Turmeric as good as some prescriptions for these ten health conditions

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Turmeric Flower found in Maharashtra, India. The spice is as good as some drugs.

Kitchen spices can be good medicine. It is no longer just ‘folklore’ that seasonings we use in and on our food can heal. One spice every person should have in the kitchen or consider adding as a supplement to prevent disease and common ailments is turmeric.

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Those with existing health problems could also find help for boosting health with the curry spice that has been used in India for well-being and food flavoring for centuries.

What do studies suggests the Indian spice that contains the powerful healing ingredient curcumin might do to keep us feeling well?

In some, but certainly not all instances, you might be able to use the spice in seasoning or capsule form to lower your cholesterol, manage pain, treat eye disease or even help with treatment of liver disease.

The Indian spice has healing properties that researchers are just beginning to understand that range from pain control to boosting cancer treatment, thwarting Alzheimer’s disease, improving heart health, protecting from liver disease and more.

Health benefits of curcumin in the spice turmeric include, but may not be limited to the following, based on research studies.

Liver health

A recent study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, highlights turmeric’s protective effect on the liver – the organ of the body that rids us of toxins and is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.

Researchers at the Clinical Trial Center for Functional Foods, Chonbuk National University studied 60 people age 20 and above, all of whom had elevated markers of liver dysfunction measured by blood tests. The liver enzyme, alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was mildly to moderately high in all of the subjects tested.

Researchers gave the participants either a fermented form of turmeric or placebo. Those in the treatment group received 3.0 g per fermented turmeric powder (FTP). The study was conducted over 12-weeks.

Turmeric not only lowered levels of ALT, but also reduced levels of two other liver enzymes. The study authors concluded turmeric “… is effective and safe, generally well-tolerated without severe AEs, in the treatment of subjects with elevated ALT levels over a 12 weeks period.”

Heart health gets a boost from turmeric

Curcumin in turmeric could offer protection from stroke and heart attack. That means the kitchen spice could be also beneficial for people with diabetes who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

One study, published in 2008, tested the effect of turmeric on endothelial (lining of the blood vessels) function among people with type-2 diabetes.

In the study 72 people with diabetes were randomized to receive either two capsules containing curcumin 150 mg twice daily, the cholesterol lowering drug atorvastatin, or placebo.

Testing for blood vessel health that measure elasticity was performed at baseline and again after 8-weeks. The researchers also tested for blood markers of oxidative stress and inflammation - malondialdehyde, endothelin-1 (ET-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha).

The research finding showed significant improvement in endothelial function from taking the curcuminoid compound NCB-02 that was comparable to taking the prescription anti-cholesterol drug atorvastatin, which is marketed by the brand name Lipitor.

Pain relief

The spice was also compared to aspirin. Curcumin is a rich source of salicylic acid, found in aspirin, but the Rowett Research Institute, found the constituent in turmeric doesn’t cause ulcers or bleeding.

Eating curry spice foods that include cumin, turmeric and paprika, such as vindaloo, with a high level of spices, might help cure a headache.

Garry Duthie, one of the study's co-authors, said: "The dietary level of salicylic acid in curry is exceptionally high. I wouldn't recommend a curry a day for headaches, but it is possible that someone with a headache who is a good absorber of salicylic acid might find it went away if they had a vindaloo”. Eating curry spice might also be a good remedy for minor arthritic pains or minor pains and strains that can stop us from productivity and regular exercise.

It is important not to eat any spice or take any supplement in high doses due to unwanted side effects and interference with medications. The spice turmeric could interfere with blood thinning medications, which is an important not for anyone taking prescription drugs.

If you are intolerant of cholesterol drugs or aspirin, speak with your doctor about adding turmeric capsules – or just use the spice regularly in cooking to help keep your heart and vascular system healthy, prevent colon cancer and alleviate pain.

Colon cancer

Cancer prevention: Adding spices to food or taking turmeric as a capsule might also help prevent colon cancer. Studies have shown an aspirin a day is a good preventive medicine for colorectal cancer. Turmeric might replace aspirin with fewer side effects.

