Turmeric is the boiled, dried, cleaned and polished rhizomes of Curcuma longa. The plant is a herbaceous perennial, 60-90 cm high, with a short stem and tufted leaf. There are 7 to 12 leaves, the leaf sheaths forms the pseudo stem. The lamina is green above and pale green below and has a length of 30-40 cm and width 8-12 cm. Inflorescence is a central spike of 10-15 cm length. 1-4 flowers are born in axil of the bract opening one at a time. About 30 flowers are produced in a spike. Seeds are produced in capsules and there will be one to numerous sunken capsules in an inflorescence.
ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
Turmeric is a tropical crop cultivated from sea level to 1200 meter MSL. It grows in light black, black clayey loams and red soils in irrigated and rainfed conditions. The crop cannot stand water logging or alkalinity. Turmeric, a plant in the ginger family, is native to Southeast Asia and is grown commercially in that region, primarily in India. Its rhizome (underground stem) is used as a culinary spice and traditional medicine.
Turmeric Uses and benefits:
Turmeric is used to flavour and to colour foodstuffs. It is a principal ingredient in curry powder. Turmeric oleoresin is used in brine pickles and to some extent in mayonnaise and relish formulations, non-alcoholic beverages, gelatins, butter and cheese etc. The colour curcumin extracted from turmeric is used as a colourant. Turmeric is also used as a dye in textile industry. It is used in the preparation of medicinal oils, ointments and poultice. It is stomachic, carminative, tonic, blood purifier and an antiseptic. It is used in cosmetics. The aqueous extracts has biopesticidal properties.
Turmeric, a spice that has long been recognized for its medicinal properties, has received interest from both the medical/scientific world and from culinary enthusiasts, as it is the major source of the polyphenol curcumin.
Historically, turmeric was used in Ayurveda and other traditional Indian medical systems, as well as Eastern Asian medical systems such as traditional Chinese medicine. In India, it was traditionally used for disorders of the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, and digestive system.
Curcumin is a major component of turmeric, and the activities of turmeric are commonly attributed to curcuminoids (curcumin and closely related substances). Curcumin gives turmeric its yellow color.
Turmeric dietary supplements are made from the dried rhizome and typically contain a mixture of curcuminoids. Turmeric is also made into a paste for skin conditions.
Health Benefits of Turmeric:
Most of the benefits of this magic spice can be attributed to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Ingesting curcumin by itself does not lead to the associated health benefits due to its poor bioavailability, which appears to be primarily due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism and rapid elimination.
There are several components that can increase the bioavailability of curcumin. For example, piperine the major active component of black pepper when combined in a complex with curcumin has shown to increase bioavailability by 2000%.Curcumin combined with enhancing agents like piperine provides multiple health benefits.
However, the curcumin content of turmeric isn’t that high. It’s around 3.14%, by weight. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using turmeric as a spice in your foods. That’s why taking curcumin as a supplement may be a better idea. Most of the studies on this herb use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself.
Curcumin is also fat soluble, which means it breaks down and dissolves in fat or oil. That’s why it may be a good idea to take curcumin supplements with a meal that’s high in fat.
Turmeric Antioxidant Properties:
Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases. Free radicals arise from the normal metabolic processes of the body but also from external factors like smoking and prolonged sun exposure. These harmful free radicals can lead to cellular damage. They destroy cell structure; as a result, causing chronic disease and deadly cancer. The main reason antioxidants are so beneficial is that they protect your body from free radicals.
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory properties of Curcumin present in turmeric can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure.
In another study the detoxification and antioxidant effects of curcumin were examined to determine its prophylactic/therapeutic role in rats experimentally exposed to mercury. Findings suggest that curcumin pretreatment has a protective effect and that curcumin can be used as a therapeutic agent in mercury intoxication. The study indicates that curcumin, an effective antioxidant, may have a protective effect through its routine dietary intake against mercury exposure.
A study conducted by researchers of the University of Edinburgh, published in the Antioxidants & Redox Signaling journal, highlights the potent antioxidant and oxygen radical scavenging activity of curcumin.
Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor:
The BDNF gene provides instructions for making a protein found in the brain and spinal cord called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells. In the brain, the BDNF protein is active at the connections between nerve cells (synapses), where cell-to-cell communication occurs. The synapses can change and adapt over time in response to experience, a characteristic called synaptic plasticity. The BDNF protein helps regulate synaptic plasticity, which is important for learning and memory.
Although neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are important in helping the brain function because they carry the signals of neurons, the protein BDNF build and maintain the brain circuits which allow the signals to travel. BDNF improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and strengthens/protects them against premature cell death. It also binds to receptors at the synapses, to improve signal strength between neurons.
Studies suggest that impaired BDNF function, in addition to physical inactivity and hippocampal atrophy, is associated with age-related memory impairment. Therefore, BDNF may be a potential target for dementia prevention. Findings suggest that Curcumin can enhance postsynaptic electrical reactivity and cell viability in intact neural circuits with antidepressant-like effects, possibly through the upregulation of BDNF and reduction of inflammatory factors in the brain.
Recent studies show that curcumin also possesses neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing properties that may help delay or prevent neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Also studies suggest that daily oral Theracurmin found in Turmeric may lead to improved memory and attention in non-demented adults.
Turmeric for Alzheimer’s Disease:
Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing. A growing body of evidence indicates that oxidative stress, free radicals, beta amyloid, cerebral deregulation caused by bio-metal toxicity and abnormal inflammatory reactions contribute to the key event in Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of cases. As per WHO Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.
For prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin has been shown to effectively reduce risk factors for a variety of chronic diseases, including reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and lipophilic action improves the cognitive functions in patients with AD. Due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved. There is a scientific basis for the rational application of curcumin in prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric for Cancer Treatment:
Sometimes abnormal or damaged cells grow and multiply when they shouldn’t. These cells may form tumors, which are lumps of tissue. Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells.
Curcumin has been shown to suppress multiple signaling pathways and inhibit cell proliferation. Numerous studies have demonstrated that curcumin possesses anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties. Curcumin represents a promising candidate as an effective anticancer drug to be used alone or in combination with other drugs. It affects different signaling pathways and molecular targets involved in the development of several cancers. Curcumin and its analogues have been demonstrated to possess various anticancer properties, such as pancreatic, lung, ovarian, oral, colorectal, breast carcinoma and even in melanoma cells. In the future, further research will ascertain or not the potential of curcumin analogues as effective chemotherapy agents.
A plethora of in vitro and in vivo research together with clinical trials conducted over the past few decades substantiate the potential of curcumin as an anti-cancer agent. At the molecular level, curcumin targets numerous pathways, highlighting its ability to inhibit carcinogenesis at multiple levels and thus, potentially circumventing the development of resistance. However, there is a paucity of data to explain the underlying mechanism of its activity. Clinical trials with curcumin indicate safety, tolerability, non-toxicity (even up to doses of 8000 mg/day), and efficacy. These studies provide a solid foundation for more well-controlled studies in larger cohorts as well as open avenues for future drug development. However, curcumin activity is limited by its poor bioavailability and some possible adverse effects. The development of formulations of curcumin in the form of nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles or phospholipid complexes to enhance its bioavailability and efficacy are still in its early stages. Nonetheless, curcumin has established itself as a safe and promising molecule for the prevention and therapy of not only cancer but also other inflammation-driven diseases.
The use of curcumin as a supplement has already been approved in many countries such as the USA, South Africa, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, and Turkey. In an attempt to increase its bioavailability, several curcumin formulations have been developed such as powder, tablets, capsules, liposomal encapsulation, emulsions etc.
Turmeric as Anti-inflammatory:
Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s defense to injury or infection, and, in this way, it is beneficial. But inflammation is damaging when it occurs in healthy tissues or lasts too long. Known as chronic inflammation, it may persist for months or years.
It is extensively verified that continued oxidative stress and oxidative damage may lead to chronic inflammation, which in turn can mediate most chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurological, inflammatory bowel disease and pulmonary diseases.
The, research to date suggests that chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and most chronic diseases are closely linked, and the antioxidant properties of curcumin can play a key role in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammation diseases.
