Find A Powerful Solution To Pain And Inflammation In Your Spice Rack

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Natives of south Asia discovered turmeric (curcuma longa) thousands of years ago and learned they could transform the plant rhizome into the bright yellow powder by boiling it, then drying and grinding it. We continue to cook with Turmeric in this form today and use it to spice up many recipes such as Indian curry and Thai dishes.   If you have ever cooked with Turmeric powder you quickly learn the reason why it was once used as a dye–It has an amazing ability to turn everything in its path a wonderful shade of yellow.  It should come as no surprise that it is used to give mustard its signature staining yellow color. Its value goes far beyond being just a pretty culinary spice, however.

In addition to spicing up food, turmeric has been used as a medicine, successfully treating a variety of ailments for thousands of years. Much recent research on the medicinal properties of turmeric has focused on isolating different components of the plant such as the volatile oils and yellow orange pigments, or curcumin. For this reason most turmeric supplements contain concentrated curcumin.  This is not to say that other parts of the plant are not valuable, but these are the most widely studied.

So why has everyone been so excited about turmeric for thousands of years?  Conventional scientific research is finally catching up with traditional use of the plant to show the how it acts on cells to create powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  Essentially it acts like a natural version of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin and ibuprofen or even hydrocortisone.  However, unlike these medications it is safe even at high doses without the adverse effects and actually protects your cells from damage.  Finding a treatment for pain and inflammation that is safe, non-addictive and without the side effects of stomach bleeds, suppressed immune system, autoimmune disease, kidney and liver damage is nothing short of a miracle. This makes turmeric a great alternative to conventional pain and inflammation medications like NSAIDS, especially considering turmeric can effectively treat the side effects of NSAIDs. It’s a win-win.

Research shows turmeric is extremely effective at preventing and treating osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, cancer, cataracts, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, metabolic disease, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, high cholesterol, gastric inflammation and ulcers, kidney disease, skin conditions . . .  basically any disease involving inflammation which is the very definition of chronic disease. In fact, over 5000 articles came up when I did a search of curcumin studies that have been published in peer-reviewed medical journal articles which gives you some idea that scientists simply cannot get enough of turmeric either.

You may wonder why turmeric supplements of curcumin are so expensive when the spice is so cheap. As with most things, essentially you are getting what you pay for. Turmeric powder consists of 3% curcumin while a concentrated supplement may be standardized to be 95% curcumin. The higher concentration of curcumin is likely to create a stronger therapeutic effect.   Another consideration when choosing a supplement is how readily absorbed the supplement is. Turmeric by itself I not readily absorbed but research has shown that adding black pepper (piperine), or a phosopholipid complex are two of the ways to increase the absorption rate and creating a better response from the supplement. So instead of ingesting a couple pounds of turmeric you get to take 1 tsp. or 2 pills of supplement for the same effect. That being said, even if you are taking a concentrated curcumin supplement you should also include turmeric in your diet because there are likely many beneficial constituents in it that work synergistically and these are not included in supplements.

So who is hungry now after all this talk of turmeric? Bring on the Indian curry dishes and turmeric tea.

If you are interested in taking a turmeric/curcumin supplement I highly recommend you talk to a health care provider–such as a Naturopathic Doctor–who is an expert in herbal medicine and drug-herb-nutrient interactions. The provider will be able to guide you in choice of supplement, dose and make considerations and recommendations based on your individual health history.  

Resources

 AAPS J. 2013 Jan;15(1):195-218. doi: 10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8. Epub 2012 Nov 10.Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials.Gupta SC, Patchva S, Aggarwal BB. hyungbty Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1901 East Road, Unit # 1950, Houston, TX 77054

Oncol Rep. 2013 Feb 27. doi: 10.3892/or.2013.2310. [Epub ahead of print] Synergistic anticancer effects of curcumin and resveratrol in Hepa1-6 hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Du Q, Hu B, An HM, Shen KP, Xu L, Deng S, Wei MM Department of Oncology and the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Oncology, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 200032, P.R. China.

l Nutr Food Res. 2013 Feb 18. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201200718. [Epub ahead of print] Curcumin, a potential therapeutic candidate for retinal diseases. Wang LL, Sun Y, Huang K, Zheng L. College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, P. R. China.

Br J Pharmacol. 2013 Feb 20. doi: 10.1111/bph.12131. [Epub ahead of print]Curcumin: An Orally Bioavailable Blocker of TNF and Other Pro-inflammatory Biomarkers. Aggarwal BB, Gupta SC, Sung B. Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Biofactors. 2013 Jan;39(1):78-87. doi: 10.1002/biof.1074. Epub 2013 Jan 22. Curcumin and obesity. Bradford PG. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

Am J Chin Med. 2013;41(1):59-70. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X13500055. Curcumin as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease: a study of the effects of curcumin on hippocampal expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein. Wang Y, Yin H, Wang L, Shuboy A, Lou J, Han B, Zhang X, Li J. Department of Neurology, The 148th Hospital, Zibo, Shandong 255300, China.

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2006 Jan-Feb;30(1):45-51. Curcumin, an atoxic antioxidant and natural NFkappaB, cyclooxygenase-2, lipooxygenase, and inducible nitric oxide synthase inhibitor: a shield against acute and chronic diseases. Bengmark S. Institute of Hepatology, University College, London Medical School, London, United Kingdom.

Mol Pharm. 2007 Nov-Dec;4(6):807-18. Epub 2007 Nov 14. Bioavailability of curcumin: problems and promises. Anand P, Kunnumakkara AB, Newman RA, Aggarwal BB. Cytokine Research Laboratory and Pharmaceutical Development Center, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.

 

July 10, 2013

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