Turmeric has a culturally rich history. It has made its strong presence in both Ayurvedic medicine and world of exotic spices. It is revered in many cultures as a symbol of beauty, prosperity and health. Curcumin is a powerful fat soluble active compound in turmeric that gives it its bright yellow color. Research shows that this anti-inflammatory molecule might have numerous therapeutic effects on our body, both on a physical and psychological level.
5 Powerful Benefits of Curcumin
1. Strong Anti-inflammatory Compound
Research shows that the anti inflammatory properties of curcumin matche some potent anti-inflammatory medical drugs such as Motrin, Hydrocortisone and Phynylbutazone. It can significantly help those who suffer from pancreatitis, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and some types of cancers.
Here are two ways Curcumin helps lower inflammation: (1.) by inhibiting NF-kB and COX-2 from turning on the inflammation gene within our cells (2) by suppressing the effects of inflammation mediating enzymes such as Protein kinase C.
2. Powerful Antioxidant Properties
Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons, which makes them highly chemically reactive towards other substances that they come in contact with. They can cause cellular damage leading to premature aging and diseases such as cancer. Free radicals can also cause joint inflammation, resulting in arthritis. Antioxidants work by neutralizing the free radicals and suppressing their dangerous chain reaction that damages and injures the cells of our body.
The chemical structure of Curcumin makes it a very powerful antioxidant. It also makes our body’s own antioxidant enzymes, such as GSH and glutamate-cysteine ligase, much more powerful.
3. Protects and Stimulates Brain Functioning
Brain -derived Neurotrophic Factor (or BDNF) is a protein found in brain. Its main functions include protecting the existing neurons and stimulating the growth of new ones through a process called Neurogenesis. Low levels of BDNF can cause Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other age related degenerative processes.
Research shows that Curcumin boosts the levels of BDNF, and increases spatial memory. It crosses the blood brain barrier, and inhibits the aggregation of Amyloid-B (which can otherwise cause Alzhiemers) by binding it self to it. The anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties provide extra protection to the brain cells. It also stimulates the elimination of already formed Amyloid beta plaques. In healthy patients, this is a natural process carried out by macrophages, but this activity is highly suppressed among patients affected by Alzheimer’s. Thus, Curcumin can re-stimulate this clean up process.
4. Shields Heart from Various Diseases
Vascular endothelium, the cells that line the inner surface of blood vessels play a very important role when it comes to regulating blood pressure, coagulation, inflammatory responses, vessel tone and more. Endothelium dysfunction can inhibit the normal functioning of our heart. Curcumin protects heart by reducing inflammation and destroying free radicals. It promotes vascular endothelial functioning.
Curcumin also has a cholesterol lowering effect. It stimulates the production of messenger proteins (mRNA) that helps create more receptors for LDL. With more receptors for bad cholesterol, the liver is able to eliminate more LDL from our system.
5. Fights Cancer
Curcumin destroys cancer cellswhile promoting the functioning of the healthy ones. It suppresses angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels in cancerous cells). It inhibits proliferation of cancer cells (Metastasis). One way it does this is by enhancing the functioning of liver. It also promotes the destruction of mutated cells through a natural process of apoptosis (programmed cell death), to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body. It suppresses the production of inflamed prostaglandin that plays a critical role in the formation of tumors. Curcumin can help with Prostate cancer, colon caner, breast cancer, Leukemia and more.
What is the best dosage of Curcumin?
Turmeric only has 3% curcumin. Not just that but curcumin is not very easily absorbed by our body. Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, enhances the absorption of curcumin. So include a dash of black pepper in your turmeric infused dish.
For those with cancer or other inflammatory diseases, a high dose of Curcumin will be required to see effects. Some studies show that 3.6 grams of Curcumin gives the best results. But turmeric only has about 3% curcumin, and when taken raw your body only absorbs about 1% of it.
So include it in your cooking. It’s a fat loving molecule and its flavor will make any dish much more delicious. By cooking with it, along with other healthy fat and oil, you increase the bioavailability and absorption level of curcumin. This is way more efficient than having it raw.
I hope this article convinced you to add this vibrant yellow spice to your cooking. Although primarily used in South Asian dishes, it is slowly making its entry into the West, and I hope after reading this article, Turmeric finds its way into your diet.
Please tell us in the comments below if you have ever had turmeric before.