Whenever I face gastrointestinal problems like indigestion or food poisoning , a pinch of turmeric powder works in minutes, sometimes regular intake works. Whenever I got injured, my grandmother would do nothing but apply turmeric paste to the wound or inflammation as first aid. The wound is healed and marks gone. Acne? A pea-sized quantity of the paste is enough. If I catch a cold, turmeric milk happens to be my go-to drink.
One day I thought, how does turmeric work for so many health conditions? Which magical element does turmeric contain within itself? I asked science, this is what I found.
Turmeric or Curcuma longa is a perennial, rhizomatous, herbaceous, flowering plant of the ginger family native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Its rhizome is used as a spice in curries and also for dyeing.
The main bioactive components of turmeric are:
Curcumin is the main bioactive compound that exhibits pharmacological properties of turmeric. Curcumin is the magical element that heals us from all common ailments.
Curcumin shows antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, hepatoprotective (hepato = liver-related), anti-diarrheal, anti-asthmatic, anti-allergic, and hypolipidemic properties. It is also believed to exhibit anti-cancerous property as well. It helps in depression, metabolic syndrome, wound healing, arthritis, pain, pimple, acne, weight loss, anemia, and the list goes on.
It acts on various ailments and conditions be it as minor as cough and cold or as chronic as Alzheimer’s through two main mechanisms – antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Research has found curcumin to have the property to improve systemic markers of oxidative stress in a human body. It can also accelerate serum activities of antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (SOD). It scavenges different forms of free radicals like reactive oxygen species (ROS), reactive nitrogen species (RNS) and peroxyl radicals. Therefore, like Vitamin E, curcumin is a chain-breaking anti-oxidant.
In addition, curcumin modulates the activities of GSH catalase and SOD enzymes while inhibits ROS-generating enzymes like lipoxygenase. This ensures neutralization of free radicals. (3)
Inflammation is associated with many chronic diseases like allergy, asthma, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, etc.
Inflammation is majorly stimulated by Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) – α. TNF-α is in turn regulated by the activation of Nuclear factor (NF) – κB. Curcumin has shown results in inhibiting the activation of NF- κB, thereby reducing inflammation. (3)
Our ancestors knew so much of the sciences before science even developed like it has in the present era, ain’t it? That’s why ayurveda considers turmeric to be the “Golden Goddess” and there is an Indian tradition of married women applying turmeric on their cheeks before the worship ceremony of Hindu goddess Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity.
Is turmeric new to you? Then why not try some Asian food with turmeric? It will tantalize your adventure loving palate.
Bonus: Make your breakfast even more healthy with a turmeric latte. Click here to find the recipe.
(1) Synthetic and Medicinal Prospective of Structurally Modified Curcumins – Bhupinder Kumar, Virender Singh, Ravi Shankar, Kapil Kumar
(2) Curcumin: the Yellow Molecule with Pleiotropic Biological Effects – Prabhakar Singh, Kranti Bhooshan Pandey, Syed Ibrahim Rizvi
(3) Pharmacological Activities of Turmeric (Curcuma longa linn): A Review – Vasavda Krup, Hedge Prakash L and Harini A
Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health – Susan J. Hewlings and Douglas S. Kalman
Curcumin, an Active Component of Turmeric (Curcuma longa), and Its Effects on Health – BetÜl Kocaadam & Nevİn Şanlier