Breast cancer prevention

Curcumin could also help prevent breast cancer in women at high risk from taking hormone replacement therapy. University of Missouri scientists studied the spice in mice, finding it inhibited a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) known to promote and support hormone related tumors and other types of cancer. The spice also helped reduce changes in breast tissue linked to cancer.

Alzheimer’s disease

Research conducted by National University of Singapore on more than a thousand Asian people aged between 60 and 93 found the curry spice can help keep us mentally sharp with aging.

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Eating curry with turmeric once or twice a month was linked to better mental acuity among study participants who compared to people that never or rarely ate curried foods.

Research in 2005 suggested curcumin could be good medicine for Alzheimer’s and dementia, shown in-vitro in animal studies. Studies suggest the spice lower amyloid plaque found in the brain of patients that suffer from the disease. The spice could help stop Alzheimer’s progression.

Obesity

If the above reasons for adding turmeric to your diet by eating curry dishes or as a supplement isn’t enough, consider evidence that the Indian spice might help prevent obesity.– something that has become a major focus of researchers and pharmaceutical companies scrambling to give us the next diet pill.

Because obesity is linked to a plethora of diseases, it makes sense that finding a dietary intervention that is both safe and inexpensive; with the added perk of being tasty would be desirable.

A 2009 study showed curcumin in turmeric helps stop the spread of fat tissue. The same finding also showed the Indian spice lowered cholesterol, blood sugar and triglyceride levels.

What curcumin specifically did was stop new blood vessels from growing that lead to more fat tissue. The study was conducted on mice and might not translate to humans, but the finding suggested turmeric could be useful for fighting human obesity.

Dental health

No one wants to undergo expensive, painful dental procedures. Turmeric has a long history of use in dentistry. The spice can help alleviate dental pain, used for dental sealants and detect cavities.

To relieve a toothache massage the tooth with roasted, ground turmeric. Applying the spice also relieves swelling and has an antibacterial effect that could help quell tooth infection until you get to the dentist’s office.

Acne

The Natural Health Society reminds us of the power of turmeric for treating acne. Combine the spice with yogurt, lemon, honey or other ingredients to soften the skin and eliminate blemishes. Wash the mask off after a few minutes to avoid staining the face. Turmeric has a yellow color and is used in dyes. If you want an intensive acne treatment, leave the mask on overnight. The discolored skin will wash off after about a week. You can also use a facial skin toner to remove any yellow skin discoloration.

Treating acne with turmeric is less expensive than spending money on expensive skin care products that may not be effective.

Depression

Curcumin could help alleviate depression. If you are looking for a natural way to boost your mood, try eating curry foods, drinking ‘turmeric milk’ or taking turmeric supplements.

Research found the Indian spice has the same effect of some medications for lifting depression. Turmeric was found to boost the effect of antidepressant drugs because it has the same mechanism of activity on the brain of raising chemicals that help us feel happier and less stressed.

Tip: Dr.Frank Lipman, an internal medicine physician and founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York city offers this tip to supercharge the health benefits of turmeric. Mix the spice with black pepper to enhance the way it is absorbed in the body. Try juicing turmeric and add lemon, lime or honey for a delicious, healing drink. Lipman says turmeric just might be the healthiest spice of all time.

More studies on turmeric’s health benefits can be found with a simple internet search.

It is important to discuss options for controlling your health with your medical provider. Never add food, spices or supplements without first exploring your individual risk factors and benefits with your doctor.

For anyone without existing health conditions, it seems curcumin in turmeric could be good overall preventive medicine that could thwart a variety of the most troublesome and costly diseases.

Aspirin, cholesterol lowering medications, diet pills, prescription pain medications and perhaps fewer diabetes medications are just some of the prescriptions that turmeric, an ordinary but potently healthy kitchen spice, could replace.

Resources:

PubMed
Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study.
Drugs R D. 2008;9(4):243-50.

Bio-Medicine
“Curry better than aspirin for headaches”

USDA.gov
“Curcumin Inhibits Angiogenesis and Adipogenesis in Cell Culture System and in Mice Fed High Fat Diet”
December 1, 2007

Indian Journal of Dental Research
“Uses of turmeric in dentistry: An update
2009

Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Mar-Apr; 72(2): 149–154.
doi: 10.4103/0250-474X.65012

Image source courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Updated 6/7/2014

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