For more than 5,000 years, turmeric has been an important part of Eastern cultural traditions, including traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Valued for its medicinal properties and warm, peppery flavor, this yellow-orange spice has more recently earned a name for itself in Western medicine as well.
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which is native to Indonesia and southern India, and is widely used as an ingredient in curry dishes and yellow mustard. As research into this powerful spice has increased, it has emerged as one of nature’s most powerful potential healers.
Said Dr. David Frawely, founder and director of the American Institute for Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico:
“If I had only one single herb to depend upon for all possible health and dietary needs, I would without much hesitation choose the Indian spice Turmeric. There is little it cannot do in the realm of healing and much that no other herb is able to accomplish.
Turmeric has a broad spectrum of actions, mild but certain effects, and is beneficial for long term and daily usage. Though it is a common spice, few people, including herbalists know of its great value and are using it to the extent possible. It is an herb that one should get to know and live with.”
Turmeric’s Beneficial Effects in a Nutshell
Strengthens and improves digestion
Reduces gas and bloating
Assists in the digestion of protein and with rice and bean dishes
Improves your body's ability to digest fats
Promotes proper metabolism, correcting both excesses and deficiencies
Maintains and improves intestinal flora
Improves elimination of wastes and toxins
Supports healthy liver function and detox
Turmeric helps increase bile flow making it a liver cleanser that can rejuvenate your liver cells and recharge their capability to break down toxins
Helps to prevent alcohol and other toxins from being converted into compounds that may be harmful to your liver
Supports formation of healthy tissue
Purifies your blood
Contains curcuminoids that fight cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s
Curcuminoids are potent phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) that contain powerful antioxidant properties
Counteract the damaging effects of free radicals in your body
Relieve arthritis pain and stiffness, anti-inflammatory agent
Anti-carcinogenic: “Curcumin has been shown to prevent a large of number of cancers in animal studies. Laboratory data indicate that curcumin can inhibit tumor initiation, promotion, invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis.”
Supports treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: “Because Alzheimer's disease is caused in part by amyloid-induced inflammation, curcumin has been shown to be effective against Alzheimer's. Clinical trials are in progress at UCLA with curcumin for Alzheimer's.”
Curcumin: Turmeric’s Active Anti-Inflammatory “Ingredient”
Most notably turmeric is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, which come from curcumin -- the pigment that gives turmeric its yellow-orange color, and which is thought to be responsible for many of its medicinal effects. There are an estimated three to five grams of curcumin in 100 grams of turmeric.
Curcumin has been shown to influence more than 700 genes, and it can inhibit both the activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation.
Turmeric’s Cancer-Fighting Properties
In India where turmeric is widely used, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers -- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower. In fact, prostate cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. men, is rare in India and this is attributed, in part, to turmeric.
Numerous studies have looked into this potential cancer-fighting link, with promising results. For instance, curcumin has been found to:
Inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells
Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor
Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body
Enhance liver function
Inhibit the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation
Prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth