But its health benefits are multiple and today I will talk about these not-so-known uses.
Turmeric is a species belonging to the family Zingiberaceae and comprises a total of 80 species. It is relative of the ginger (I recommend to read the article Ginger: benefits and contraindications), with leaves in the form of long spears and pink white flowers. It is grown by in India and parts of Asia and Africa.
If it does not sound to you by the sure name it will sound to you by its appearance, that gold-colored powder so characteristic that it is obtained from its rhizome, that is to say, the root. In fact, this color makes it not only for use in the kitchen but even serves to give color to textile pieces.
We can find this powder in different ways in a pharmacy. For example as preparation of mother tinctures (alcoholic extracts), oily extracts (essential oils), aqueous extracts (in the form of herbal infusions), but it could be said that the kings of the party are dried extracts of turmeric.
The powder is obtained by drying the rhizomes and can be taken orally or applied directly to the skin.
According to some studies, a substance found in turmeric, called curcumin, has anti-inflammatory activity and is of low toxicity.
It also contains innumerable active substances, such as curcumin itself, but this time because of its choleretic action (ie, stimulates the production of bile), and its high content of vitamin C and other antioxidants. The active agents present in turmeric also have a collagenous action (stimulates contraction of the gallbladder), hepatoprotective and antiseptic. It also acts as an appetite stimulant.
Because of these properties, turmeric is recommended to treat disorders of the liver, gastric mucosa and digestive processes in general.
The Properties of Turmeric
Most of the properties attributed to turmeric depend only on curcumin. This molecule – which from the chemical point of view can be classified among polyphenols – is responsible for the golden yellow color characteristic of turmeric.
This species has been attributed properties:
- Chemopreventive (i.e., for the prevention of cancer).
The antioxidant action of this spice is what seems to be responsible for both its anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory properties.
As for its anti-cancer properties, curcumin appears to be capable of suppressing both the development and progression of certain types of cancer. Its protective effect against some tumors such as breast or colon cancer depends on the down-regulation of the molecules involved in inflammation (inflammatory cytokines), transcription factors, some enzymes (such as protein kinase), certain genes involved in inflammation Cancer and reactive oxygen species. That is, it can be useful in many cases but in others not. I recommend you read the article Turmeric Chicken, an anti-tumor recipe.
For example, in breast cancer, curcumin exerts its antitumor effect through a complex mechanism involving mechanisms of cell proliferation and apoptosis, estrogen receptors and HER2 growth factor. In these cases it usually gives good results.
Curcumin can also improve insulin resistance, a phenomenon associated with different diseases and syndromes such as glucose intolerance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome.
In the case of insulin resistance, the cells no longer respond to the presence of this hormone. Curcumin appears to improve its sensitivity by activating the insulin receptor.
Traditionally it is used for its anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective properties . In fact, it is advisable to take it to treat biliary colic, cholecystitis, cholelithiasis (gallstones), stomach ulcers and jaundice. I also recommend reading the article Dandelion, what’s the use? Properties and contraindications.
And that is not all, is associated this spice to the improvement in treatments against:
- Respiratory distress syndrome,
- Osteoporosis associated with menopause,
- impaired glucose tolerance,
- metabolic syndrome…
But beware, because there are no definitive studies and although there is a certain relationship in its use with traditional treatments is still lacking and should never be taken without conventional medical treatments.
In Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine this spice is used as an aid to facilitate digestion and promote the proper functioning of the liver among other pathologies.
For example, they also use it to treat arthritis pain and menstrual irregularities. Or even recommend it for asthma, cough, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and anorexia. But remember again, there is no scientific evidence about this case.
Two traditional uses supported by scientific tests that do give it validity are the treatment of dermatological problems and wounds, since it helps to heal more quickly. In fact it is used to treat problems of eczema, acne, hair loss, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, vitiligo, radiodermatitis and other skin problems. Treatment is sometimes given by oral intake but other times it should be applied over the area to be treated, and studies so far suggest that its use can be very effective in these cases.
As for wound healing, turmeric has been associated with several activities involved in this phenomenon: antioxidant, free radical contrast, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Together, these properties cause the wounds to heal first. Curcumin has been shown to be the component that reduces the body’s natural response.
In addition this molecule promotes the formation of granulation tissue – an alteration of the connective tissue in response to inflammation – collagen formation, tissue remodeling and wound contraction.
Other properties of turmeric is that it can help fight inflammatory bowel disease effectively in adults and children, boost the immune system and control blood cholesterol.
Unfortunately, despite the many possible uses of this species, the development of a curcumin drug is hampered by the poor solubility of this molecule in water, its poor absorption, its distribution in the body and the rapidity with which it is Metabolized and eliminated. For this reason, in recent years researchers have developed curcumin analogs more bioavailable than the original molecule, whose efficacy and safety are the subject of studies.
When taken together with other spices, such as black pepper, the absorption is much greater.
People with obstruction of the bile duct should not take turmeric without first consulting their physician. This spice could aggravate the situation.
Because of its anticoagulant effect, care should also be taken with people with problems related to blood clotting.
In case of pregnancy or breastfeeding, when not having studies, it is not advisable to use them.
It is also important to note that despite having a gastro-protective effect; excessive doses of turmeric can cause upset stomachs. In particular, taking high amounts of this spice can cause indigestion, nausea or diarrhea. In case of this type of disorders it is advisable to reduce the dose or to stop taking it.