In the natural health world, everybody seems to be talking about Turmeric. This wonder herb has been touted to help everything from arthritis to depression. So how does this herb work?
One of the main active constituents of Turmeric is a polyphenol called curcumin (diferuloylmethane), and is what gives turmeric its bright yellow colour. It is a potent anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric is a common ingredient used in curries, although curries contain a very small amount of curcumin and can vary significantly depending on the quality of the turmeric and how it has been processed.
Turmeric Health Benefits
Curcumin can impact health by targeting a wide variety of biochemical mechanisms. It can affect the expression and activity of many enzyme pathways, including cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase, glutathione-S-transferase, and cytochrome P450 as well as modulating transcription factors, growth factors, growth factor receptors, and their associated signaling pathways (such as epidermal growth factor receptor, fibroblast growth factor 2, AP-1, nuclear factor B, and Nrf2). In addition to this, it has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In recent years, curcumin has been researched extensively for its antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory properties, with compelling evidence to support its efficacy within a number of disease conditions.
Alleviation of Arthritic Disease
Animal studies have shown reduced tissue inflammation and inflammatory mediators as well as a decreased expression of inflammatory cytokines.
Alleviation of Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders
Clinical evidence suggests that curcumin may help alleviate the symptoms associated with gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, as well as reducing intestinal inflammation.
Neurodegenerative Disorders and Cognition
Curcumin has shown anti-inflammatory properties that could counteract neurodegeneration in vitro studies. Some animal studies suggest improved memory function and cognition in Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia and aging. Additional improvements in symptoms of dementia have been displayed by curcumin's ability to lower serum cholesterol and lipid peroxides, and inhibiting platelet aggregation.
Counteracting oxidative stress and traumatic brain injury is also of related interest.
Serotonin availability was originally thought to be the main implication in the cause of major depression, but studies have now shown that many different biological disturbances are involved. This has sparked interest in compounds such as curcumin that aim to target some of these different pathways, such as dysregulation in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, activation of immune inflammatory pathways, increased oxidative and nitrosative stress, neuroprogression, and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Some other conditions where the use of curcumin have shown promising results include:
- Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Cardio-protective properties
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- Lopresti, A. L., Maes, M., Maker, G. L., Hood, S. D., & Drummond, P. D. (2014). Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 167, 368-375. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.06.001
- Ng S, Kamm M. Therapeutic strategies for the management of ulcerative colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009;15:935Y950.
- Singletary, K. (2010). Turmeric. Nutrition Today, 45(5), 216-225. doi:10.1097/nt.0b013e3181f1d72c
Written by Tanya Lim
Medical Herbalist & Nutritionist at Evelyn Faye Nutrition
360 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 3000