Turmeric is a commonly used herb, with an amazing therapeutic potential which modern science is discovering. Turmeric is a major ingredient of curry powder and is also used in prepared mustard. It is used for its flavour and colour. It is used both in Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory herb in the treatment of numerous conditions including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain and colic.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the ginger family and is cultivated extensively in India, china, Indonesia and tropical countries.
Turmeric effects on the body have been described in the following terms:
- An effective antioxidant
- A cardiovascular protectant
- Hepatoprotective ( protects the liver)
Antioxidant effects: because of its bright yellow color and antioxidant properties, curcumin extracted from turmeric is used in butter, margarine, cheese and other food products to stop the fats going rancid. Turmeric anti-inflammatory effect is stronger than vitamin E but slightly weaker than vitamin C.
Anticarcinogenic effects: the antineoplastic effects of turmeric have been demonstrated at all steps of carcinogenesis; initiation, promotion and progression. In addition to inhibiting the development of cancer, several studies suggest that curcumin can also promote cancer regression.
In one human study 16 chronic smokers were given 1.5g of turmeric daily while a group of 6 non smokers served as a control group.
At the end of a 30 day trial, the smokers receiving the turmeric demonstrated significant reduction in the level of mutagens excreted in the urine.
These results are quite significant as the level of urinary mutagens is thought to correlate with the systemic load of carcinogens and the efficiency of detoxification mechanisms.
Inflammation: turmeric has been used in Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine, both locally and internally, in the treatment of sprains and inflammation.
In trials using turmeric and NSAID’s for treatment of joint pain and stiffness. Turmeric was found to be as effective as the NSAID’s used.
However, although NSAID’s are associated with significant adverse effects, curcumin has not been shown to produce any side effects at the recommended dose.
Cardiovascular effects: the effects of turmeric and curcumin on the cardiovascular system include the lowering of cholesterol levels and the inhibition of Platelet Aggregation (making the blood thinner). This is of great significance in preventing Atherosclerosis and its complications.
In one small study, 10 healthy volunteers received 500mg of curcumin per day for 7 days. A significant decrease in the level of total cholesterol of 12% was observed.
Gastrointestinal effects: turmeric acts on the digestive system, easing flatulence and reducing gas formation.
Turmeric has been found to have no drug interactions to date.
Some theoretic concern has been raised due to its blood thinning effect and using blood thinning drugs such as warfarin.
The recommended dose for curcumin as an anti-inflammatory is 200-400mg 3 times a day.
To achieve a similar amount of curcumin using turmeric would require a dose of 4-40g per day.
Take with meals.