Turmeric: The Wonder Herb With Enormous Potential!

Turmeric Powder and Root on white Background

Turmeric is well known as a golden spice and colouring agent used in food preparations.

Our ancestors had great wisdom in not merely limiting the use of turmeric to its culinary uses, but also considering it a natural medicament because of its holistic approach to a wide range of conditions including inflammation, wound healing, antimicrobial activity, low appetite, cough and stuffy or runny nose. They may not have had any scientific evidence, but these long-standing traditions served as a hint to future researchers to conduct further research on turmeric.

Researchers have since taken up this challenge and found that a wide range of diseases are controlled by turmeric, now backed with appropriate scientific proof. They find that curcumin – the active ingredient that gives turmeric its dark attractive yellow colour – possesses antioxidant properties along other beneficial health effects.

Scientifically, turmeric is named Curcuma longa. Research is ongoing to determine the hidden health benefits of turmeric. Turmeric has shown remarkable potential to control the following list of medical conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes and
  • Other chronic or complicated diseases.

Additionally, it acts as an anticoagulant, hepato-protective agent, nephro-protective agent and also acts against HIV and gives protection from AIDS.

For turmeric in supplement form, piperine (or Bioperine® as the patented ingredient is known) may be added to increase turmeric’s absorption. The optimum nutritional value from different nutrients and nutritional supplements often cannot reach an optimal level due to their poor bioavailability. The addition of black pepper can solve this problem because the active ingredient, piperine, is able to restrain several enzymatic actions and delay the metabolism of the supplement. It also promotes intestinal absorption by improving the amino-acid transport system, and further helps to hold the nutrients in the site of action. These mechanisms can provide peak concentration of nutrients in the blood, thus providing more benefits from the nutrients.

Research shows the addition of piperine to curcumin supplements gives synergistic actions in its anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-depression effects. This combination also improves mental health. Let’s look further at the synergistic benefit of both curcumin and piperine to our health.

Bioactive Phytonutrients Found in Turmeric

“Bioactive phytonutrients” refers to a wide variety of plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties. Some important bioactive phytonutrients present in turmeric are carbohydrate, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins and water. The minerals and vitamins present are calcium, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and Vitamin C.

The addition of these phytonutrients with curcumin gives a synergistic antioxidant activity. Some essential oils such as Sesquiterpenes, zingiberene, α-phellandrene, sabinene, cineol, and borneol are also responsible for health benefits.

Compared to other natural foods like grape seed or pine bark extracts, the curcumin present in turmeric is more than three times as effective as an antioxidant.

Antioxidant Property: Fighting Chronic Untreatable Diseases

Health conscious people are aware of antioxidants and the antioxidant’s ability to fight disease. But what about its mechanism? To maintain the physiological action inside our body, metabolic changes are occurring constantly that generate free radicals. These days, the excess pollution in our atmosphere catalyses these metabolic reactions and accelerates the generation of free radicals. Free radicals can degenerate the cellular structures and accelerate aging and other health-related issues such as inflammation, cancer, diabetes, cardiac complications, gastrointestinal ailments etc. Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers and deactivate them by neutralizing their potential degenerative power.

Turmeric Improves Body Functions

An optimally functioning system supports our natural defences that enable us to fight disease. Turmeric improves haemoglobin level in the blood; thus every part of the body gets sufficient oxygen supply and the energy to improve functioning of the body.

Turmeric Helps to Improve Muscle Strength and Reduce Fatigue

Preclinical studies provide evidence that turmeric supplements containing curcumin can improve muscular glycogen content which boosts physical performance and reduces tiredness after exercise. Turmeric supplements can also give beneficial effects on physical strength including improved lipid profiles, promoting liver and renal functional capacity.   Preclinical studies also show that turmeric supplementation can reduce abdominal fats by fatty acid oxidation reaction.

