Turmeric is a highly valued and used especially in Ayurvedic medicine species. Even to treat certain types of cancer. But its health benefits are many and today speak about these lesser-known uses.
Turmeric is a species belonging to the family Zingiberaceae and comprises a total of 80 species. It is a relative of ginger, with leaves shaped like spears and long pink white flowers. It is cultivated in India and parts of Asia and Africa.
If you do not sound the strong name that will sound for their appearance, the dust so characteristic golden color obtained from its rhizome, i.e. the root. In fact, this color makes it not only for use in the kitchen but even serves to color textiles.
The most used spice is the species Curcuma longa, also known as Indian saffron (or simply as turmeric). Its name comes from the Sanskrit “Kum-Kuma” and is the main ingredient of the Indian curry.
We can find this powder in different ways in a pharmacy. For example in preparation of mother tinctures (alcohol extracts), oily extracts (essential oils), aqueous extracts (in the form of herbal teas), but you could say that the life of the party are the dried extracts of turmeric.
The powder is obtained by drying the rhizomes and can be taken orally or be applied directly on the skin. According to some studies, a substance found in turmeric, curcumin call has activity anti-inflammatory and low toxicity. Also it contains numerous active substances such as curcumin the same, but this time for their choleretic action (i.e. stimulates the production of bile), and its high content of vitamin C and other antioxidants. The active agents present in turmeric also have colagoga 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 liver disorders, 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 the polyphenols – is responsible for the characteristic golden yellow color of turmeric.
At this spice have been attributed properties:
- Chemopreventive (i.e. for the prevention of cancer).
The antioxidant action of this spice are those that appear to be responsible both for their anti-cancer properties as anti-inflammatory.
As for their anti-cancer properties, curcumin seems that is able to suppress both the development and the progression of certain types of cancer. Its protective effect against some tumors such as breast cancer or colon depends down regulating molecules involved in inflammation (inflammatory cytokines), transcription factors, some enzymes (such as protein kinase) certain genes involved in cancer and reactive oxygen species. That is, it can be useful in many cases but not in others.
For example, breast cancer, curcumin exerts its anti-tumor effect through a complex mechanism involving cell proliferation mechanisms and apoptosis, estrogen receptors and growth factor HER2. In these cases usually gives good results.
Curcumin may also improve insulin resistance, a phenomenon associated with different diseases and syndromes such as glucose intolerance, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome.
In the case of insulin resistance, the cells no longer respond to the presence of this hormone. Curcumin seems to improve sensitivity by activating the insulin receptor.
It is traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory properties and hepatoprotective. In fact, it is advisable to take to treat biliary colic, cholecystitis, cholelithiasis (gallstones), stomach ulcers and jaundice.
In addition, that’s not all, this spice is associated with improved treatments:
- Respiratory distress syndrome,
- Osteoporosis associated with menopause,
- Impaired glucose tolerance,
- Metabolic syndrome…
But be careful, because there are still no definitive studies and although some relationship in use with traditional treatments yet to verify this and should never be taken without conventional medical treatments is.
In Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine this spice is used as an aid to aid digestion and promote proper functioning of the liver among other pathologies.
For example, also used to treat arthritis pain and menstrual irregularities or even recommended for asthma, cough, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and anorexia. But remember once again, no scientific evidence on these cases.
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Two traditional uses supported by scientific evidence do give validity are treating dermatological injuries and problems, as it helps it heal faster. In fact, it is used to treat problems eczema, acne, hair loss, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, vitiligo, radio dermatitis and other skin problems. Sometimes treatment is done by oral intake but sometimes should be applied to the treatment area, and studies so far suggest that their use can be very effective in these cases.
As for the healing of wounds, turmeric has been associated with various activities involved in this phenomenon: antioxidant, free contrast, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory radicals. Together, these properties make wounds heal before. It has been shown that curcumin is the component which reduces the body’s natural response.
Furthermore, 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 effectively combat inflammatory bowel disease in adults and children, strengthen the immune system and blood cholesterol control.
Unfortunately, despite the many possible uses of this spice, development of a drug curcumin is hampered by the poor solubility of this molecule in the water, poor absorption, distribution in the body and the speed with which metabolized and eliminated. For this reason, in recent years researchers have developed more bio available curcumin analogs than the original molecule, whose effectiveness and safety are the subject of studies.
When taken together with other spices such as black pepper, absorption is much higher.
People with obstruction of the bile duct should not take turmeric without first consulting your doctor. This spice could aggravate the situation.
For its anticoagulant effect also must be careful with people with problems related to blood clotting.
If pregnant or breastfeeding, the absence of studies, it is not advisable consumption. It is also important to note that despite having a gastro-protective effect of turmeric excessive doses can cause stomach disorders. In particular, taking high amounts of this spice can cause indigestion, nausea or diarrhea. If they appear these disorders is advisable to reduce the dose or stop taking it.
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