By Dr Shalini Singhal
(Photo © Benefit Publishing Pvt Ltd)
It can protect you from heart disease, ageing, dementia & depression
So desirable are the healing powers of the golden powder called ‘Turmeric’ that a tug-of-war has ensued between the First World and India over patent rights for it. In 1993, the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in the US filed an application for a patent at the US Patent and Trade Office for the use of turmeric powder as a wound-healing agent. The patent was not granted but attempts are rife to claim the medicinal spice.
The most well known medicinal action of turmeric is its use as a powerful anti-inflammatory, the effectiveness of which is comparable to pharmaceutical medicines. However, it also acts as an analgesic (pain reliever), antibacterial, anti-tumour, anti-allergic, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic and also as an astringent.
Following are the top six health benefits of turmeric:
1 Potent Anti-Inflammatory
Turmeric contains bioactive (having an effect on a living organism) compounds with powerful medicinal properties called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a potent antioxidant. It can inhibit several molecules known to play a major part in inflammation. It counters multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway at the molecular level, and blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes responsible for causing inflammation. NF-kB is believed to play a key role in causing many chronic diseases.
2 Rejuvenating Antioxidant
Turmeric significantly increases the antioxidant capacity of the body. Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind ageing and many diseases. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals (an atom or molecule that has a single unpaired electron in an outer shell) due to its chemical structure.
Curcumin also invigorates the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Thus, curcumin proves to be a double edged sword against free radicals. It blocks them directly, then activates the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms. Therefore, regular intake of turmeric can help the body combat free radicals and protect it against diseases and cell damage.
3 Sharpens Brain Function, Improves Alzheimer’s Disease & Depression
Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein in the brain, which is important for long term memory. The boost provided by Curcumin increases the growth of new neurons in the brain and fights degenerative processes.
Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier (a selective permeable barrier that
separates the circulating blood in the brain from brain fluid) and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Research points out incredible benefits of curcumin in abating depression. Researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, conducted a study comparing the effects of curcumin and Prozac (fluoxetine). The study concluded turmeric was as effective as Prozac in treating major depressive disorders but sans the dangerous side effects often associated with Prozac usage.
4 Prevents Heart Disease & Cancer
Heart attacks and strokes are caused by plaque buildup in the arteries or due to high cholesterol levels. Several studies have found that turmeric can prevent buildup of plaque, thereby preventing onset of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).
Turmeric is also a steady campaigner against cancer. It can help prevent (and perhaps even treat) the deadly disease. Researchers believe the spice can hamper cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level.
5 Improves Arthritis
Studies vouch that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, injuries, trauma, and stiffness. A research conducted in Italy on patients with osteoarthritis involved half the participating patients consuming turmeric, while the other half continued with prescribed medication.
After 90 days, researchers found a 58 percent decrease in overall reported pain and stiffness in the first lot, with turmeric-consuming patients showing a 300 percent improvement in emotional well being as well.
6 Betters Respiratory Function
Another major blessing of turmeric is its support of the respiratory system. As an antioxidant, it protects the lungs from pollution and toxins. It also helps the oxygen travel from the lungs to the blood. Studies illustrate that curcumin plays a protective role in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lung injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and allergic asthma.
Therefore, dear reader, you must remember to take turmeric everyday to ensure you live a little bit longer and a lot better! The recommended quantity for adults is 1 to 3 gm. The easiest way to incorporate turmeric into your diet is through the food you prepare. Otherwise, simply add to a warm glass of milk and drink up.
The author is Founder & Chief Nutritionist, Dr Shalini’s Diet & Wellness, New Delhi. She is a Doctorate in Nutrition, with over 17 years of experience in the Nutrition Solutions Industry