Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow coloring. If you’re a fan of curry flavored wings, it’s also the spice that will turn your fingers yellow! Turmeric is most popular in India where it’s been used for thousands of years. Indians consider the spice a medicinal herb just as much as they view it as a tasty addition to the local cuisine.
Curcumin – The Magic Compound in Turmeric
Although there are many compounds in Turmeric, the most significant one health wise is curcumin. This compound has strong anti-inflammatory properties and also is a strong antioxidant. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and several forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s. Turmeric is only about 3% curcumin so if you want to target just that single compound, you’ll need to buy a supplement. You can find curcumin supplements on Amazon and in health food stores.
A small study of 60 adults by the National Institute of Health found promising evidence that curcumin was an effective treatment for depression. Their experiment essentially pitted curcumin against Prozac, a frequently prescribed antidepressant. The results showed that curcumin was just about as effective as Prozac without the side effects. Prozac and other prescribed antidepressants frequently cause suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of the human species. Although it’s a very complicated thing, studies have shown that it’s linked to arterial inflammation – remember that turmeric’s most powerful compound just so happens to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. A 2012 study published by the National Library of Medicine (NIH) tracked 121 patients who were scheduled to undergo bypass surgery. Part of the group were given 4 grams of curcumin per day and the remainder were given a placebo. The group that received curcumin were 65% less likely to suffer a heart attack while in the hospital.
Turmeric Might Help Prevent Brain Diseases & Age-Related Brain Deterioration
Although the jury is still out as far as solid proof is concerned, the mechanism behind many brain disorders are linked to decreased levels of a hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Both depression and Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to decreasing BDNF levels in the brain. The curcumin compound found in turmeric can help increase levels of BDNF in the brain.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
According to WebMD: One of the significant health benefits of turmeric was shown in studies which indicated that turmeric extract taken as a supplement can reduce total cholesterol including the LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. The studies were done on overweight people who already had high cholesterol. Even though the studies didn’t include healthy adults with normal cholesterol, it’s likely that this effect would help those adults maintain their healthy levels.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Also according to WebMD: Turmeric benefits include an effectiveness almost on par with ibuprofen for reducing osteoarthritis pain. The research was done using extracts instead of plain turmeric powder.
Increases the Antioxidant Capacity of The Body
Over the last 10 years or so, the term antioxidant has gotten a ton of airplay. To understand the effect antioxidants play in the the body, it’s necessary to discuss free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that have unpaired electrons – because of this unpaired electrons, they tend to bond with pretty much any other molecule nearby. When free radicals are in the body, they bond with important molecules like proteins and DNA. Those bonds cause damage and have been implicated in many diseases and is one of the key mechanisms to the aging process. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and hence protect your body from their damage.
As it turns out, not only is curcumin a powerful antioxidant, it also has been determined to boost the body’s own antioxidant production. This two-pronged attack could be very effective against disease and aging.
Help Prevent Cancer
Given the antioxidant properties of turmeric, it should be no surprise that diseases which are sensitive to antioxidant levels might be affected by the spice. Multiple studies have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumors. Studies have also shown that it can reduce the spread and help contribute to the death of cancerous cells[1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
The Bottom Line
Turmeric and its most powerful compound, curcumin, come with many benefits. If you’re not working it into your diet or taking a supplement, now might be the time to start. Amazon has a great variety to choose from as do most health food stores. Know of any other turmeric benefits? Share them in the comments section below.
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