Growing up in India, Turmeric is woven so much into our daily meals as a spice that we hardly think of it as anything special. Yet, it is a very important herb in our diet and Ayurveda has prescribed this for various ailments for 2000 years. The botanical name for the plant is Curcuma longa and the most important active compound in the root is called Curcumin.
There has been so much research done in the recent years that show how important this herb is in the management of many diseases. It mainly acts as a potent anti-inflammatory agent by regulating several inflammatory cytokines. In the research studies, Curcumin compounds are used which are more potent than Turmeric. To give you an idea, an average Indian eats up to 2- 2.4 gm of Turmeric in their meals per day but it only amounts to 60 -100 mg of Curcumin! Most of the benefits with Curcumin, are seen in doses of 1200- 2400 mg per day. So, you can see that it is not possible to get the same dosage with dietary intake of Turmeric especially if it is needed for treatment. Nevertheless, it is still beneficial to continue the dietary intake with every meal for long term prevention.
Curcumin can be taken to treat several conditions and I will list the most important ones below.
1) Respiratory system – Bronchitis, common cold and allergic rhinitis. In many Indian homes whenever someone has a cold or cough, they are given milk mixed with turmeric and black pepper as home remedy to be taken in one big gulp. “It tastes really awful” as per my kids. LOL! But it gets the job done.
2) GI tract- There are NIH studies showing reduction in the formation of polyps which are precursors for cancer in certain genetic conditions. It is being used for Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis and even for Peptic ulcer disease treatment.
3) Cancer prevention- Most recent studies show that Curcumin has enormous potential in the prevention and therapy of cancer. It is being used as a chemo preventive agent for those at risk for colon cancer and prostate cancer. Interesting to note that the dose of Curcumin taken in these studies was between 8 to 10 gm per day.
4) Arthritis – As an anti-inflammatory agent it is being used in patients with Rheumatic conditions and Osteoarthritis.
5) Skin- It has bactericidal effects and is a good antimicrobial agent for superficial skin wounds, acne and even for uremic pruritus for patients with kidney failure (at a dose of 1500 mg per day)
6) Depression -Did you know that few recent randomized placebo-controlled trials have shown that it is beneficial than a placebo for major depression?
Few important concepts about Curcumin intake. Our ancestors must have realized the synergism between black pepper with Turmeric as most of the home remedies are recommended that way. When taken with the pepper and with a fatty meal the absorption of Turmeric increases into the tissues up to 1000%! When taken on an empty stomach without any black pepper, its potent effect is confined to only intestinal tract. This must be kept in mind as you take the supplement for intestinal causes Vs for different organ system conditions where systemic absorption is essential. Remember that most of the benefits are seen when it is ingested consistently for more than 2 months which is the case with most of the herbs. More turmeric benefits also listed in the following site https://lyfebotanicals.com/health/turmeric-benefits/
Always know the quality of the botanicals or dietary supplements that you buy. Make sure it clearly labels the source of the harvest, potency of the ingredient, and appropriate dosage. The most important factor is to screen if they are free from chemical contaminants and third party tested and meet certain safety standards.
Always verify if the supplement interferes with any of your current medications and check with your doctor. Be aware that if you take any blood thinners and especially Coumadin, as high doses of Curcumin can interact with it and increase the bleeding risk.
Here is a recipe for Golden Milk (Turmeric Tea)- Dr.Andrew Weil’s favorite drink :
Heat 2 cups light, unsweetened coconut milk (or almond or soymilk)
Add 1/2 tablespoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
Add 1 tablespoon peeled, grated fresh turmeric
Add 3-4 black peppercorns
Heat all ingredients in a saucepan
Bring to a simmer and simmer covered for 10 minutes.
Strain and sweeten to taste (if desired)
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3. Lopresti AL, Maes M, Meddens MJ, et al. Curcumin and major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating the potential of peripheral biomarkers to predict treatment response and antidepressant mechanisms of change. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015; 25(1):38-50.
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6. Spicing up of the immune system by curcumin. J Clin Immunol. 2007 Jan;27(1):19-35. Epub 2007 Jan 9. January 2007
7. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clinical gastroenterolog and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association 4(12):1502-6 Dec, 2006