Thursday, April 07, 2011

Healthy Living: Spice it up with turmeric

It is back to the future for ancient herbal remedies being re-examined by modern medicine for their legendary therapeutic properties. Turmeric is what imparts the characteristic vibrant yellow hue to curry and is an ancient spice highly prized as one of the most versatile of natural remedies.

This powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat maladies ranging from digestive upsets to arthritis. Curcumin is the principal component in turmeric and has been the subject of numerous studies as a treatment for a broad range of maladies.

Cancer -- Curcumin has potent antioxidant properties shown to reduce swelling and inflammation and is explored for its benefits in the treatment and prevention of a number of cancers, including colon, prostate and breast cancer.1 Researchers are studying curcuminoids because inflammation is implicated in cancer.

Arthritis -- Curcumin performs as well as traditional anti-inflammatory drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and post-operative inflammation; resulting in significant improvement while producing no side effects.2

Liver disease -- Turmeric has long been considered a natural liver detoxifier, and the latest research suggests curcumin may slow the progress of liver diseases. Researchers examined how a pinch of turmeric protected mice from inflammation in their bile channels from liver damage.3 These early stage findings indicate that liver damage; jaundice and scarring were all diminished by curcumin.

Alzheimer’s disease -- A growing body of evidence indicates that curcumin can play an essential role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Studies suggest that active ingredients in turmeric boost the activity of the immune system in AD patients, which helps to clear the beta amyloid plaques, characteristic of this neurodegenerative disease.4

Coronary heart disease -- Curcumin, a potent antioxidant, has been shown to lower cholesterol, which builds up in plaques that damage blood vessels and can lead to heart attack or stroke.5 Turmeric is also a good source of vitamin B6, which is necessary for controlling high homocysteine levels in the blood, which pose a significant risk for blood vessel damage, plaque build-up and heart disease. A diet high in vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Diabetes -- Studies have shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may be an effective treatment for type2 diabetes. Scientists investigating the effect of curcumin on diabetes found curcumin to be a potential glucose-lowering agent and antioxidant with merit for type2 diabetes.6

Cystic fibrosis -- Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disease. Scientists are investigating the ability of curcumin to correct a mutation of a particular gene called CFTR and improve lung function in patients with Cystic Fibrosis.7 In a study at Yale University School of Medicine, curcumin was shown to correct cystic fibrosis defects and significantly cut deaths among mice with the disease.8 The discovery prompted the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to fund further studies with patients.

Turmeric is related to ginger and often recommended to improve digestion. In India, women use turmeric paste to remove excess body hair and as a home remedy for sunburn. From heartburn to sunburn peptic ulcers and gallstones, the home remedies for turmeric over the ages are too numerous to mention.

While scientists continue to explore the amazing health benefits of this ancient remedy, include this golden spice in your diet to improve your health and perk up your palate.

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