A bright yellow spice, turmeric comes from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, a plant from the ginger family, native to southwest India. The rhizomes are boiled, then dried and turned into a yellow powder which is used as a spice and a natural medicine. Numerous studies have shown that curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric and what gives it its distinctive color, is an effective remedy for a whole range of diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer’s.
Here are some of the most important scientifically proven health benefits of curcumin and, implicitly, turmeric:
1. Kills Cancer Cells and Prevents Cancer
Studies have shown that the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, can stop pre-cancerous cells from becoming cancerous. Curcumin has also been shown to effectively kill stomach, skin, bowel and breast cancer cells. A 2007 study demonstrated that chemotherapy combined with curcumin was more effective than chemotherapy alone, while a 2008 study proved that curcumin was able to prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
2. Detoxifies the Body
Curcumin has been shown to elevate levels of two liver enzymes that play an important role in the detoxification of the body (UDP-glucuronosyl transferase and glutathione S-transferase). In addition to helping the liver remove foreign toxins, curcumin also helps detoxification from free radicals due to its strong antioxidant effect.
3. Lowers Bad Cholesterol
The proven cholesterol-lowering effect of turmeric is also due to its interactions with the liver. Curcumin has been shown to increase the number of LDL cholesterol receptors in liver cells, helping the liver remove more bad cholesterol from the body. A study published in 2008 showed that curcumin in low doses was able to decrease LDL cholesterol levels in people with acute coronary syndrome.
4. Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a type of peptide called amyloid beta accumulates in brain cells, forming amyloid plaques and disrupting the cells’ normal function. A study published in the Journal of Current Alzheimer’s Research in 2005 demonstrated that curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to the amyloid beta peptides, inhibiting their aggregation in brain cells. The study found that the effect of curcumin is stronger than that of commercial anti-inflammatory drugs normally used for this purpose.
5. Modulates the Immune System
Studies have shown that curcumin increases the production of cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or cAMP, a protein involved in the innate immune response and which can kill a wide range of viruses and bacteria, including the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Curcumin has also been shown to increase antibody response. At the same time, it helps modulate the activity of immune cells such as macrophages and natural killer cells, preventing excessive immune responses that can lead to inflammatory disorders.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to treat a wide range of diseases, from mouth ulcers to liver afflictions. Recent clinical studies have shown that due to the detoxifying and anti-inflammatory effects of its main active compound curcumin, turmeric is indeed a promising drug for a wide range of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, liver disease and cardio vascular diseases.References