Medicinal uses and benefits of turmeric (curcumin)

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Turmeric, botanically known as Curcuma longa, is an herbaceous perennial plant with vast medicinal and therapeutic uses. This plant which is native to southern Asia has a long history of use in ayurvedic medicine, and this is not surprising, considering the rich and important constituents of this wonderful plant. Turmeric is among the most important ingredients in Asian cuisines, where it is used as a colouring agent. It is the main spice in curry, and no doubt among the herbs with exceptional healing properties.

 Curcuma-turmeric-medicinal-uses

The health benefits of this plant are mainly due to presence of certain phytochemicals, which are a group of compounds referred to as curcuminoids, among which curcumin stands out. Presently, there are over 1000 published scientific researches that have proven the potential medicinal effects of curcumin. In fact, these researches have even compared the action of turmeric to rival those of conventional medicine. Below are some of the proven effects/health benefits of turmeric:

  • Anti-depressant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Pain killer
  • Anti-coagulant
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cholesterol regulating
  • As a steroid
  • Anti-carcinogen
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal

In terms of the nutritive component, turmeric contains significant amounts of proteins, dietary fiber, vitamins such as niacin, vitamin K, C, and E, and minerals including copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.

 

Medicinal uses of turmeric

Turmeric is used in herbal medicine by thousands of people around the world, mainly in Asia. It is used extensively in traditional medicine in India. It has been proven by many published scientific researches to contain a lot of active constituents that can help reverse certain diseases. These active constituents are mainly responsible for the effects mentioned above. Moreover, its rich nutritional composition also speaks for some of its actions. Below are some of its medicinal applications:

  • Fights Arthritis

Obviously, this is due to the anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric, and it is the phytochemical curcumin that exerts this effect. Curcumin also acts as a pain killer, just perfect for what an arthritis patients need help for – inflammation and pain. In fact, many studies have proven the beneficial effect of consuming turmeric by rheumatoid arthritis patients, and shows that those patients who consume it regularly, experience a great relief from the joint pain and inflammation they are suffering.

 

A particular research conducted by Chandran B, et al, 2012, evaluated the safety and effectiveness of curcumin alone, and in combination with diclofenac sodium in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study split patients into 3 groups, and treated 1st group with curcumin only, 2nd group with diclofenac sodium only, and 3rd group with both.  Interestingly, the curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall DAS (Disease activity score) and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group.

 

  • Prevent cancer

Turmeric has been proven by many scientists around the world to prevent, and even treat cancerous growth. Of all the potential effects exerted by curcumin, its anti-carcinogenic activity is one of the most thoroughly researched topics. Current researches have proven turmeric to be an effective protector against radiation-induced tumors. Curcumin, which is the most active constituent, have shown great anti-carcinogenic effects, and seems to able to eliminate cancerous growths, and prevent more cancer cells from forming. Its anti-carcinogenic effect is best shown on breast cancer, prostate cancer, bowel cancer, and stomach cancer.

 

A research conducted by Aggarwal BB et al, 2003, proved the anticancer potential of curcumin. The research abstract says “The anticancer potential of curcumin stems from its ability to suppress proliferation of a wide variety of tumor cells, down-regulate transcription factors NF-kappa B, AP-1 and Egr-1; down-regulate the expression of COX2, LOX, NOS, MMP-9, uPA, TNF, chemokines, cell surface adhesion molecules and cyclin D1; down-regulate growth factor receptors (such as EGFR and HER2); and inhibit the activity of c-Jun N-terminal kinase, protein tyrosine kinases and protein serine/threonine kinases”.

 

  • Manage Diabetes

The consumption of turmeric can help significantly reduce the level of sugar in the blood. Not only that, turmeric also helps reduce insulin resistance, and thus, preventing the onset of type-2 diabetes. As a diabetic patient, adding turmeric to your diet can be very helpful. However, it must be done with care. Combining the consumption of turmeric along with strong medications can cause the level of sugar in the blood to become very low, a condition known as hypoglycaemia. Thus, it is advised you visit a healthcare professional before using turmeric to manage your diabetes.

 

A research conducted by Dong-wei Zhang, et al, 2013, provided the scientific basis for “traditional” curcumin and confirmed the important role of curcumin in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its associated disorders.

 

  • Reduce cholesterol level

Thanks to the curcumin present in turmeric. It can help reduce the blood cholesterol levels that can lead to serious health complications (cardiovascular disroders). Many scientific studies have proven that using turmeric just as a food seasoning can help achieve this task.

 

A research conducted by Alwi I et al, 2008, on the effect of curcumin on lipid level in patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS), revealed that “the administration of low-dose curcumin showed a trend of reduction in total cholesterol level and LDL cholesterol level in ACS patients.”

 

The use of conventional statin drugs to lower cholesterol level actually works, but comes along with side effects such as liver and kidney damage. This is the reason why using a natural alternative to lower cholesterol level is much better and safer, without any dangerous side effect. Thankfully, healthcare professionals are becoming more and more aware of this potential side effects posed by statin drugs, and this has paved way for the prescription of more natural alternatives like curcumin extract from turmeric.

 

  • Helps in wound healing

As an effective disinfectant, turmeric is used widely in speeding-up the healing of wounds. Most traditional practices make use of the turmeric powder, and apply it directly to the wounded area.

 

A study published in the journal of Life sciences, 2014, reviewed the effect of curcumin as a wound healing agent. Their results showed that “curcumin has a significant wound healing properties, and it acts on various stages of the natural wound healing process to hasten healing.”

 

 

Other medicinal applications of turmeric include:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Effective pain killer
  • Gastrointestinal treatments
  • Delay aging
  • Manage depression
  • Preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lowers risk of heart diseases
  • Improve brain function (see article)

 

Well, enough, aren’t they? This is not the end of the list, but I will be stopping here. Now, when I say turmeric is among the most powerful herbs on the planet, I bet you will reason with me.

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abbati
abbati
Abbati is a student from the department of Biological sciences, Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!

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