Benefits of turmeric and its properties

Conscious TV

September 29, 2020


If you usually cook with curry, you could sprinkle a little extra turmeric on your meal. Research shows what countries like India and Sri Lanka have known for centuries: that this orange spice does more than just enhance the flavour of meals. Used for more than 4,000 years to treat numerous ailments, curcumin - the active substance in turmeric - could help prevent dementia and cancer.

According to the 2009 World Alzheimer's Report, 3.6 per cent of South Asians aged 60 and over suffer from dementia, compared to 6.4 per cent in Australia and 7.2 per cent in Western Europe. The WHO also notes that the incidence of cancer in India is significantly lower than in most developed countries, such as the United States.

Is this due to turmeric? Cancer researcher Ralph W. Moss thinks so. He claims that turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in tumours and is a potent antioxidant. But before you start taking it by the spoonful, listen to Australian nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan: "Curcumin is just an antioxidant and it may have a role to play, but I don't think there is a super remedy that solves everything.

Also, many of the studies have been conducted on animals and in laboratories, so for Western medicine the evidence is inconclusive. Nevertheless, turmeric has been used in Chinese and Indian medicines for centuries for its remarkable benefits. While more research is needed, here are seven healthy reasons to start sprinkling it on your dishes.

It prevents Alzheimer's disease

Researchers believe that curcumin's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may be strong enough to break down amyloid plaques in the brain, which are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. "If the blood vessels remain unobstructed, then oxygen would be better able to reach certain parts of the brain, so its function would improve," explains Hourigan. The University of California Alzheimer's Research Center is planning clinical trials in people.

It helps prevent cancer

In his book The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth (Fair Winds), nutritionist Jonny Bowden states that there are at least 30 studies showing that curcumin has anti-tumour effects, "either by reducing the number or size of tumours or the percentage of animals that develop tumours".

Although more research needs to be done in people, Bowden points to a 2006 study showing that curcumin inhibits the growth of colon cancer in people. A study in New Jersey found that, when combined with vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, turmeric could help treat and prevent prostate cancer.

There are also indications that it may help prevent breast, skin and pancreatic cancer, as well as childhood leukaemia and multiple myeloma. "Although no one claims that turmeric cures cancer, there is ample evidence to suggest that it is a very useful addition to healthy diets for patients," says Bowden.

It reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Curcumin, says Bowden, also has a favourable effect on cholesterol, and animal studies show that it may lower cholesterol and prevent the formation of LDL ('bad') cholesterol in the arteries. There are therefore indications that it may be useful in preventing the formation of plaques (atherosclerosis) that block arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes.

It fights inflammatory diseases

Turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties mean it may work like some anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects. Some studies show that it may be useful in cases of eye inflammation (uveitis), inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) and multiple sclerosis.

One study, using a formula containing turmeric, showed that it reduces pain and problems associated with osteoarthritis, although it has not yet been studied in isolation.

It is effective against colds and flu

Preliminary studies show that turmeric can help reduce the intensity of bacterial and viral infections.

It fights indigestion and lose weight.

Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder and bile production. Because bile helps digest fats, experts believe it improves digestion and may help with weight loss. At least one study has shown it to be helpful in cases of indigestion by reducing gas and bloating.

It helps people with diabetes

Turmeric can improve glucose levels or insulin activity. In animal studies, it has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. If you add turmeric to your dishes, Hourigan recommends that you monitor your blood sugar level. Combining it with diabetes medication could cause your blood sugar to drop too low, leading to hypoglycaemia.