Curcumin Present in Turmeric – Anti-Cancer Action

One of the latest medical developments is the discovery that curcumin has the ability to control cancer without any adverse effects. Research shows that curcumin has anti-cancer properties including cell cycle regulation by controlling excess proliferation of mutagenic cells and promotion of apoptosis. The anti-cancer mechanisms of curcumin are also preventative for cancer and nowadays it is incorporated with other available treatment to augment the effect of currently available anti-cancer treatment with less potential side effects. For example, when curcumin is used with a number of chemotherapeutic agents like doxorubicin and vincristine, curcumin enhances the cellular accumulation of these drugs resulting in increased sensitivity of the drug-resistant cancer cells.

Turmeric Supplements

The efficacy of turmeric depends upon its quality. Raw turmeric contains 3-4% of curcumin and this gives the optimum benefit. Turmeric powder may be purchased from any store but if obtained from an unreliable source, there’s always a risk of adulteration with yellow coloured dye resulting in an insufficient amount of curcumin.

The best therapeutic effect can only be obtained if the turmeric purchased contains a sufficient amount of curcumin and is free from adulteration. It is very difficult for us to know the exact proportion of curcumin in turmeric without chemical testing. If the amount of curcumin is less than the standard amount (i.e. less than 3-4%) then it will produce poor absorption, further resulting in poor bioavailability in the body. To obtain the best benefit it is recommended to add turmeric to the diet, thus increasing the amount of overall curcumin consumption to provide appropriate cancer treatment.

Benefits of Combining Turmeric and Black Pepper

Research conducted by the University of Michigan reveals that the combination of curcumin from turmeric and piperine obtained from black pepper can protect against relapse of breast cancer. Concentrated pure curcumin and piperine via dietary supplementation can remove breast cancer stem cells’ self renewal ability, without any detrimental effect to normal breast cells.

At the present time, there is no available pharmaceutical product, including chemotherapeutic and radio-therapeutic agents, used to target cancerous cells, effective against cancer ‘stem cells’. These more malignant cancer cells behave as though dormant during chemotherapy and radiotherapy and thus when treatment ends, they are free to form new colonies of cancerous cells.

Other than the great benefit of controlling the relapse of cancerous growth, there are other advantages of combining turmeric with piperine to good effect in medical treatment. The limited absorption of curcumin in blood is a limitation of turmeric. As mentioned above, the curcumin efficiency can be increased with addition of piperine. Piperine is the active constituent of black pepper which is planted in southern region of India. The extract of piperine enhances the bioavailability of a range of supplementary nutrients including curcumin by increasing its absorption.

Getting Optimum Benefits from Turmeric Supplements

  • Take your turmeric supplements with fat such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, coconut milk or fish oil. This helps to dissolve the curcumin faster (since curcumin is fat-soluble) and absorption in blood is accelerated.
  • Heat does not degenerate the curcumin properties, but actually enhances the bioavailability by increasing its solubility in gastrointestinal fluid. You can take or blend turmeric supplements with a warm drink, such as turmeric milk. Vegans can use a no-dairy milk substitute.
  • Choose a turmeric supplement which contains sufficient curcumin and piperine / bioperine® in its ingredient list.
  • Take a turmeric supplement several times a day as curcumin gives its optimum effects after one hour of ingestion. Curcumin reaches its peak concentration level in the blood and then rapidly decreases its effects due to its fast metabolism. The best benefits can be obtained from 8 grams of curcumin four times a day.

Precautionary Measures

It is better to discuss and agree a turmeric supplement dose with your physician. Overdosing on turmeric supplements can cause:

  • Hypoglycaemia (emergency levels of low blood sugar). Diabetics should exercise caution.
  • Decreased blood coagulation. It’s best to stop taking turmeric before and after surgery, as it could reduce blood clotting.
  • If taking stroke medications, discuss turmeric with your doctor.
  • Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.
  • In pregnancy, chance of abortion increases as it promotes menstrual bleeding.

References:

The information contained on this website is for information purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind nor does it recommend any particular nutritional or treatment option for any medical health condition. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning a treatment regimen of any type, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.