There are many herbs that draw attention in medical literature, one of the most frequently mentioned is turmeric. Some of the other herbs I read about include milk thistle, ginger, garlic, ginseng and cinnamon. I’ve discovered that turmeric is likely the most important of these at fighting and reversing disease.
Turmeric is a main spice in many curries. You’ll find it in one of my favorite dishes — chicken tikka masala. I was not surprised to see that there are more than 6,000 peer-reviewed articles published proving the benefits of turmeric and curcumin, one of its healing compounds. In the last 30 years there have been over 13,000 scientific articles published related to curcumin.
These investigations have looked at the benefits as an antioxidant, in reducing inflammation, fighting cancer, regulating our immune system and supporting cardiovascular health. There is even discussion on how it affects gene transcription and communication between cells. There is definitely a high level of interest in this natural compound.
Turmeric root has long been used a yellow coloring, food spice and medicinal herb. Current thought places its first use and cultivation in India about 4,000 years ago, and it is now also grown in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and China.
There are various types of factors that respond to this compound in our bodies. Between 60 – 100 molecular targets are claimed for curcumin. As such, it has a very broad range of biological effects.
Just like Vitamins C and E, curcumin exhibits strong antioxidant activity. While they don’t seem to directly scavenge free radicals, these compounds do appear potent as chain-breaking antioxidants. They also show consistent benefit against oxidative stress as they support the glutathione and antioxidant enzyme systems.
Along with antimicrobial properties, curcumin can potentially effect various aspects of diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, including lowering fasting blood sugar and triglycerides while increasing insulin sensitivity.
Like milk thistle, or silymarin, curcumin has been found to have liver protective characteristics against toxic insults. It also has an ability to chelate some metals such as iron, copper, lead and cadmium.
It is the anti-inflammatory aspects of curcumin that I get excited about. These benefits have been shown clearly in a number of studies and trials without the side effects often attributed to other anti-inflammatory agents. This can be of benefit to those managing arthritis.
Because there are possible side effects to some of the arthritic drugs, like leaky gut and heart disease, I also like natural remedies. Curcumin can possibly eliminate the associated pain without the downsides by reducing inflammation.
Curcumin has been receiving a lot of focus because of it’s ability to reduce tumor size and kill cancer cells. Used along with chemotherapy, it was shown more cancer cells were killed than without it. Curcumin has antitumoral activities against some aggressive and recurrent cancers, including breast cancer cells.
You can easily add tumeric into your diet, but one of the problems we encounter is actually absorbing it and getting it distributed throughout our cells. To increase the bioavailability of curcumin and have it stay in circulation longer, several formulations have been prepared which include nanoparticles, liposomes and those with black pepper extract.
Studies have shown low or negligible amounts in blood after ingesting unformulated curcumin. It must survive a kind of chemical inferno through your stomachs hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. Then it needs to traverse the inner intestinal wall to get to the blood stream, but your liver tends to metabolize most of it.
With so many benefits, I like to make sure I’m actually getting as much as I can into my cells. I use the phytosome form where curcumin is bound to a phospholipid from sunflower. These lipids are desired by the body and this optimizes curcumin’s absorption over other forms, even helping it get directly into the lymphatic system, bypassing the liver. If you’d like to hear more, just stop on by.
Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug.
Photo: MichaelGaida / Pixabay