Curry – succulent, delectable, and rich in flavor. This dish, originally from India, has become famous around the world. And, who responsible for the unique and vibrant yellow color that draws such a hungry curiosity to it? One of my favorite herbs in the spice rack and medicine cabinet: turmeric. This magnificent plant has an incredible medicinal history dating back to over 4,000 years ago in India. In the last few decades, medical professionals have taken a keen interest in turmeric, publishing literally thousands of studies appreciating its benefits, and recognizing its importance. Research has indicated turmeric’s medicinal benefits in treating things like: rheumatoid arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, small pox, chicken pox, wound healing, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, and colic; for abdominal pain and distension, and for dyspeptic conditions including loss of appetite, postprandial feelings of fullness, and liver and gallbladder complaints.
Through all of this research and studying, no toxic effects caused by turmeric have ever been identified, even in extremely high doses. The FDA even conducted extensive investigation into the plant, which was published in a 125-page paper, and declared the herb, and its active component curcumin, as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe). Turmeric continues to be examined, even today, as new revelations are discovered about it. As evidence is uncovered, more people hear about it and turn to this natural method of treating, and possibly reversing, so many different diseases.
An increasing number of people are beginning to realize that, not only is diabetes preventable, but it is actually reversible. Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes (which only affects about 5% of people with the disease) may have genetic roots which makes understanding this form of the disease a little more difficult. Regardless of which type you have, diabetes almost always comes with complications. One study, conducted in 2013, revealed that turmeric’s main component curcumin could both prevent the onset of, and treat existing complications, including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, islet apoptosis, and even necrosis. Daily ingestion of curcumin by mice with diabetes for less than 2 months resulted in a significant reduction of blood-glucose levels, and those with Type 2 diabetes saw improved insulin sensitivity. Because fatty liver disease often accompanies a diabetes diagnosis, health of the livers of the diabetic mice were closely examined and followed. The curcumin proved the ability to prevent fat accumulation, as well as reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The American Diabetes Association published a study examining those suffering pre-diabetes, or higher than normal blood sugar levels. In these patients, treatment with curcumin has proven 100% effective at preventing the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. This is all really exciting news, because medications and treatment methods for treating diabetes may just be killing the patient. Research has shown that treatment with insulin for those with Type 2 Diabetes results in the body rapidly losing control of blood glucose levels spiraling the patient into Type 1 Diabetes. This, so-called, double diabetes has grown more and more common since the 90s. And all this natural news seems exciting and wonderful for those suffering with Type 2, but many Type 1 diabetics continue to require traditional medication to survive. One groundbreaking study examined the effects of a highly concentrated daily dose of curcumin on rats with Type 1 diabetes for 10 months. Their levels remained within the diabetic range for about 4 months, before a gradual decrease was noticed. Levels continued to decrease throughout the trial and, by 10 months, had almost completely normalized, and pancreatic regeneration could be noted.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are an infection of some area of the urinary tract: the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and/or urethra. Because some women may have specific risk factors (certain types of birth control, and menopause), along with the fact that a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, about 1 in 5 women will develop a UTI at some point in her lifetime. The most common symptoms of a UTI are a burning feeling when you urinate, and frequent or intense urges to urinate, even when you have little urine to pass. The bladder is most commonly affected, and the infection is usually not serious, but if it spreads to the bloodstream or kidneys it becomes much more dangerous. Because nearly all diagnosed UTIs are immediately treated with antibiotics, bacterial resistance against these treatments is growing more and more common. Many people, to avoid this resistance as well as unwanted side effects, like diarrhea and yeast infections, are turning to more natural treatments for their UTIs, and turmeric is quickly growing in popularity. The most common bacteria to cause UTIs is E. Coli and, not surprisingly, turmeric posses incredible protective components against this bacteria. Dosing with turmeric resulted in the growth of both E. Coli, and staph bacteria to be inhibited, and this is primarily because of the literal bactericidal effect that curcumin has on them. Curcumin naturally contains similarities to broad-spectrum antibiotics, without the harsh side effects, meaning it is able to damage and destroy the protective membranes of these foreign bacteria. Curcumin, because of its incredible immune boosting abilities has also been known to prevent the occurrence (or reoccurrence) of a UTI.
Pain and Inflammation
Turmeric yields impressive anti-inflammatory abilities and, it is for this reason, the spice is growing in such popularity. Many have seen unquestionable improvement, especially those suffering joint pain, my own husband takes capsules every day for his chronic back pain. One study, fascinated by curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation, found that if lab rats were injected with turmeric prior to being exposed to a bacteria known to cause joint swelling (which is, essentially arthritis) their swelling was significantly lower than it was when they were not. Because almost all pain stems from inflammation of some type, turmeric’s helpfulness against it can make a huge difference in someone who suffers daily pain. In a study comparing the spice to ibuprofen, it was shown to be just as effective at reducing both inflammation and pain levels, as well as increasing function of the affected joint in patients with osteoarthritis. Records of turmeric’s use against the pain of sprains and strains, bruising and inflammation can be found thousands of years in history.
