I love spices of all kind. I use them in all sorts of recipes — from curries, Moroccan Tagines, to South-east Asian stir-fries and all the blessed colourful, tasty and healthy dishes one can explore and enjoy from around the globe (yes spicy can be healthy too). I like to use spices like ginger, cumin, chillies, star anise, cardamon, cinnamon, turmeric, and so many others. You name it. I was aware that some of these roots, seeds and fruits had some good health benefits such as ginger, turmeric, chillies and so on, but I have only recently discovered how there are over 10, 000 peer-reviewed articles just about the incredible and wide-ranging health benefits of the Turmeric root — from cancer treatment, anti-inflammation, anti-depression and more. Of course I was very pleased to learn that, knowing it had always been available item in my spice rack!
So I decided to dig further and discover some more about the medicinal power behind this humble orange root.
The active compound in Turmeric, a root from the plant Curcuma Longa, is Curcumin. When the turmeric root is dried and powdered, it is used as a basic ingredient in curry spice blends. It is what in fact gives the typical orange-yellow colour to curries. I personally also like using the fresh root, once every while, by peeling, slicing, crushing it and infusing it in coconut oil to use with salads and other dishes (Coconut oil and black pepper are known to activate Curcumin when ingested together). The fresh root has a bright orange colour and it inevitably leaves some yellow stains on your fingers after preparing it! (don’t worry they go after a couple of washes).
Curcumin is what makes Turmeric a functional food, that is, a food that has positive effects beyond its immediate nutritional value. It has practically no side effects and it has a very high-dose limit. Recently I have in fact been supplementing myself with Curcumin 1000mg daily capsules — as it would be quite impractical to get so much from food everyday (even though I love my spices). The effects I have observed till now from my daily dosage have been quite astounding. Mental clarity and enhanced overall mood are two of the most pronounced effects I have been experiencing. It lifts off any mental fogginess and I get that extra mental boost to start my work day with a spring in my step. The other benefit I have been personally experiencing, but that is more latent than the mental clarity and mood, is pain management. I suffer from chronic muscle and joint pain whenever there is a change in weather — particularly air pressure. I get muscle tension especially around my shoulder, neck and head which leaves me with a mini-migraine type of headache all day. After continual use of Curcumin tablets, I have been experiencing this pain much less often and when I occasionally do it feels it a hundredfold less painful. It is also getting better as time goes by.
Here are some of the amazing benefits, according to various studies, attributed to regular use of Curcumin:
Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
This is perhaps the most important and the most powerful benefit of Curcumin. The journal Oncogene published results from a study in which several anti-inflammatory compounds were studied and compared. These compounds included well known pharmaceutical products such as aspirin and Ibuprofen. It turns out that Curcumin is a much more effective anti-inflammatory agent than the two mentioned compounds. Other research also corroborate this and time again it has been shown how Curcumin is one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory compounds on the planet.
This is of particular importance when we put in the picture the fact that most common diseases such as cancer, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and chronic pain — are all closely associated with inflammation. Further animal trials have also found a reversing effect Curcumin has on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This is very promising as it has also been found that Curcumin can increase neuro-genesis, the ability to regenerate and reconnect brain cells.
Significantly Reduces Depression Symptoms:
The second major benefit of Curcumin is its anti-depressant properties. In 2014, journal Phytotherapy Research published the results from a double-blind clinical study in which 60 volunteers with major depressive disorder (MDD) where split to determine how patients treated with Curcumin compared with those taking fluoxetine (Prozac). To the researchers’ surprise within 6 weeks, Curcumin was found to be as equally effective as fluoxetine, which is the most renowned anti-depressant in global circulation. The benefit of Curcumin over fluoxetine is of course that it has no side effects and that it has a high tolerance limit in humans. Many other studies have all confirmed this powerful anti-depressant effect of Curcumin.
For me this sounds like amazing when you consider that depression is the number one affliction in the world according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Kills & Prevents Cancer Cells:
The effects of Curcumin on cancer cells has been the most researched aspects of the compound so far by scientists. A good number of laboratory studies have shown that Curcumin is able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing especially when it comes to breast cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer. Furthermore in an animal study carried out by Baylor Scott & White Research Institute in 2017 has found that Curcumin may also be able to overcome chemo-resistance found in a very aggressive form of cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). It seems that Curcumin has the ability to re-sensitise the patient’s cancer cells in a way that they are once again responsive to chemo-therapy.
Prevents Blood Clots:
Blood clots form through a process known as ‘platelet aggregation’ by which blood platelets concentrate in one area eventually forming a clot that will eventually lead to some serious health repercussions and physical limitations. Curcumin has been shown to modulate an internal process known as ‘eicosanoid biosynthesis’. Eicosanoids are a group of four molecules in the body that are involved in the bodily process of inflammation. The anti-clotting properties of Curcumin is due to its interference with the biosynthesis of one of those eicosanoids called Thrombaxones. It is understood that this mechanism is the same reason why Curcumin is anti-inflammatory.
Better than known Arthritis Drugs:
Since Curcumin has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, research was carried out to see if there is any effect on arthritis which is a disease that affects a huge percentage of adults around the world. In one particular double-blind study, a group of 45 people suffering rheumatoid arthritis were split in groups to evaluate the effectiveness of Curcumin in one group against Dicoflenac Sodium in another group. The arthritis drug is the most effective compounds on the market but causes several side-effects, most commonly, leaky guts and heart disease. Once again Curcumin has been found to outperform Dicoflenac Sodium but without the unwanted side-effects.
Boosts Skin Health:
The powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of Turmeric have also great benefits when it comes to skin health. Cur cumin was found to be very effective in treating multiple skin conditions, restoring ‘skin glow’, speeding up wound healing, controlling psoriasis, and decreasing acne and acne scarring.
A study to explore the effect of curcumin in lowering blood glucose level was carried out by Auburn University in 2009. It was found that curcumin is about 400 times more powerful than the diabetes drug metformin in activating the enzyme AMPK, which is considered to be a ‘therapeutic target’ in Type 2 diabetes.
The list of Curcumin benefits goes on and on — cholesterol management, obesity, pain management, inflammatory bowel disease and more. It’s hard to believe that just one root, from one plant, is of such great medicinal value when it comes to so many major health issues. The key to Turmeric’s power is its strong anti-inflammatory properties. It gives it the potential to modulate, prevent and cure so many common diseases that have roots in bodily inflammation. Same goes with cellular health, ageing, healthy gene expression and many other key human biological processes that deteriorate because of body inflammation. I wish I could dig even a bit further, for instance, into ancient Chinese medicine, where Turmeric was prescribed to move the blood and the Qi and more commonly, for pain management.
What I currently know for sure is that Curcumin found in Turmeric is an amazing medicine from mother earth and I will keep on supplementing myself with it and happily using it in my dishes more than ever before.