I love Indian food, and one of the main ingredients in many Indian dishes is turmeric. It is made from a root that looks like ginger, but when used in cooking gives food a lush yellow color. In addition to turmeric, which is one of nature’s powerful anti-inflammatory roots, Indian food also makes wide use of various other thermogenic (heat-inducing) spices, including cardamom, coriander, ginger, cloves, chili and onion. This places Indian food high on the list of food groups that are effective at fighting inflammation and reducing pain.
Curcumin and inflammation
Inflammation is a natural and healthy response to injury, stress and infection. However, prolonged low-grade inflammation is a problem. It’s the root cause of many chronic, serious health conditions like heart disease. Curcumin, the effective component of turmeric, is proven to reduce inflammation while assisting the body in healing.
Research notes this spice’s powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. Moreover, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health note: “Laboratory and animal research has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties of turmeric and its constituent curcumin.”
Curcumin’s many benefits
Recent studies show lab animals that were prone to multiple sclerosis develop very few, if any, symptoms after being given curcumin. The journal Science reports lab tests in its April 23, 2004, issue that show curcumin can counter the genetic damage that leads to cystic fibrosis, a lung disorder. It was also shown that curcumin protects against alcohol’s damaging effects on the liver as well as harmonizing the stomach and digestion.
There are more than 5,500 peer-reviewed clinical studies demonstrating curcumin’s benefits. Recent studies suggest that turmeric is as effective as, yet safer than, more than a dozen prescription medications.
Consider these studies:
- Curcumin lowers cholesterol as good as atorvastatin (Lipitor): In 2008, the journal Drugs R D published a study comparing the effects of statin drugs and placebo with NCB-02 (a standardized preparation of curcuminoids) in patients with type 2 diabetes. For the study 72 patients with type 2 diabetes were randomized to receive two capsules containing 150 mg of curcumin twice per day, atorvastatin 10 mg once daily or placebo for a period of 8 weeks. The results: “NCB-02 had a favorable effect, comparable to that of atorvastatin, on endothelial dysfunction in association with reductions in inflammatory cytokines and markers of oxidative stress.” In other words, curcumin proved just as effective in lowering cholesterol as prescription statin drugs.
- Curcumin compares favorably to steroids: The June 1999 issue of the Phytotherapy Research reported that curcumin compared favorably to steroids in the management of chronic inflammatory eye disease, known as anterior uveitis. For the study, 375 mg of curcumin was administered orally to patients three times daily for a period of three months. The study group consisted of 52 participants divided into two groups: one group of 18 patients received curcumin alone; 14 received curcumin plus anti-tubercular treatment. Both groups of patients began improving after two weeks of treatment. All patients receiving curcumin improved, but the group also receiving the anti-tubercular therapy along with curcumin had a response rate of 86 percent. The study concluded: “The efficacy of curcumin and recurrences following treatment are comparable to corticosteroid therapy which is presently the only available standard treatment for this disease. The lack of side effects with curcumin is its greatest advantage compared with corticosteroids.”
- Curcumin reduces cancer cells: A 2004 issue of the journal Oncogene reported on curcumin’s radio-sensitizing effect in prostate cancer cells. Compared to cells that were irradiated alone, curcumin in combination with radiation showed significant enhancement to radiation-induced clonogenic inhibition, indicating that curcumin is a potent agent that acts by overcoming the effects of radiation-induced pro-survival gene expression in prostate cancer. The same issue of the journal also reported on other studies that found curcumin to have several pharmacological effects including antitumor, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Lab tests found it inhibits a broad range of cancers including mammary, duodenal and colon cancer along with TPA-induced skin tumors.
Safe and helpful
Because turmeric’s curcumin component is an anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxidant agent, it has been used for treating wounds, digestive disorders, liver issues and arthritis. Statistics also show that Asian children experience less incidence of leukemia than their Western counterparts, and it seems a diet rich in turmeric may be the reason why.
Curcumin is safer than drugs that are used to reduce inflammation and decrease pain, like ibuprofen and aspirin, because it works gently and does not strain or damage the kidneys and liver. Curcumin, the effective component of turmeric, has been shown to help reduce symptoms associated with arthritis, sports injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, Crone’s disease, tendonitis, autoimmune diseases, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.