New Findings Show Disease Fighting Powers of Turmeric
Turmeric has been used in India for its powerful medicinal properties for centuries. A new study shows that turmeric has powerful healing powers. The cancer and infection fighting ability of turmeric was found by University of Michigan researchers by using a special technique that allowed scientists to watch how turmeric has earned the name “holy powder” in India.
Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric fights infection and promotes good health by entering blood cells, to keep things orderly. The findings could lead to powerful compounds that can be used to fight disease. "The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so that information flow through it can be controlled," says the study author.
The Michigan research team, led by Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, observed how curcumin in turmeric behaves inside the cell membrane, using solid-state NMR spectroscopy. The special technique allowed the researchers to watch how curcumin changes the structure of the cell membrane.
The result of the disciplinarian type action exhibited by curcumin in turmeric improves the function of the cell membrane, increasing the body’s resistance to cancer and infection. Turmeric exerts its healthy influence on cell membranes indirectly, contrary to the more commonly held belief that turmeric has a direct effect on cell membranes.
"Probing high-resolution intermolecular interactions in the messy membrane environment has been a major challenge to commonly-used biophysical techniques," says Ramamoorthy. The special NMR technique was developed by the U-M research team for use in the study that reveals exactly how curcumin in turmeric improves cells resistance to cancer and infection.
The scientists want to see if other plant compounds interact with cells the same way as curcumin. Such a comparative study could lead to the development of potent compounds to treat infection and other diseases," explains Ramamoorthy.
Interestingly, Dr. Ramamoorthy developed an interest in how proteins interact with cell membranes as the result of his own experiences. Ramamoorthy experienced firsthand how turmeric can help cure a cold, and ease congestion when he was given remedies containing turmeric as a child.
The research group is exploring other ways that curcumin might help fight diseases like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, with the same special technique his team used to find how turmeric keeps cells membranes orderly to help fight infection and malignancy.