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February 12, 2014

Tumeric: More Than Just a Pretty Face. ~ Janice Blanchard

curry

I have always loved the rich flavorful spices of Indian food, especially the beautiful colorful curries.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that turmeric, one of the key ingredients in many Indian and Southeast Asian curries, has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties!

Turmeric has been a staple of ayurvedic medicine for years, as a treatment for a variety of stomach, skin and joint disorders. Now Western medicine is also starting to appreciate its benefits. A number of research studies are underway specifically focusing on curcumin, the key therapeutic ingredient of turmeric, which also gives the spice its vibrant yellow color. Many of these studies are early and include very small groups of people. The results, however, are promising and further research is in progress.

Below are some of the highlights of potential benefits of turmeric and curcumin:

  • Cancer Prevention: High turmeric intake has been linked with a lower occurrence of both stomach and prostate cancers. Curcumin has also shown promise in preventing colon cancer.
  • Cancer Treatment: Curcumin may help increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in treating several types of cancers including that of the prostate, breast and pancreas.
  • Lowering Lipids: Curcumin has some benefit in lowering lipids, which in turn gives it promise in preventing heart disease.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Curcumin helps reduce various inflammatory conditions, including pain, multiple sclerosis, pancreatitis, arthritis and allergies.
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s: In animal studies, curcumin was found to reduce the plaques in the brain associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists are still studying the optimal dose of turmeric and curcumin needed to show benefits for various conditions. In general, doses of about ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric three times a day are thought to be safe. Turmeric can be bitter, but using it in milk, teas, or mixed in other flavorful dishes can help with the taste. Besides Indian curries, another one of my favorite ways to have turmeric is mixed with chai tea and milk. It gives it a nice little kick with no bitter aftertaste. For people who don’t like the taste of turmeric at all, it can also be taken in capsule form.

Be advised, turmeric can cause nausea when taken in large doses. It can also interact with some medicines, such as blood thinners and medications taken for diabetes, ulcer and heartburn, so it is always best to check with a personal doctor about safe doses and potential interactions.

 

References:

1. Chainani Wu N. Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: a component of turmeric.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

2. Chendii D, Ranga RS, Meigooni D et al. Curcumin confers radiosensitizing effect in prostate cancer cell line PC-3. Oncogene. 2004 Feb 26;23:1599-607.

3. Cheng AL, Hsu CH, Lin JK et al. Phase I clinical trial of curcumin, a chemopreventive agent, in patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions. Anticancer Res 2001;21:2895–2900.

4. Gupta SC. Patchva S. Koh W. Aggarwal BB.  Discovery of curcumin, a component of golden spice, and its miraculous biological activities. Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology. 2012; 39:283-99, 2012

5. Klempner SJ. Bubley G Complementary and alternative medicines in prostate cancer: from bench to bedside?. Oncologist. 17(6):830-7, 2012.

6. Rosser CJ. Radiosensitization in prostate cancer: mechanisms and targets. BMC Urol. 2013; 26;13:4.

7. Schaffer M. Schaffer PM. Zidan J. Bar Sela G. Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 14:588-97, 2011 Nov.

8. Tayyem RF, Heath DD, Al-Delaimy WK, Rock CL. Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55:126-31.

9. University of Maryland Turmeric.   

 

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Assistant Editor: Andrea Charpentier/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photos: Flickr

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