Curcumin, a bioactive ingredient in turmeric, exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity, and anti-cancer properties that have been intensely studied.
What Makes Turmeric Such Potent Medicine?
Researchers have found a number of different mechanisms of action for turmeric, and part of the answer as to why turmeric appears to be such potent medicine is because it can:
- Modulate about 700 of your genes
- Positively modulate more than 160 different physiological pathways
- Make your cells’ membranes more orderly
- Affect signaling molecules.
Turmeric has been shown to directly interact with:
- Inflammatory molecules
- Cell survival proteins
- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV1) integrase and protease
- Various carrier proteins and metal ions
As a result of these (and potentially other) effects, curcumin has the ability to benefit your health in a variety of ways, and prevent a number of different diseases.
According to a study published in the Natural Product Reports in 2011, turmeric can be therapeutic for:
- Lung and liver diseases
- Neurological diseases
- Metabolic diseases
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Inflammatory diseases
More specifically, studies that now number in the hundreds have shown that curcumin and other bioactive compounds in turmeric can:
- Support healthy cholesterol levels
- Prevent low-density lipoprotein oxidation
- Inhibit platelet aggregation
- Suppress thrombosis and myocardial infarction
- Suppress symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes
- Suppress symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Suppress symptoms of multiple sclerosis
- Protect against radiation-induced damage and heavy metal toxicity
- Inhibit HIV replication
- Reduce systemic inflammation in obese individuals
- Enhance wound healing
- Protect against liver damage
- Increase bile secretion
- Protect against cataracts
- Protect against pulmonary toxicity and fibrosis
Curcumin is capable of crossing your blood-brain barrier, which is one factor that has led researchers to investigate its potential as a neuroprotective agent for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
The potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin suggests it may also promote brain health in general.
In the case of Alzheimer’s, recent animal research14 has discovered another bioactive ingredient in turmeric, besides curcumin, that adds to its neuroprotective effects.
This compound, called aromatic turmerone, help endogenous neutral stem cells (NSC) to grow, and these stem cells play an important role brain repair and regeneration activities.
According to lead author Adele Rueger:
“While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine. Our findings on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal.”
Another common condition that can benefit from curcumin’s anti-inflammatory activity is osteoarthritis.
Research published in 2011 found that patients who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility compared to the control group.
Earlier research also found that a turmeric extract blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
Turmeric-Carrot-Black Pepper Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup chopped organic yellow onion
- 1 pound large organic carrots, cut in 1/2 -inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups).
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium organic chicken stock or vegetable stock.
- 2 minced garlic cloves (or more to taste).
- 2 teaspoons turmeric.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds.
- 1 tablespoon honey.
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice.
- Salt and fresh cracked black pepper (to taste).
- 1/2 cup sour cream, crème fraishe, or plain yogurt, optional for garnish.
Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute for 2 minutes.
Mix in carrots and broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 4– 5 minutes. Finely grind in a spice mill.
Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to sauce pan.
Whisk in honey, lemon juice and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowl. Sprinkle with toasted cumin, or mix cumin and sour cream in a small bowl and dollop on top.
Serve, Bon Appétit!