Human studies have found some evidence of anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin. The laboratory studies have identified a number of different molecules involved in inflammation that are inhibited by curcumin. Curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in six human trials and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. It may exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation.
Turmeric for Osteoarthritis:
“Arthritis” literally means joint inflammation. Although joint inflammation is a symptom or sign rather than a specific diagnosis, the term arthritis is often used to refer to any disorder that affects the joints. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.
Curcumin, demonstrates potential as a treatment agent for osteoarthritis, a disease with an underlying inflammatory cause. Its efficacy in reducing pain, physical function, and quality of life among osteoarthritic patients has been demonstrated in many clinical trials. The effects of curcumin on osteoarthritis can be attributed to its ability to prevent apoptosis of chondrocytes due to inflammation predominantly, and oxidative stress to a lesser extent.
Compared with placebo, there appears to be a benefit of turmeric on knee OA pain and function. Based on a small number of studies the effects are similar to that of NSAIDs.
A proprietary complex of curcumin with soy phosphatidylcholine was evaluated in a registry study to define its efficacy in 50 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) at dosages corresponding to 200 mg curcumin per diem. These results show that Meriva® is clinically effective in the management and treatment of osteoarthritis and suggest that the increased stability and better absorption of curcumin induced by complexation with phospholipids have clinical relevance, setting the stage for larger and more prolonged studies.
Turmeric for Cardiovascular Health:
Cardiac diseases are the leading cause of mortality worldwide. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcuminoids may account for their cardioprotective effects.
The antioxidant effects of curcumin have been shown may prevent diabetic cardiovascular complications. The anti-thrombotic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin and the effect of curcumin in decreasing the serum cholesterol level may protect against the pathological changes occurring with atherosclerosis.
Another study shows Curcumin may protect patients at the risk of CVD through improving serum lipid levels. Curcumin may be used as a well-tolerated dietary adjunct to conventional drugs.
The vascular endothelium (inner cellular lining of blood vessels) plays a critical role in the preservation of normal vessel wall structure and function. In a study researchers found Curcumin supplementation would improve age-related vascular endothelial function in middle-aged and older men and postmenopausal women while also improving large elastic artery stiffness and, possibly, markers of systemic inflammation.
Findings from another study suggests that chronic supplementation with 200 g per day curcumin enhances endothelial function in apparently healthy young subjects. Oral curcumin supplementation my present simple lifestyle strategy for decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases in individuals who are apparently healthy.
Turmeric as an Antidepressant:
Curcumin has shown some promise in treating depression. In a research conducted 60 patients diagnosed with MDD were randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio for six weeks observer-masked treatment with fluoxetine (20 mg) and curcumin (1000 mg) individually or their combination. Researchers observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. After 6 weeks, curcumin had led to improvements similar to those of Prozac. The group that took both Prozac and curcumin fared best. This study provides clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD.
Depression is also linked to reduced levels of BDNF and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area with a role in learning and memory. Curcumin can help boost BDNF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes.
There’s also some evidence that curcumin can boost the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Anti-Ageing Properties of Turmeric:
Ageing is manifested by the decreasing health status and increasing probability to acquire age-related disease such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, metabolic disorders and others. The ability of Curcumin to fight inflammation, protect our body against free radicals, and potentially delay brain degeneration and other age-related diseases, turmeric and curcumin may be effective anti-aging supplements.
Turmeric for Diabetes Treatment :
Overall, scientific literature shows that curcumin possesses anti-diabetic effects and mitigates diabetes complications. Anti-diabetic activity of curcumin may be due to its potent ability to suppress oxidative stress and inflammation.
The studies showed that the use of Curcuma longa or curcumin (in different formulations) showed significant reduction of lipid peroxidation, fasting blood glucose levels. Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have provided strong evidence for investigating curcumin efficacy against type 2 diabetes mellitus show that curcumin has therapeutic potential to counteract diabetes and its complications.
