cosmetics, turmeric is present in the formulas of sun products, anti-wrinkle, skin purifying and anti-dandruff.
In traditional medicine it is often used to improve cognitive skills, concentration and memory. Many of these popular beliefs have been confirmed by science and turmeric is still considered beneficial for the brain. Its intake, thanks to antioxidant compounds, stimulates neural activity and prevents cognitive decays. There are numerous studies that claim that spice can slow down the development of Alzheimer’s.
The curcumin is used not only as a food color (E 100) as a dye for wool and silk and as acid-base indicator as in alkaline medium the color becomes red.
The curcumin is present in the spice in the amount equal to 3% of the total weight.
Unfortunately, as happens in many other fields, the yellow spice is added by the little serious companies to lengthen the more expensive saffron. In this case, fortunately, given the healthy properties of turmeric , there are no problems.
Some studies have been conducted on patients with depression problems and the spice has revealed to have effects similar to those of antidepressant drugs.
Some Words of Caution
Although turmeric isn’t considered an allergenic substance, it can have some side effects on some people. If consumed in excessive quantities, it can cause dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. Its consumption can also interfere with anticoagulant drugs, increasing their effect.
Anyone taking this type of medication should speak to their doctor before taking the spice derived from the turmeric root. Remember that every food, even if considered beneficial, must always be taken in moderation.
Turmeric: Properties and Benefits
Last updated: 11/04/2019
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