You may be familiar with turmeric, a spice made from the root of a plant — Curcuma longa — that gives Indian curry dishes their distinctive flavor and intense yellow color. Turmeric has also been part of traditional herbal medicine for thousands of years, recommended by practitioners as a remedy for many ailments. Modern research into the properties of turmeric and its main constituent, curcumin, suggests that chewing the fresh root could have some positive effects on your health.
Curcumin in turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. It reports that curcumin reduces the activity of enzymes involved in inflammatory conditions that include arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Clinical studies support curcumin’s ability to suppress inflammation. A 2012 review study published in Cochrane Database for Systemic Reviews investigated the use of curcumin in maintaining remission for people with ulcerative colitis. This review study found that people supplementing with curcumin had lower rates of recurrence of the inflammatory bowel disease than those in the placebo group. However, the authors of the study noted that they were only able to find one study that fit their search criteria for the review, more clinical research was necessary before formal claims and recommendations could be made.
Curcumin from turmeric is an antioxidant, helping your body rid itself of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cellular membranes and DNA and raise your long-term risk of cancer. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that, based on laboratory research, turmeric might help prevent or treat several types of cancer, including cancer of the prostate, breast, skin, and colon. For example, a 2015 study published in Cancer Letters found that curcumin helped inhibit cancer stem cells in cells taken from people with colorectal cancer that had metastasized to the liver. The researchers further concluded that curcumin supplementation was safe when combined with chemotherapy. Although large clinical studies of turmeric and cancer are still lacking, the National Institutes of Health had several active clinical trials involving curcumin as of 2014, including one involving women at high risk of breast cancer.
The University of Maryland Medical Center says that turmeric stimulates the gallbladder to release bile, helping your digestive tract digest fatty nutrients. Because of this effect, it may be beneficial for indigestion and other types of gastric upset. The legislative body in Germany that regulates herbal remedies, called Commission E, has approved turmeric as a general digestive aid. UMMC also reports that turmeric might lower your risk of heart disease, possibly through its ability to prevent clumping of platelets, involved in clot formation. It also says that laboratory studies suggest turmeric might kill bacteria and viruses, but these possibilities still need confirmation in clinical research.
Fresh turmeric root is available at some specialty grocers or health food stores, usually still covered in a dry outer layer, or skin, which you can peel away. Turmeric root can stain your skin, so wear gloves when handling it. Slice the root or cut it into pieces and eat it by itself, or add it to salads or other fresh dishes. Turmeric root has a peppery, slightly bitter flavor and is generally considered safe at doses of between 1.5 and 3 grams daily, although no minimally effective amount of the root has been established. It could interact with some medications, such as blood thinners, drugs that lower stomach acid, and diabetes medicines, so discuss its use with your doctor to decide if turmeric might be helpful for you.
Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.healthyeating.sfgate.com by Joanne Marie where all credits are due.
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