What do head, neck, skin and breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, upset stomachs, Alzheimer’s and melanoma have in common? In scientific studies, turmeric is either proving or showing solid results of kicking all of the above’s ass.
Turmeric is a spice of Asian origins and has a long history of being used as both food flavoring agent and medicine in the Indian subcontinent as well as China. The American Cancer Society confirms that curcumin (an active ingredient in turmeric) demonstrates some anti-cancer effects.
Several types of cancer cells are inhibited by curcumin in the laboratory, and curcumin slows the growth and spread of some cancers in some animal studies. Clinical trials are underway to find out if it can help humans as well.
Curcumin is being studied to find out whether it helps other diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and stomach ulcers. It is also being studied to see whether it can help lower “bad cholesterol” and improve outcome in kidney transplants. A few early studies have been done in humans, but much more human research is still needed to find out if curcumin can be effective in these uses.
From the University of Maryland Medical Center, we learn that this same curcumin in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant.
Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.
In addition, curcumin lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. It also stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.
They go on to note a string of conditions for which turmeric may be of help, including stomach ulcers, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis and indigestion.
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Several UCLA studies focus on turmeric and curcumin. The first was a 2005 study done by Marilene B. Wang, M.D. and showed that curcumin suppressed the growth of head and neck cancer in mice. Another study in 2010, again conducted on cells and then mice, found that
curcumin suppressed head and neck cancer growth by regulating cell cycling.
Drs. Wang and Eri Srivatsan, Ph.D. have both been studying curcumin and its cancer-fighting properties for over seven years.
Turmeric is also known as a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Dr. Randy J. Horwitz, Medical Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine (Tucson), writes in his paper for the American Academy of Pain Management:
Turmeric is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available
Referencing a University of Arizona study on rats, Horwitz concludes that
turmeric completely inhibited the onset of rheumatoid arthritis,
in the vermin.
Additionally, curcumin extracts in pill form have been shown to reduce the size of Alzheimer’s-associated brain plaque by 30% in just one week in clinical trials published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.
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One week! This is just the tip of the iceberg. As more and more research is being done (and turmeric has been a very hot topic as of late), the health benefits of this amazing spice just keep increasing.
ProTip: it’s also great in omelettes.
American Cancer Society: Turmeric
University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
Primary Compound of Turmeric Kicks Off Cancer-Killing Mechanisms in Human Saliva
The Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric
Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis.
Discovered: Indian spice reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms by 30%