The plant turmeric has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. It is also one of the most researched herbs (or spices, if you will) on earth. Much of this research has focused on the primary anti-inflammatory compound found in the plant, curcumin. Crude turmeric is only about 5 percent curcumin by weight, so most turmeric supplements are concentrated or "standardized" to contain 95% curcumin, this being the phytochemical generally considered to confer the greatest benefits. And the benefits do go on and on, as the fact that it is one of the best-selling single herbal supplements available today proves. The reason for this success is quite simple: it works. Most people take curcumin for its most popular attribute, reduction in inflammation, especially arthritis. The science here is irrefutable. The compound blocks an inflammatory enzyme abbreviated COX. People do notice relief from pain. The king of herbs has many other benefits as well, however, some of which we will explore.
Research has continually shown that curcumin exerts mutiple actions and many of these are directly related to reducing inflammation or simply maintaining homeostasis with regard to inflammatory processes. One area of recent interest is its proven ability to reduce and prevent elevated levels of beta-amyloid plaque accumulation in the brain, the marker for Alzheimer's disease. It is interesting to note that India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease in the world, and consumption of turmeric daily is the standard for millions of Indians. Curcumin's brain-protective qualities do not end here. It has been shown to protect brain cells from deterioration in addition to stimulating the growth of new neurons, especially in the hippocampus, the "seat of memory." Another aspect of curcumin is its ability to increase levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters serotonin, tryptophan and dopamine, thereby helping to relieve depression. In fact, curcumin has been termed as effective as pharmaceutical anti-depressant drugs.
Curcumin's profound antioxidant activity protects the body from oxidative stress. It is extremely liver-protective, helping that organ to detoxify harmful substances. Coupled with the anti-inflammatory activities it exerts, curcumin has been shown to block carcinogenic substances from causing cellular damage that ultimately results in cancer. A 2003 article published in the journal Anticancer Research said: "Extensive research over the last 50 years has indicated it can prevent and treat cancer.... Curcumin can suppress tumor initiation, promotion and metastasis." Curcumin has been also shown to increase the activity of cancer drugs, and may protect normal cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments.
Researchers have found that curcumin performs as well as the statin class of cholesterol lowering drugs. In multiple studies it lowered triglycerides and also raised heart-protective HDL, both of which contribute to reduced heart attack/disease risk. In one study, healthy humans were given 500 mg of curcumin daily for seven days. They experienced a 33% decrease in blood lipid peroxides, and a 29% decrease in serum cholesterol levels. The study's authors concluded that curcumin could lower the risk of heart disease. Here again, curcumin's powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects contribute to this protection. Cholesterol itself does not clog arteries. It is the oxidized cholesterol which becomes the problem in heart disease. The oxidized cholesterol may form the plaque which clogs arteries, restricting blood flow and possibly breaking off to cause heart attacks and strokes. Curcumin is able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the first place, thereby protecting the arteries from damage and risk.
Curcumin has been shown to be highly liver protective in many studies. One animal study feeding rats a diet simulating high alcohol consumption showed that the rats given curcumin concurrently showed none of the signs of liver damage associated with alcoholism. It also appears to increase bile secretion, thereby improving liver function and helping in the digestion of fats.
Studies in India showed that curcumin may lower blood sugar as well as increase and improve utilization of blood insulin. Through its properties curcumin may also protect against diabetes-related issues such as neuropathy and ocular conditions.
Curcumin has been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation (blood cell stickiness) as effectively as aspirin, without the unwanted negative gastrointestinal side-effects of aspirin.
Curcumin possesses wound-healing properties through multiple mechanisms. It protects collagen and blood vessels and improves their deposition and density in wounds, both important for healing. These properties may be particularly beneficial for diabetes patients who have related slow-healing ulcers and wounds. Topical application of turmeric has been shown to improve psoriasis, eczema, and even skin cancers. In addition, its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties benefit skin appearance and beauty. In the Indian tradition, turmeric pastes applied to the skin are a staple of a bride's preparations for her wedding. The recipes often include other Indian herbs such as sandalwood and amla, and flours from chickpeas and other pulses.
Evergreen Nutrition carries literally dozens of turmeric and curcumin products, both singly and in formulas. It can be a bit confusing for our customers to see the large array of products and wonder how to choose one. There are many different potencies, methods of extraction, and even added ingredients, for example, which may create questions. Each staff member is well-versed in the turmeric/curcumin selection and would be happy to help you pick a product which suits your needs and your pocketbook. As we carry such a large selection, at any given time at least several companies are on sale or special.
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The information provided here is for educational purposes only. None of the research or evidence presented here is intended as a substitute for consulting an appropriate healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have a disease condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this or any other dietary supplement.
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