Turmeric for Treating Liver Diseases:
Oxidative stress has been considered a key causing factor of liver damage induced by a variety of agents, including alcohol, drugs, viral infections, environmental pollutants and dietary components, which in turn results in progression of liver injury, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, non-alcoholic liver disease, liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Curcumin is one of the most commonly used indigenous molecules endowed by various shielding functionalities that protects the liver. Results show that curcumin exerts remarkable protective and therapeutic effects of oxidative associated liver diseases through various cellular and molecular mechanisms.
Further clinical studies are still needed in order to recognize the structure-activity relationships and molecular mechanisms of curcumin in oxidative associated liver diseases.
Turmeric Treats Allergy:
Curcumin is reported to have antiallergic properties with inhibitory effect on histamine release from mast cells. The effectiveness of curcumin in allergy and asthma has been further investigated using a murine model of allergy. The results indicate a marked inhibition of allergic response in animals treated with curcumin suggesting a major role for curcumin in reducing the allergic response.
Curcumin has antiallergic properties with inhibitory effect on histamine release from mast cells. The results of a study conducted indicate a marked inhibition of allergic response in animals treated with curcumin suggesting a major role for curcumin in reducing the allergic response.
Another study suggests that administration of turmeric including various components may be useful to ameliorate Th2-mediated allergic disorders such as food allergy, atopic dermatitis, and asthma.
Turmeric Boosts Immunity:
In everyday life, humans are exposed to harmful pathogens and environmental pollutants that can affect the health status and homeostasis of the organism. The immune system (IS) is a complex integrated network of cells, tissues, organs and soluble mediators, evolved to defend the organism against any foreign insult that threatens the integrity of the organism. unbalance of immune responses can be responsible of a plethora of disorders, such as allergy, autoimmune diseases, immunosuppression and AIDS. Study suggests the possibility of immunotherapy for immunosuppression, using curcumin.
Turmeric for Skin Care:
An increasing amount of evidence suggests that curcumin may represent an effective agent in the treatment of several skin conditions. Studies suggest that curcumin may represent a low-cost, well-tolerated, effective agent in the treatment of skin diseases.
Curcumin has also been shown to have significant wound healing properties. It acts on various stages of the natural wound healing process to hasten healing. Healing properties of curcumin also provide evidence for its ability to enhance granulation tissue formation, collagen deposition, tissue remodeling and wound contraction.
The possible use of curcumin in combination with traditional drugs and the formulations of novel delivery systems represent a very promising field for future applicative research.
Turmeric Treats Gastrointestinal Diseases:
Curcumin, a biologically active phytochemical, has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Curcumin is a well-known molecule with multiple pharmacological activities that have the potential to be used to treat many gastrointestinal diseases. Curcumin a very promising therapeutic option for the treatment of gastrointestinal and hepatic diseases.
In a study conducted, curcumin extract administered for 8 weeks at a dose of 500 mg once daily was associated with greater improvements in digestive complaints and anxiety levels in adults with self-reported digestive complaints. Compared to the placebo, there were no significant changes in intestinal microbiota or SIBO; however, further research using larger samples and testing methods that allow more detailed microbial analyses will be important. An investigation into other potential mechanisms associated with curcumin’s gastrointestinal-relieving effects will also be important such as examining its influence on the intestinal barrier function, inflammation, neurotransmitter activity, and visceral sensitivity.
Safety and Side Effects:
Turmeric and conventionally formulated curcumin products are probably safe when taken orally or applied to the skin in the recommended amounts. Efforts have been made to develop curcumin products with increased bioavailability, and many modified products are already on the market. Improving bioavailability might lead to increases in harmful effects as well as desirable ones. Turmeric may be unsafe for use during pregnancy in amounts greater than those commonly found in food. If taken in excess of recommended dosages it may cause nausea, diarrhea, headache, rash or yellow stool.
Always consult with your doctor before trying out any of the remedies suggested in the blog post
Frontiers | Turmeric and Its Major Compound Curcumin on Health: Bioactive Effects and Safety Profiles for Food, Pharmaceutical, Biotechnological and Medicinal Applications | Pharmacology (frontiersin.org)
Efficacy of a curcumin extract (Curcugen™) on gastrointestinal symptoms and intestinal microbiota in adults with self-reported digestive complaints: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – PubMed (nih.gov)