Turmeric: Nature's Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Root
May 18, 2010 by Dr. Mark Wiley
Some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted was cooked in London. I always knew that the British loved Indian cuisine and that they once held governance over India. What I didn’t know was that curry was introduced to Indian cuisine by the Brits. (Just a little fun fact to chew on.)
In countries like India where traditional cultures are thousands of years old, there are deep traditions of cooking daily meals with medicinal roots and herbs. These herbs act as preventive measures for sustaining good health, and prevention is the cornerstone of India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Turmeric is one such medicinal root that has made its way into a vast number of Indian recipes. Aside from your standard chicken or goat curries, there is a whole list of Indian dishes that contain flavorful thermogenic ingredients like cardamom, coriander, ginger, cloves, chili and turmeric. Not only are the recipes tasty, the ones containing turmeric are especially healthful.
Research by Sarker and his colleagues notes turmeric’s powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. Moreover, the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have this to say: “Laboratory and animal research has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties of turmeric and its constituent curcumin.”
It is true that inflammation is a natural response your body has to potentially damaging stimuli. Catch a cold or sprain an ankle and the immune system kicks in and produces swelling to guard while healing takes place. But often the body does not know how or when to stop the inflammation and this causes too much fibrin in the tissues that can lead to pain and stiffness. If left untreated, it can become a chronic health issue.
Unlike aspirin or ibuprophen, turmeric’s curcumin reduces inflammation naturally, without damaging the liver or kidneys. It has been found especially helpful in treating conditions like arthritis, sports injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, tendonitis and various autoimmune diseases. Some research even suggests that curcumin may also help those suffering asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and yes, even cancer.
Since turmeric’s curcumin component is an anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxident agent, it has been used for treating wounds, digestive disorders, liver issues, arthritis and in the prevention of cancer. Statistics also show that Asian children experience less incidence of leukemia than their Western counterparts and it seems a diet rich in turmeric may be the reason why.
Recent studies show that rats that were prone to multiple sclerosis developed very few if any symptoms after being given curcumin. The journal Science reported in their April 23, 2004, issue that curcumin has countered the genetic damage that leads to the lung disorder cystic fibrosis in mice test subjects. It was also shown that curcumin protects against alcohol’s damaging affects on the liver as well as harmonizing the stomach and digestion.
Thousands of scientific articles on the efficacy of curcumin are found within the NIH and NLM’s PubMed MEDLINE database. These show curcumin to be effective in the treatment of inflammation, wounds, cancer, heart disease and as a preventive measure against arthritis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), neurological diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, type-2 diabetes, cataracts, cystic fibrosis, scleroderma and many others.
As if that list were too small, as reported in the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service lists nearly 80 biologic activities associated with curcumin, from anti-HIV to anti-ulcerogenic actions.
My advice: Everyone enjoy Indian food containing turmeric at least once a week as a symptomatic and preventive measure.
—Dr. Mark Wiley
Cronin, J.R. "Curcumin: Old spice is a new medicine." Journal of Alternative & Complementary Therapies: Feb. 2003, pp. 34-38.
Egan, M.E., et al. “Curcumin, a Major Constituent of Turmeric, Corrects Cystic Fibrosis Defects.” Science, 23 April 2004 304: 600-602 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1093941] (in Reports)
National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus Herbs and Supplements: "Turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) and Curcumin," US Department of Health and Human Services; Natural Standard Research Collaboration: 2008 ed.: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-turmeric.html
Sarker, S.D., et al. "Bioactivity of Turmeric," Turmeric: The genus Curcuma; Medicinal and Aromatic Plants—Industrial Profiles, edited by Ravindran, P.N., et al. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2007.