Reasons to Eat Turmeric Daily
- Keeps the Heart Healthy
Today’s world really isn’t a friendly place for the human heart – this is clearly seen in America where 610,000 people (or 25% of all deaths) die of heart disease per year. It is literally the number one cause of death in this country. In fact, in the United States alone, someone suffers a heart attack every 43 seconds. Studies have shown that curcumin in the body tends to have a protective effect over the heart, reducing one’s chance of suffering a heart attack. Curcumin’s natural anti-inflammatory characteristics help lower cholesterol and reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular complications in diabetics. Incredibly, research is discovering that curcumin actually has the ability to reverse some forms of congenital heart disease in newborns.
- Keeps the Cancer Away
Moving on down to the second leading cause of death in the United States: the big C. Cancer. This miraculous herb has your back here as well. Turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory properties really help it provide so much benefit for the human body. In general, cancer is thought to be the result of chronic inflammation. The damaged tissue releases chemicals throughout the body which can lead to literal DNA damage, leading to cancer. Turmeric continues to be studied extensively by scientists and hospitals around the world, but it has already shown to be effective in treating leukemia and lymphoma, gastrointestinal cancers, genitourinary cancers, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, lung cancer, melanoma, neurological cancers, and sarcoma[19,20]. One of the reasons chemotherapy remains such a controversial drug for treating cancer is because of its inability to differentiate between tumor cells and healthy cells. Because of this shortcoming, patients undergoing this treatment suffer a wide range of harsh side effects and, sometimes even develop secondary forms of the disease. Turmeric grows increasingly impressive by proving its ability to stop the growth of, and destroy, cancer cells all while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
- Keeps the Tummy Happy
Millions of Americans, every single day, visit GI specialists for increasingly common conditions like IBS, Crohn’s Disease, GERD, and Celiac Disease. Some surveys are indicating that a whopping 3 in every 4 people are living with some degree of gastrointestinal discomfort at least a few times a month. These symptoms range from diarrhea and bloating to unexplained weight loss and stomach pain. Again, we are greeted with curcumin’s amazing anti-inflammatory capabilities. Many, many issues within the GI tract can be traced back to chronic inflammation, and turmeric helps remove this stressor from the body. Frequent inflammation within the digestive system, especially as seen in diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, has been known to eventually lead to colorectal cancer. Studies on curcumin label it as a “safe therapeutic agent for colorectal cancer” and can also help prevent the onset of the disease altogether. Another important component of the digestive system, the gallbladder, plays such a vital role in the breakdown of our food. While it is growing increasingly common to have this organ removed, it most definitely serves a purpose: storing the bile produced by our livers. Bile is essential when digesting fatty foods, as well as extracting the good, useable fats for the body. Curcumin has proven able to help the gallbladder contract and empty, thus improving overall gallbladder function.
As research continues to be conducted, more and more incredible benefits are revealed by this age-old remedy. From reducing symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder, to improving the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s Disease, turmeric is revealing the surprising effects it has on the brain[26,27]. Other trials have shown curcumin’s ability to normalize enzyme function in the liver, as well as actually inhibiting alcohol intoxication. So much ground still needs to be covered though before we will see doctors prescribing this as an actual treatment (my husband’s doctor didn’t even know what it was!), but the investigation of these natural remedies, with their lowered side effects and even more effective abilities, is definitely an exciting step. Be well!
Until next time,
1. NCBI Turmeric, the Golden Spice
2. FDA GRAS Notice (GRN) No. 686
3. Hindawi Curcumin and Diabetes: A Systematic Review
4. American Diabetes Association Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes
5. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinolgy & Metabolism Insulin may Trigger Type 1 Diabetes in Japanese Type 2 Diabetes Patients with Type 1 Diabetes High-Risk HLA Class II and the Insulin Gene VNTR Genotype
6. NCBI The Effect of a Novel Curcumin Derivative on Pancreatic Islet Regeneration in Experimental Type-1 Diabetes in Rats (Long Term Study)
7. MayoClinic Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
8. NIH Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection – UTI) in Adults
9. NCBI Antimicrobial Resistance: Risk Associated with Antibiotic Overuse and Initiatives to Reduce the Problem
10. Antibacterial Effect of Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Against Staphylococcus Aureus and Escherichia Coli
11. NCBI Bactericidal Activity of Curcumin L is Associated with Damaging of Bacterial Membrane
12. NCBI Curcumin and Tumor Immune-Editing: Resurrecting the Immune System
13. NCBI Efficacy and Safety of Curcuma Domestica Extracts in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis
14. CDC Heart Disease Facts
15. NCBI Cardioprotective Effects of Curcumin
16. NCBI The Protective Role of Curcumin in Cardiovascular Disease
17. NCBI Inhibition of Histone Acetylation by Curcumin Reduces Alcohol-Induced Expression of Heart Development-Related Transcription Factors in Cardiac Progenitor Cells
18. National Cancer Institute Chronic Inflammation
19. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Turmeric
20. Cancer Letters Curcumin and Cancer: An “Old-Age” Disease with an “Age-Old” Solution
21. The AAPS Journal Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Can Curry Kill Tumor Cells Selectively?
22. Fox News Health Survey Shows 74 Percent of Americans Living with GI Discomfort
23. NCBI Inflammation and Colon Cancer
24. NCBI Therapeutic Potential of Curcumin in Digestive Disease
25. NCBI Effect of Different Curcumin Dosages on Human Gallbladder
26. Psychiatry Advisor Curcumin Shows Promise as Depression Treatment
27. NCBI Effects of Turmeric on Alzheimer’s Disease with Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia
28. NCBI Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials