You may be familiar with turmeric as the spice that gives Indian curry its orange-yellow hue and flavor. But did you know that curcumin, a key component of turmeric, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can potentially protect against several conditions and diseases? Here are five of them:
- Alzheimer’s disease
Studies show that curcumin can protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, research suggests that curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may influence brain function and the development of dementia. Moreover, in Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by amyloid plaques — a sticky buildup of proteins on nerve cells — curcumin has been shown to alter growth of these plaques, possibly making it effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Stiff, aching joints may find relief with turmeric. On a molecular level, the spice’s properties have been shown to target and block a number of processes in the body that can lead to osteoarthritis. Curcumin has been shown to decrease inflammatory agents associated with the disease and reduce joint erosion.
Turmeric has been noted to help treat different types of cancers, such as breast, colon and prostate. However, research is still preliminary. In laboratory studies, curcumin has been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells, leading some researchers to further investigate its potential as a cancer-fighting agent. For instance, when combined with alpha-tomatine, a chemical found in tomatoes, curcumin stopped the growth of prostate cancer cells. In some circumstances, doctors have used encapsulated curcumin with the chemotherapy drug bortezomib to treat metastatic breast cancer.
In addition, some researchers have noted that curcumin may even protect against the side effects of traditional cancer treatments. Evidence suggests that when given with radiation or chemotherapy, curcumin can shield normal cells from damage, while helping cancer drugs to better target tumor cells.
- Cardiovascular disease
When it comes to the heart, it’s OK to spice it up. Turmeric may prevent plaque buildup in arteries and keep platelets — blood cells that form clots — from sticking together, therefore decreasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.
- Ulcers and Ulcerative Colitis
Research shows that turmeric may prevent symptoms and flare-ups for those with ulcerative colitis, a chronic digestive tract disease. Clinical trials have found that those who take curcumin along with traditional treatments are less likely to experience ulcerative colitis symptoms or disease relapse compared to those who took a placebo.
It’s important to note that many of the studies to date are in laboratory conditions, as opposed to human clinical trials. But adding turmeric to your food is still a great practice. Further research is needed to explore the benefits, toxicity and side effects of using turmeric as a supplement.