The power of the golden spice
by Nooriya Prabakharen
The history of the golden spice (turmeric) dates back thousands of years. There has been reference to its usage in Ayurveda in 250 B.C (Benzi & Wachtel-Galor, 2011). Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which is in the ginger family, this perennial plant is commonly found in Southeast Asia.
Turmeric is one of the most popular spices in the world. It is used extensively in Indian cuisine. It is an essential ingredient in curries. It has a pungent, bitter flavor. Because of its growing popularity as a superfood, it is now widely used in various drink recipes across the world. Scientific researches have confirmed turmeric’s nutritional benefits (Alamdari, O’Neal & Hasselgren, 2009).
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (up to ~5%) provides many health benefits (Nelson et al., 2017).
Muscles and joint pain are something that we encounter in everyday life. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties may reduce swelling, aches and pain by inhibition of many different molecules that play a role in inflammation. Curcumin does this by down regulating the various enzymes, cytokines, and proteins involved in inflammatory response (Chainani-Wu, 2003). Some studies have shown that curcumin to be as effective as anti-inflammatory pain medications like ibuprofen and aspirin (Takada, Bhardwaj, Potdar, & Aggarwal, 2004).
We need oxygen to survive but the oxygen can also be a key cause for many diseases. During metabolism, the oxygen we intake gives rise to several reactive oxygen species called free radicals. These free radicals are required for the body’s immune system, however too many free radicals can be damaging and have been linked to various issues like neurodegenerative diseases and cancer .
The human body produces antioxidants to combat these free radicals, however this may not be enough so additional antioxidants from the diet are needed. Curcumins molecular structure creates an antioxidant effect, neutralizing the free radicals (Basnet, Hussain, Tho, & Skalko-Basnet, 2012) and strengthening the body’s natural antioxidant capabilities by increasing glutathione levels (Biswas, McClure, Jimenez, Megson, & Rahman, 2005).
3) Heart Healthy
Heat diseases is one of the leading causes of death globally (American Heart Association, 2017). Curcumin can help keep the heart healthy and strong. Multiple animal studies on have found that curcumin protects against fatty build up in arteries. This is important because the fatty build up in arteries is a key risk factor for heart attacks and strokes (Wongcharoen & Phrommintikul, 2009).
Researchers have identified a potential role of curcumin as a natural antidepressant. A 2014 study proved curcumin to be as effective for depression as a popular antidepressant drug, Prozac ( Sanmukhani et al., 2014). Curcumin effectiveness as an antidepressant is due to it’s ability to increase serotonin and dopamine, which are two key neurotransmitters linked to depression. Curcumin was also found to be enhance the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs when combined with them (Sanmukhani et al., 2014).
According to Cancer Research UK, research has shown that curcumin has anticancer properties. Curcumin may have the ability to prevent cells from multiplying. It is thought to be effective for breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer. More studies are needed to fully understand the anticancer properties of curcumin (Cancer Research UK, 2015).
Alamdari, N., O’Neal, P., & Hasselgren, P.O. (2009). Curcumin and muscle wasting—A new role for an old drug? Nutrition, 25(2), 125-129.
Basnet, P., Hussain, H., Tho, I., & Skalko-Basnet, N. (2012). Liposomal delivery system enhances anti‐inflammatory properties of curcumin. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences,101(2), 598-609.
Benzi, I.F.F. & Wachtel-Galor, S. (2011). Herbal medicine; Biomolecular and Clinical aspects, 2d ed.. Reference and Research Book News.
Biswas, S.K., McClure, D., Jimenez, L.A., Megson, I.L, & Rahman, I. (2005). Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity. PubMed .gov, Retrieved on November 1, 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650394
Chainani-Wu, N. (2003). Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: A component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9(1), 161-8.
Nelson, K., Dahlin, J., Bisson, J., Graham, J., Pauli, G., & Walters, M. (2017). The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 60(5), 1620-1637.
Sanmukhani, J., Satodia, V., Trivedi, J., Patel, T., Tiwari, D., Panchal, B., . . . Tripathi, C. (2014). Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research, 28(4), 579-585.
Takada, Y., Bhardwaj, A., Potdar, P., & Aggarwal, B.B.. (2004). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-κB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene, 23(57), 9247-9258.
Turmeric Information (2015), Cancer Research UK, Retrieved On November 1, 2017. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/turmeric
Wongcharoen, W., & Phrommintikul, A. (2009). The protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular diseases. International Journal of Cardiology, 133(2), 145-151.
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