Indian saffron: Turmeric

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Deepika Rathod

Turmeric is the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. Many studies show that it has major benefits for one’s body and brain. Turmeric is a spice that gives curry its yellow colour. For thousands of years, it has been used as a spice and medicinal herb in India. Science has started backing up what Indians have known for a long time. Turmeric contains compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities. Thus it has potential to fight against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.

  • Inflammation is incredibly important as it helps the body fight foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses and also helps repair damage. Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could easily take over our bodies and kill us. Although acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term). Curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory. Its power matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs. It actually targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway, at the molecular level, making it a bioactive substance. Curcumin blocks a molecule that travels inside cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. Curcumin has additional anti-cancer effects that are independent of its anti-inflammatory effects and this makes it an extensively researched molecule for the prevention and treatment of cancer.
  • Free radicals tend to react with important organic substances, such as fatty acids, proteins or DNA. They are the reason behind ageing and diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, skin problems, etc. The main reason for antioxidants being beneficial is- they protect our bodies from free radicals. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that neutralises free radicals due to its chemical structure and protect one from ageing. In addition curcumin may function indirectly by inhibiting the activity of inflammatory enzymes or by enhancing the synthesis of glutathione, an important intracellular antioxidant in our body.

Most studies on Curcumin are done using turmeric extracts that contain only curcumin. While turmeric is readily available in the spice section of any grocery store, it is important to realise that if you’re looking for clinical results, it’s not enough to simply use turmeric in your cooking. The turmeric root contains only about three per cent of curcumin concentration, and curcumin is poorly absorbed by your body. One needs a minimum of 1gm of pure curcumin a day, reaching these levels will be very difficult with just the use of turmeric in food, as the dosage in meals will have to be increased significantly. If you want to experience the full effects of turmeric, consume an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin. These days curcumin capsules and many curcumin based products are available in the market. Unfortunately, curcumin doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream easily. It is better to consume black pepper along with it. Pepper contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin.

These are just few benefits of curcumin, the list is long…

 

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