Turmeric, the Golden Healer

Ayurvedic medicine is a centuries old Hindu traditional medicine that stresses the importance of plant-based treatments. It looks to wholesome, natural ways to care for the body, and modern science has begun to unravel specifically how plants and herbs can support a healthier life and fight disease.

Curcumin, a powerful antioxidant in turmeric, for example, has been considered useful in fighting infections and cancer, as well as Alzheimer's. It's been proven so useful, in fact, that many consider it a prime example of how Ayurvedic Medicine is built on efficacy – not superstition.

But what exactly is curcumin and how can it be used?

What is Curcumin

Curcumin is the phytochemical in turmeric that gives it its yellow color. (Phytochemical is basically a fancy way of saying it's a naturally occurring element in plants.) It's been demonstrated to be a potent antioxidant and anti-carcinogen, as well as anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and antimicrobial in nature.

Curcumin and Indigestion

One use for turmeric is in treating indigestion or dyspepsia. Specifically, curcumin has been shown to stimulate the production of bile by the gall bladder, improving flow and reducing the risk of gallstones. Additionally, it helps generate the secretion of enzymes that assist the liver in breaking down and metabolizing some toxic substances. Turmeric has been so successful as replicating these results that The German Commission E, a regulator of which herbs can be prescribed  in Germany, has approved turmeric for treating digestion issues.

Curcumin as an Antioxidant and Anti-Carcinogen

When your body metabolizes and oxidizes food, it provides itself with the energy needed to carry on regular activities. During this process, though, harmful free radicals are produced, which can damage cell membranes and tamper with DNA. Antioxidants search these free radicals out, neutralize them, and help prevent some of the damage they cause. Curcumin has proven especially effective at this, protecting DNA and preventing free radicals from combining with healthy molecules and damaging them.

Similarly, curcumin has been shown to be a powerful anti-carcinogen, and is recognized by the National Cancer Institute. In multiple in vitro and in vivo studies, curcumin has shown to reduce oxidative damage and amyloid accumulation, making it especially useful in treating Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.

Curcumin and Inflammation

Curcumin is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, leading some to consider it the "Asian version of aspirin." In this context, curcumin inhibits several molecules involved in inflammation, such as phospholipase, lipooxygenase, and nitric oxide. Inflammation is a cause of many serious illnesses, including cancer and arthritis. (Think joint pain!)

Turmeric and Your Diet

With so much good about turmeric, you may be wondering how to get more of it in your diet.

First, we don't suggest purchasing unformulated curcumin in capsules, partly because the integrity of supplements coming from different producers that may seem safe. Curcumin is a metal chelator, and can chelate certain toxic metals from the ground, such as lead. Because of this, if you do decide to use capsules, do as much research as possible and make sure your source follows Good Manufacturing Practices. (We're fans of  Organic India and the steps they take to ensure their supplements remain healthy and safe.)

Another reason to pass on capsules, though, is that while they are absorbed by the body, it may be less bioavailable than when it is consumed with food. Instead, use turmeric as a spice in hearty, fatty dishes. These fats may then bind to the curcumin as the turmeric dissolves, increasing bioavailability when ingested. Try to regularly increase its use with each meal, and slowly tier up to see effects.

Have you ever tried turmeric? If you have, how do you use it and what effects have you noticed? Tell us in the comments below!