Turmeric is a wonder spicethat is originated in India over 3,000 years ago. Speaking of turmeric, we can all picture that distinctive yellow powder but what is so great about it? Over several centuries, turmeric is being used as a culinary spice and as a natural ayurvedic remedy.For over thousands of years, turmeric was used as a part of the treatment for a wide range of disorders in Indian traditional medicine (Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita).
Around 235 compounds have been identified in turmeric, out of which, 3 of them are Curcuminoids, the major pharmacologically active ingredients of turmeric.
Curcumin, the main constituent of turmeric is responsible for its vibrant yellow-orange colour. This is the major curcuminoid that constitutes 3–5% of turmeric.Commercially formulatedcurcumin is a mixture of the three curcuminoids.
Curcumin has many beneficial effects which include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory(we all have memories of our moms and grandmas applying turmeric to small cuts and wounds) antioxidant,antiviral, antiangiogenic and antidepressant properties). It can also protect against osteoarthritis as well as neurodegenerative diseases associated with cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease.
More importantly, for our discussion, curcuminhas an immense anti cancer effect.
- We have evidence from research and clinical trials in Colon cancer, where an intake of 4g per day of curcumin reduced the amount of aberrant crypt foci in colorectal tissue at the end of one month.
- Another study showed that 360 mg of curcumin thrice a day can increase P53 expression and increase the rate of cancer cell apoptosis.
- Yet another study has shown a synergistic effect of soyisoflavones and curcumin together in reducing the levels of PSA in men.
- We also have studies that provide evidence to curcumins capacity to arrest bladder cancer growth.
- Curcumin has the ability to inhibit cancer cell migration and invasion by manipulating several signalling pathways in a number of animal models, including models of lung, liver, stomach, colon, breast and oesophageal cancer. It also reduced the DNA oxidation levels.
Currently, though the evidence is inadequate to recommend curcumin-containing products as adjuncts for the treatment of cancer, these products can at least reduce the side effects associated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and improve the quality of life in patients affected with cancer.
Does Heat Destroy the Health Properties of Turmeric?
Can we take turmeric in our diet instead of supplementation?
As a part of our diet routine, we will be consuming around 2,000–2,500 mg of turmeric which adds up to 60–100 mg of curcumin per day.
The benefits of turmeric gets destroyed when it is heated during cooking.When heated to longer intervals, curcumin- the bright yellow pigment and the active ingredient in turmeric get destroyed. 25-30% of curcumin gets lost when it’s to 10 minutes. When heated to 20-30 minutes, the number increases to 85%.
This is the reason, turmeric used in cooking is not always enough as it is not bioavailable.
For those of us who prefer to avoid supplements but still want to take advantage of the benefits of curcumin, adding turmeric last during cooking and trying to avoid heating it too much can preserve the benefits. Also, there is some research stating that taking whole turmeric can provide the benefits of compounds other than curcumin present in it.
Nowadays, Turmeric supplements are made available in the market on a large scale for medicinal use. Having a precise knowledge of how much quantity of turmeric supplements to take can be confusing as a typicalextract form may have 1,900- 2,375 mg of curcumin.
Turmeric contains about 3% curcumin, compared to 95% curcumin in extracts.There isn’t much research data available on effective turmeric or curcumin dose. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined 1.4 mg per pound (0–3 mg/kg) of body weight as an acceptable daily intake.
As a supplement to cancer therapy, based on research, higher doses of 500 mg to 1500 mg have been suggested, which needs to be discussed with your doctor. However, doctors don’t recommend long-term usage of high doses of turmeric and curcumin since research confirming their safety is lacking.
All herbal supplements should be used with caution and curcumin is no exception.
Always notify your health care provider of any supplements you’re taking, including turmeric and curcumin.
Whatever form of turmeric you choose, consider combining your supplement with black pepper. Black pepper contains the compound Bioperine which enhances the absorption of curcumin.
Who Should Not Take Curcumin Supplements?
The amount of Turmeric that we regularly use as a part of our food intake is usually safe. When it comes to consuming curcumin supplements, certain conditions warrant caution-
- Pregnancy and Breast Feeding: There isn’tenough research to determine if turmeric supplements are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- Gallbladder Disease: There are chancesfor the gallbladder to contract& worsening symptoms with Turmeric
- Kidney Stones: Being high in oxalate, Turmeric can bind with calcium which results in the formation of kidney stones
- Bleeding Disorders: Turmeric has the ability to slow down blood to clot, which can worsen bleeding problems
- Diabetes: It may cause blood sugar levels to drop too low
- Iron-Deficiency: It may interfere with iron absorption
In addition, turmeric supplements can interact with certain medications such as blood thinners and diabetes medications.
With the recent uptick in interest in finding natural treatments and adjuvants in cancer treatment as well as longevity, we expect that soon Turmeric, the golden spice of India will find its proper place as a powerful weapon against these frustrating problems.