The secret is out. Curcumin, the primary ingredient in turmeric, is quickly becoming one of the most popular nutritional supplements around. There are numerous benefits to mind and body that have made this product high on everybody’s health wish list. If you are still in the dark about turmeric or curcumin then it is time to educate yourself and see what all the fuss is about!
1. Bioactive Compounds and Medicinal Properties
Most commonly known as the spice that gives curry its yellow coloring, turmeric has also been used as a medicinal herb in India for centuries. Research today is finally providing proof to what the Indians have been saying for years. Within this spice lives compounds called curcuminoids which have medicinal properties. Curcumin, the most important of these compounds is a powerful anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant.
The problem is that the content of curcumin present in turmeric is actually very low, so it is difficult to get the benefits from simply using it as a spice. It is recommended to take as a supplement, specifically as an extract, in order to realize its full potential. Additionally, since curcumin does not absorb easily, it is ideal to take alongside black pepper which helps increase its absorption rate.
2. Fights Inflammatory-Related Diseases
Our bodies use inflammation as a means of defense against pathogenic invaders. Without this, bacteria could easily take over our system and kill us. The benefits of the inflammatory response are only possible in the short term; more chronic deployment can be dangerous. It is widely thought that chronic inflammation plays a huge role in most of the documented chronic Western diseases including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative conditions.
When it comes to preventing and treating these serious diseases, fighting inflammation is a good first step. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin have been noted as equal in terms of effectiveness compared to anti-inflammatory drugs. The added benefit is that you have a more natural alternative to taking medication, which means no potentially dangerous side effects. At the molecular level, curcumin blocks the NF-kB molecule which activates inflammatory-related genes.
3. Increased Antioxidant Capacity
Behind many diseases and the process of aging hides oxidative damage. Free radicals are extremely reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. These like to react with organic substances that we need such as proteins, fatty acids, and DNA. The key importance of antioxidants is their ability to rid our bodies of free radicals. The chemical structure of curcumin neutralizes free radicals and at the same time increases our own antioxidant enzymes. This two-sided attack on free radicals makes turmeric curcumin a double threat to oxidative damage.
4. Prevent (and even treat) Cancer
Cancer is the disease that scares most people. This uncontrolled growth of cells is non-discriminatory and can affect any person at any time. While there are many different types of cancer, they tend to have a few commonalities between them. Curcumin has been shown recently to reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (cancer spread), as well as contribute to the death of cancer cells.
Testing with curcumin has not yet been officially done with human cancer patients, although it has shown positive results on cancerous animal cells. Additional studies are showing that it can be used as a more preventative measure too, specifically with cancers of the digestive system. Either way, there is a clear impact on cancer cells or tumors at a molecular level with the introduction of turmeric or curcumin, and research will continue to find more answers.
5. Cardiovascular Improvements
With heart disease being the world’s biggest killer, studies have been ongoing for decades to determine why it happens and what contributes to its existence. As it happens, there are a number of factors associated with heart disease, and curcumin can actually reverse many of the steps in the process. As previously mentioned, curcumin reduces inflammation and oxidation which contribute to heart disease.
Additionally, curcumin has been linked to improvements in endothelial function. Endothelial dysfunction is a number one contributor to heart disease because of the inability of the endothelium to regulate blood pressure and blood clotting. In fact, studies have shown that curcumin is equally effective at improving endothelial function as exercise and certain drugs. With the blood vessels performing at optimal levels, the risk for heart disease is drastically lowered.
6. Tackling Alzheimer’s
For anybody who has first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s disease, it is heartbreaking and painful. This disease is the most common of the neurodegenerative diseases and there is no cure. The focus of research now is in prevention, since treatment is not currently an option.
Curcumin has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it is ideal to fight against Alzheimer’s. Both of these play a big role in the development of this disease. The amyloid plaques that build up and are the main contributors are cleared by curcumin. While research is still needed, there is definite possibility in the use of turmeric for fighting this terrible neurodegeneration.
7. Neurological power
Our neurons have the ability to form new connections and in some areas of the brain, they can even divide and multiply. The main driver in this process is BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which is a growth hormone. Decreased levels of this hormone have been linked to depression and diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Curcumin has been found to increase levels of BDNF which can essentially delay and maybe reverse degeneration of the brain. Although it has yet to be tested, it is assumed that curcumin can also improve memory and intelligence.
8. Fight against aging
If it is possible for turmeric and curcumin to fight against cancer, heart disease and brain degeneration, it stands a pretty good chance against aging. Many already take curcumin supplements to increase their longevity. At the molecular level (since inflammation and oxidation contribute to aging) it makes sense that curcumin will help, given its ability to fight these two problems.
9. Arthritis relief
Are you starting to see a trend yet? Curcumin is amazing at defeating inflammation. And what is the biggest culprit behind arthritis? That’s right; inflammation. In studies where curcumin was given to patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it proved more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug. Again, there is no need to worry about side effects when you can take a natural supplement.
10. Battling depression
There is a great deal of promise for curcumin being used to treat depression. One study worthy of note, took a three groups of patients diagnosed with depression. One group was given Prozac, the second was given curcumin and the third was given both. The results showed that curcumin led to improvements similar to Prozac and the group receiving both fared the best. What this means is that curcumin can be as effective for treating depression as the leading medications. It was also discovered that curcumin provided a boost in serotonin and dopamine levels which are the ‘happy’ neurotransmitters.
Not done yet…..
There are a number of potential benefits to taking a turmeric or curcumin supplement as discussed. With research still ongoing and much more testing to be done, it is recommended that you speak with your physician before taking any supplement. Readily available at any health food store, be sure to look for products with bioperine which enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.
Image how great it would be to fight all the ailments and diseases with a single pill that also happens to be natural and free of side effects. This is now a strong possibility and when it comes to curcumin; the best is yet to come!