Curcumin, a relative of ginger is a component of the Indian spice turmeric. The rhizome (root) is boiled, dried and ground into a powder and is the main ingredient in curry powder. Curcumin is one of three curcuminoids present in turmeric, the other two being desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin. These curcuminoids give turmeric its yellow color and curcumin is used as a yellow food colorant and food additive. Some cultures also use it as a digestive aid. It has been found to be effective against heartburn, indigestion, ulcerative colitis and stomach ulcers. It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb.
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals antioxidant.Antioxidants help prevent aging by inhibiting the breakdown of cells by oxidation. Curcumin also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes making it double acting against free radicals in the body. It blocks them directly, then stimulates the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.
Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory. It helps the body fight foreign invaders and also helps in repairing damage. Recent studies on patients with rheumatoid arthritis have shown that when compared with common arthritis drugs, patients taking turmeric showed the highest percentage of improvement. An extract from turmeric called curcuminoid blocks a protein called NF-KB factor from being activated in the joints. According to the researchers when NF-KB is activated it causes inflammation and degeneration of joint tissue. Acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial because without it, pathogens like bacteria could easily take over our bodies and kill us. inflammation can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term) and is used against the body’s tissues. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. Curcumin is so powerful that it can match the effectiveness of commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs.
Circumin is good for brain health. By taking turmeric, you can improve the oxygen intake of the brain, which helps in all of the brain’s functions and processes. It is extremely healing for the brain and for increasing memory function. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and a leading cause of dementia. There is no known cure, but curcumin may be a key factor in preventing Alzheimer’s from occurring in the first place. People with Alzheimer’s have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, and curcumin is perhaps most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. One key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of proteins in the brain called Amyloid plaques. Studies show that curcumin can help clear these plaques. It is known that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer’s. Curcumin has beneficial effects on bothinflammation and oxidative stress. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin may slow down or even reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric has also been found effective in treating Parkinson’s and stroke damage. One of the ways it works is by modulating large numbers of your genes – about 700 of them. Curcumin has the ability to affect signaling molecules, by inserting itself into your cells’ membranes where it changes the physical properties of the membrane itself. Another bioactive compound in turmeric, aromatic-turmerone, can can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent. Neural stem cells differentiate into neurons and play an important role in self-repair. Aromatic-turmerone may help in the recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke.
Curcumin is also an effective treatment for depression, cancer and diabetes. Doctors at the University of Texas, found that turmeric extract helped stop the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs. The researchers also found that turmeric may also diminish the occurrence of prostate and colon cancers. A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin does have anticancer effects. It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. It has the best effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells.
In 2009, Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications published a study out of Auburn University that explored how supplementing with turmeric can help reverse diabetes. The study discovered that curcumin in turmeric is literally 400 times more potent than Metformin (a common diabetes drug) in activating AMPK which improves insulin sensitivity which can help reverse type 2 diabetes. Curcumin has also been proven to help reverse many of the issues related to insulin resistance and hyperglycemia such as diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy. Supplementing with curcumin can delay these complications because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.