Curcuma Longa-Turmeric powder might well be the healthiest spice on Earth. Made by grinding the dried root of the Curcuma longa plant, this ancient superfood and key ingredient in curry powder has been used by Indian Ayurvedic healers for centuries. But in recent years, also the scientific community has begun to show interest in the potential health benefits of the turmeric root. Curcuma longa, and its main active component curcumin, have been evaluated as potential natural remedies for conditions like cancer, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, cataracts, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. The potential health effects of turmeric are believed to be particularly strong when you eat turmeric in combination with black pepper as piperine in black pepper boosts the effectiveness of curcumin in turmeric.
Here’s a rundown of the most interesting healing properties of turmeric powder, many of which have been proven by scientific studies:
Allergy-Fighting Properties of Turmeric Proven by Studies
Curcumin, the primary active compound in turmeric root powder, has been reported to inhibit histamine release from mast cells. As histamine can trigger eczema outbreaks, turmeric is a great food for eczema sufferers. Histamine is also known to increase inflammation and cause constriction of smooth muscles in some people with asthma, which is why it’s not surprising that turmeric is also considered one of the best foods for fighting asthma. In addition to offering potential health benefits for asthma and eczema sufferers, turmeric root may be beneficial for anyone with an allergy-related condition.
Much of the anti-histamine and anti-allergenic power of turmeric has been attributed to the strong antioxidant properties of this superfood. However, a study published in the August 2005 issue of the journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that also other factors may contribute to the extraordinary allergy-fighting properties of turmeric.
Turmeric’s Benefits for the Skin
Ayurvedic healers and other practitioners of traditional medicine have used both fresh and ground turmeric to treat some skin conditions, including acne and psoriasis. Also anecdotal reports suggest that eating turmeric and other foods that contain curcumin might offer benefits for acne and psoriasis sufferers. However, long-lasting, placebo-controlled studies are still needed to prove (or disprove) turmeric’s potential benefits for acne and psoriasis patients.
Curcuma – The “Longevity Spice”
A study published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in June 2004 found that supply of tetrahydrocurcumin, a metabolite of curcumin, could increase rats’ average life span by 12%. Another study found that curcumin from turmeric could increase the life span of roundworms. The life span prolonging properties of curcumin in roundworms were attributed to its antioxidant properties and not to its antimicrobial properties. This study appeared in the October 2011 issue of the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development.
Benefits of Turmeric Root for Arthritis Sufferers
Numerous studies have documented the strong anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis properties of turmeric powder. According to a study published in the November 2006 issue of the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, the three main curcuminoids in turmeric are responsible its its anti-arthritis effects. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, swap your morning coffee for a cup of anti-arthritis turmeric tea, and see if it helps.
Curcuma – Anti-Cancer Effects
Turmeric may also be one of the best cancer fighting foods. Both in vitro and animal studies have shown curcumin to possess wide-ranging anti-cancer activity. For example, curcumin appears to be capable of identifying potential cancer cells and inducing self-destruction of such harmful cells (process known as “apoptosis”). Compounds in turmeric may also be able to inhibit nitrosamine formation and aflatoxin production – two processes that have been associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer.
Curcuma -Turmeric May Help Keep Your Heart Healthy, Too
An animal study published in the February 2008 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that curcumin from the turmeric root may prevent and even reverse cardiac hypertrophy (abnormal enlargement of the heart). Cardiac hypertrophy has been associated with an increased risk for high blood pressure and heart attacks. Also several other animal studies have shown curcumin to provide cardiovascular benefits. Large-scale human studies, however, are still lacking in this area.
Curcuma -Turmeric and Ulcerative Colitis
The December 2006 issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology reported the findings of a randomized, double-blind, multicenter trial that found curcumin to be effective at preventing the recurrence of ulcerative colitis. All the patients recruited for this study were symptom-free at the onset of the trial. Of the 43 patients who received curcumin (plus sulfasalazine or mesalamine) daily during the 6-month trial, only 2 (or 5%) experienced a flare-up. By contrast, 8 of the 39 patients who received a placebo (plus sulfasalazine or mesalamine) experienced a relapse.
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine. The symptoms are similar to many other gastrointestinal disorders, most notably Crohn’s disease, and may include abdominal pain, malabsorption, and weight loss.
Curcumin May Boost Eye Health
Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness in adults. Certain diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, can accelerate the development of cataracts in susceptible individuals, while certain nutrients and phytochemicals can help prevent the development of cataracts. A study published in the July 2005 edition of the journal Molecular Vision, for example, found that curcumin was capable of delaying the progression and maturation of cataracts in diabetic rats.
Turmeric and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by cognitive decline and dementia, is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. The incidence of this neurodegenerative disease is much lower in India where turmeric root is commonly consumed in the form of curry. This observation let a team of scientists from Singapore to examine the relationship between curry consumption and cognitive function in elderly Asians. Their findings, published in the November 2006 edition of American Journal of Epidemiology, were interesting but not surprising: the study participants who ate curry “occasionally” and “often or very often” had significantly better MMSE scores (measures of cognitive function) than those who “never or rarely” ate curry.
While the results of this study do not prove that it is the turmeric in curry that helps prevent cognitive decline in the elderly, other studies suggest that turmeric has several properties that could make it effective at preventing Alzheimer’s disease. These include, but are not limited to, the ability of turmeric to fight inflammation, to reduce oxidative stress (due to its strong antioxidant activity), and to inhibit the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.