CURCUMIN – HEALTH BENEFITS*
Curcumin is the main active ingredient of the spice tumeric. Tumeric (curcuma longa), is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. The rhizomes are boiled for several hours, then dried in hot ovens, then ground into a deep orange-yellow powder which is used as a spice in curries and other spicy dishes from India, Asia and the Middle East.
Pure curcumin is obtained by solvent extraction from dried turmeric roots. Tumeric contains up to 5% curcumin.
Curcumin is what gives tumeric its characteristic bright orange-yellow colour and strong taste, which is slightly bitter, with a slightly hot peppery flavour as well as a mustard-like smell.
There are three curcuminoids of turmeric. Curcumin is the most important one, responsible for the therapeutic benefits. The other two curcuminoids are demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
Like many herbal remedies, tumeric was first used as a food and only later was it discovered that the active ingredient, curcumin, had impressive medicinal properties.
Curcumin has the following properties:
- antimicrobial (antiviral and antifungal)
It has also been used:
- in cardiovascular disease
- in gastrointestinal disorders
- as a treatment for the liver.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
· Antioxidant and Free Radical Scavenger
In the body, curcumin functions as a free radical scavenger. It also reduces free radical production, functioning as an antioxidant.
Free radicals can be regarded as chemical by-products of normal cellular metabolism. Apart from normal cellular metabolism resulting in free-radical formation, free radicals are also formed by environmental factors such as pollution (for example, car exhaust fumes), cigarette smoke (including second hand smoke), herbicides, pesticides and fungicides and other chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the plethora of chemicals in our foods such as colourings, flavourings, preservatives etc. Radiation, including ultraviolet radiation from the sun, is another cause of free radical formation, and stress is yet another cause.
Free radicals cause damage to many components of a cell, including the cell wall, the mitochondria and DNA. DNA is the highly complex compound of which our genes are composed. When enough DNA is damaged, cells begin to die. Free-radical damage is referred to as an oxidation. The substances which protect against free-radical damage (“oxidation”) in the body are called ‘antioxidants’.
For full details about free radicals and antioxidants, see my January 2007 newsletter Free Radicals - Antioxidants.
· Curcumin and Cancer
In experiments on tumours, curcumin was shown to “directly and irreversibly” affect the growth of new cancers. It appears to suppress the onset of tumours as well as their growth and metastasis. Curcumin is said to be “an exciting compound because it can be taken orally and may not have any side effects for cancer patients.”
Studies have shown benefit in the treatment of lung, prostate, breast and colorectal cancers. Detailed references (14) can be found at www.cucumin.net.
Basically, curcumin appears to arrest cancer cells, stopping them before they can grow and spread throughout the rest of the organ and into the rest of the body.
· Curcumin and Cardiovascular Disease
Curcumin has been shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol and reducing lipid peroxidation. These are heart disease risk factors.
· Curcumin and Gastrointestinal Disease
Curcumin inhibits the growth of Helicobacter pylori, which is a cause of gastric ulcers and has been linked to gastric cancer.
It is also said to be beneficial for indigestion and the treatment of upper abdominal pain due to functional disorders of the gall bladder and bile system.
Reported side effects are uncommon and are generally limited to mild stomach distress.
Curcumin was found to be safe in human clinical trials with doses up to 10,000mg (10g) per day.
There is no minimum daily requirement for curcumin. The recommended dose is 400mg to 600mg of curcumin, 3 times a day.
www.iherb.com lists and supplies many different brands of varying strengths, mainly 500mg to 800mg, generally as capsules.
Tumeric, with its active ingredient curcumin, is widely used as a spice in foods.
Curcumin has therapeutic potential as outlined above. The use of curcumin as a supplement in the management of cancer must only be undertaken under the supervision of the appropriate medical specialist.
*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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