Turmeric is a well-known culinary spice, but it also has profound medicinal properties that are just now being utilized in the western world. In India, however, people have been using turmeric for centuries in helping treat laryngitis, bronchitis and diabetes. Turmeric, which is derived from the plant Curcuma longa, includes the active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin accounts for approximately two to six percent of the spice and has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin as an Anti-Inflammatory
These anti-inflammatory properties are especially beneficial, as chronic inflammation plays a role in almost every major western disease, including: heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. Although acute inflammation is a normal physiological process that can even be helpful in repairing bodily damage, it can become a major problem when it is chronic and inappropriately used against the body’s tissues.
Curcumin fights this problem by targeting multiple steps in the inflammation pathway. Curcumin blocks NF-kB, a molecule that is responsible for the inflammation of many cells and subsequently, plays a role in many chronic diseases.
Curcumin as an Antioxidant
In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin also increases the antioxidant capacity in your body. Antioxidants fight free radicals, reactive molecules with unpaired electrons that are behind the aging process and many diseases as well. Due to the chemical structure of curcumin, it can help to neutralize free radicals and boost the activity of the body’s inherent antioxidant enzymes. This is how curcumin is such a powerful tool against free radicals: it neutralizes and blocks them while also boosting natural antioxidants.
How Curcumin Boosts BDNF
Another important function of curcumin is boosting brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Released by nerve cells, BDNF initiates an increased production of proteins responsible for nerve cell survival and ability. The higher your BDNF, the more connections your neurons can make and the more they can multiply and increase in number as well. A low BDNF is associated with a lot of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and depression. The introduction of curcumin in the hippocampus has elevated BDNF in several rodent studies and is projected to have similar effects on humans.
Curcumin as a Phytoestrogen
Laboratory studies have also suggested that curcumin acts as a phytoestrogen and subsequently can help with menopause as well as protect from certain cancers. By attaching to estrogen receptors, phytoestrogens have shown in studies to reduce risk for (as well as in some cases, provide treatment for) cancers such as breast, colon, prostate, liver and leukemia. According to some animal studies, phytoestrogens can protect against cancer by inhibiting tumor growth, reducing angiogenesis and metastasis and contributing to the death of cancer cells.
Curcumin and Heart Disease
Lastly, curcumin helps reverse heart disease and its ensuing degenerative processes. It does this by strengthening the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Endothelium dysfunction is a huge driver behind heart disease and exacerbates blood clots and irregular blood pressure. As heart disease is the biggest killer in the world, the fact that curcumin helps to prevent it only serves to reiterate the importance and magical properties of the mineral.
If you are plagued by any of the aforementioned ailments, consider a turmeric-curcumin supplement to provide you with relief and hope.