Turmeric is a spice from India with powerful medicinal properties. The root of turmeric contains curcuminoids which have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic and anticancer activities. Curcumin has been found to inhibit tumor growth in animal models. It may help prevent or delay the onset of cancer and it can also slow down its progression. Turmeric is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat various diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, rheumatism and other inflammatory conditions. In addition, recent studies have shown that turmeric can be used to prevent cancer.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a rhizome (underground stem) of a plant of the ginger family. The plant is native to India and Pakistan but has become naturalized in other parts of the world. It is also known as Indian saffron, Indian potato or simply Saffron. The herb is used for its yellow color and its pungent taste. The rhizome is used as a cooking spice and also as a dye. The dried rhizome is used as a ornamental plant in gardens.
Turmeric is one of the oldest herbs known to man. In fact, the use of the herb dates back to 10,000 B.C. The ancient Egyptians and the Sumerians also used the herb as a dye and for it medical properties.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote about the healing properties of the herb. In fact, turmeric is mentioned in many ancient writings and religious writings. Turmeric was also used as a medicine by the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans.
The herb was later forgotten when Europeans invaded and colonized India. However, the Indian people never forgot about the herb. It wasn’t until the British colonized India that the herb became well known again.
The rhizome of the plant was used as a dye in the manufacture of textiles. The yellow color gave the fabric its name, which comes from the Old English word turner which means “yellow”.
The pungent taste of the herb was easily recognizable, so the rhizome was used to flavor curries and other dishes. The British colonists who arrived in India in the 1600s first noticed the herb’s curative properties. They soon began using it to treat stomach complaints and other minor wounds.
The British East India Company became the largest importer of the herb. They sent it back to England to be used in the manufacture of fabric and to flavor food. Soon, it became popular as a medicine.
The herb was used to treat a wide variety of complaints. It was believed to increase milk production in women and to increase sexual desire in men. It was also used to treat coughs, colds, and tuberculosis. It was even used to treat female complaints such as pain during childbirth and menstrual cramps.
In addition to these traditional uses, the herb was also used to treat a variety of non-traditional complaints. For example, turmeric was believed to cure “weak eyesight” and was used to treat conjunctivitis.
How Does Turmeric Work?
Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a yellow pigment. Curcumin has a variety of effects in the body, and one of its actions is to suppress the immune system. The immune suppressing action of curcumin might explain why it has so many medical uses. Turmeric is not just a culinary spice, it could be a valuable part of your health regimen.
In laboratory tests, curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects. A small human study tested the herb in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers found that 6 weeks of treatment with curcumin improved disease activity in patients, and prevented the disease from advancing.
Curcumin also has powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. It protects against DNA damage and oxidative stress, which can lead to the development of several different types of cancer.
In laboratory tests, curcumin has been shown to kill a wide variety of cancer cells, including those that have become resistant to other forms of treatment. It is also shown to slow the growth of cancer cells. There are currently clinical trials being done that will test curcumin’s effectiveness at killing various types of cancer.
Other possible health benefits of curcumin include the following:
Research is still in the early stages, but there is evidence that turmeric and curcumin may help with the following:
A Word of Caution
Turmeric and curcumin have many potential health benefits, but they may also have some risks. Before using either of these herbs, it is important to talk to your doctor.
Your doctor will discuss whether curcumin is right for you, and if so, the best dose. It is also important to talk to your doctor about any other dietary restrictions (such as taking a turmeric pill with a food that you are allergic to).
Curcumin may interact with some medicines. Tell your doctor or pharmacist of all prescription and over-the-counter medicine that you are taking.
It is very important to NOT use more than the recommended dose.
When using either of these herbs, it is VERY important to stop using it at least six weeks before a planned surgery.
It is also important to know that neither of these herbs are a substitute for good medical care. If you have to be in the hospital, you will still need to see a doctor.
Learn more about this herb and its use in this article: “The Healing Power of Turmeric”.
You can also try this natural supplement that contains Curcumin.
While all of these have been proven effective in the lab or in small human studies, more research is needed.
So, which of these herbs do you think you should start using?
Please vote and share your thoughts in the comment section below.
- Turmeric: An overview of potential health benefits (K Singletary – Nutrition Today, 2010 – journals.lww.com)
- Turmeric (R Buescher, L Yang – IFT BASIC SYMPOSIUM SERIES, 2000 – books.google.com)
- Traditional Indian spices and their health significance (K Krishnaswamy – Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 2008 – repository.ias.ac.in)
- Turmeric: the genus Curcuma (PN Ravindran, KN Babu, K Sivaraman – 2007 – books.google.com)
- Nutritional and health benefits of curcumin (D Jovičić, A Jozinović, M Grčević… – Hrana u zdravlju i …, 2017 – hrcak.srce.hr)
- Uses of turmeric in dentistry: An update (TP Chaturvedi – Indian Journal of Dental Research, 2009 – jcd.org.in)