Turmeric, whose scientific name is Curcuma longa, is also known as Indian Saffron and is a condiment widely used as a food coloring and is also one of the components that are part of the curry. Turmeric is an intense yellow-orange powder that is not only a food ingredient, it is also a natural substance with numerous beneficial properties for the body.
Actually, turmeric is the rhizome of the plant, that is, the part of the stem that grows subway. This rhizome is extracted from the ground, the outer bark is removed, it is cut up and dried and then ground to generate the yellow-orange powder mentioned above.
Benefits of Turmeric
Besides its culinary use, what is really interesting about turmeric is its benefits and its healing properties due to the presence of a curcuminoid that is really the active principle of turmeric: curcumin.
In addition to curcumin, turmeric has carbohydrates as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron. It also has vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid in addition to providing fiber, protein and is a source of Omega 3 Alpha linoleic fatty acids (1)
Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory capacity and has been used since time immemorial in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for this type of condition, thanks to the presence of curcumin.
It has anti-inflammatory capacity at the intestinal level, before a pancreatitis, arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis in even some types of cancer. In some cases, the efficacy of curcumin as an anti-inflammatory has even been comparable to that of some synthetic drugs such as corticosteroids, but with the additional advantage of the absence of side effects after the administration of curcumin.
Curcumin also has the capacity to decrease the synthesis of Prostaglandins, specifically those of type E2, which are pro-inflammatory factors (4)
The molecular structure of curcumin, with numerous functional groups, makes it a unique antioxidant. This capacity of curcumin allows the presence of free radicals to be reduced, which are responsible, among other things, for the peroxidation of the cell membrane lipids that cause the damage generated by these free radicals (5)
Curcumin also has the ability to promote the growth of glutathione, a natural antioxidant formed by three amino acids (a tripeptide) that synthesizes our body acting in this way against the harmful effects of free radicals.
Curcumin can be effective in various oxidation-related liver disorders. Curcumin has positive effects on hepatotoxicity.
Experimental trials and tests indicate that curcumin shows preventive and curative effect against liver diseases associated with oxidation through various cell signaling pathways.
Curcumin as a dietary supplement therefore has a protective role against the onset of liver disease. Intake of a significant amount of curcumin on a daily basis or as a dietary supplement may prevent certain liver disorders (6)
Curcumin as an anticarcinogen
Curcumin has the potential to prevent and treat cancer thanks to its ability to suppress the proliferation of a wide range of tumor cells. Evidence has been presented that curcumin can suppress tumor initiation, growth, promotion, and metastasis.
More than 20 proteins or enzymes have been identified with which curcumin has a direct interaction. Therefore, we are dealing with a substance that can interfere with numerous metabolic pathways in which tumor growth may be involved, that is, it acts against several processes and not against a single metabolic pathway (7)
It has antithrombotic properties and cardiovascular protective effects with the ability to reduce the side effects of some drugs such as adriamycin.
It also has the ability to reduce blood cholesterol levels protecting against the risks of atherosclerosis and helps prevent arrhythmias by correcting calcium homeostasis (8)
Turmeric has antibacterial properties against both Gram + and Gram – bacteria, showing a strong destructive capacity of the bacteria cell wall according to studies (9)
When taking Turmeric, one of its main problems is the little or almost no bioavailability because the absorption is very low and also its metabolism in blood is very high which makes it eliminated quickly.
Turmeric, how to take it
Turmeric with Black Pepper
To increase the bioavailability of curcumin, it should be administered along with piperine, a compound found in black pepper.
Co-administration of turmeric with piperine increases its bioavailability by 2,000 % by inhibiting certain metabolic reactions (10).
We can take it directly, dissolved, or simply adding it to the dish after its preparation and not before and that the heat can alter its properties
Turmeric Latte o Golden Milk
A common way to drink turmeric is in what is called Turmeric Latte or Golden Milk.
It is prepared by diluting turmeric in some type of vegetable milk (oats, almonds, soy, coconut, etc), cinnamon and a little black pepper.
It is a very pleasant and sweet way to take this excellent and beneficial product.
How much curcumin should be taken
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), for a healthy person, the recommended daily dose is up to 3 mg/kg, i.e. about 225 mg curcumin/day for a person weighing 75 kg.
However, curcumin has a very high tolerance with studies revealing that doses close to 10 g of curcumin have shown hardly any symptoms of toxicity (11)
There are no studies of this product in pregnant women so its use is not recommended in these women.
It is also not recommended for use in diabetic patients who are taking oral antidiabetics as curcumin may potentiate the hypoglycemic effect of these drugs (12)
Curcumin is approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and considered “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS), that is, included in the GRAS list as a safe additive. Similarly, the European EFSA also considers it to be a safe additive for regular use.
In conclusion, the intake of turmeric brings many benefits to our body, especially thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been used to combat many diseases since time immemorial.
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image: Marina Pershina, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons