A potent anti-inflammatory extract with scientific backing
In the decades spent investigating the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of curcumin, a compound derived from the ancient Indian spice turmeric, researchers made a breakthrough discovery: Curcumin in large doses can neutralize disease-promoting free radical damage and may prove beneficial in the treatment of cancer.1
THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT SPICE
For more than 4000 years, turmeric, a.k.a. Curcuma longa, has been used as a therapeutic spice to treat a number of serious health conditions, confirms the University of Maryland Medical Center.2 In the spice form, turmeric has helped heal sprains, coughs, colds, burns, dysentery caused by parasites, and sickness of the liver. For centuries, turmeric has been popularly used as a cooking spice in Indian and Thai cuisine, best known for giving Indian curry its yellow colour and flavour. Turmeric as a folk remedy and “cure all” has extensive history in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, popularly used as an anti-inflammatory herb in India to relieve stomach irritation. The early healing benefits of turmeric can be traced back to 600 A.D.
It wasn’t until the curcumin compound in turmeric was isolated that the true healing potential of the spice was unlocked. In 1910, the chemical makeup of curcumin was confirmed in a laboratory setting. In the mid-1970s and ‘80s, researchers began to analyse the disease-fighting benefits of curcumin on a larger scale. Curcumin was established as a natural polyphenol and phytochemical belonging to a class of compounds called curcuminoids; as a standardized extract from the dried root of the curcuma plant, curcumin offers potent medicinal benefits.
The initial focus on curcumin was in its application as an antioxidant. When used in folk medicine and as a cooking ingredient, turmeric, containing curcumin, was widely accepted as a food preservative. Turmeric was able to preserve food by protecting it against oxidation. Curcumin as a potent antioxidant has the same effect in the body, protecting healthy cells from free radical damage. The active compounds in curcumin may target as many as 10 different causative factors pinpointed in cancer development.
Scientists soon learned that the initial healing properties of turmeric, related to its hidden compound curcumin, were only a glimpse of its potential. In the past 40 years since curcumin has received scientific acclaim, thousands of studies have been published backing both its efficacy and safety. Research published in the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology states, “Worldwide, there are over 1000 published animal and human studies, both in vivo and in vitro in which the effects of curcumin on various diseases have been examined.”2
CURCUMIN AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Researchers agree that curcumin is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. In a study conducted on aging female rats, where curcumin was administered daily for a period of 12 days, behavioural assessments were performed. Curcumin noticeably improved cognitive function by decreasing lipid peroxidation in the brain tissue of the rats, with potential protective benefits for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.4
CURCUMIN AND ARTHRITIS
Curcumin is a known cancer protector because it induces apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This special property of curcumin has direct application in the treatment of an inflammatory degenerative disease like arthritis.
Both preclinical and clinical trials have proven curcumin’s ability to conquer arthritic inflammation. Curcumin can also induce apoptotic cell death of activated human CD4+ T cells, inhibiting the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Curcumin’s immunomodulatory effect may prove beneficial in arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer relief.5
CURCUMIN AND CANCER
Curcumin’s impact on cancer is extensive, related to its apoptotic ability. Curcumin wards off cancer by halting the spread of the disease, or inhibiting angiogenesis; curcumin also improves immunity to naturally resist cancer development. Researchers demonstrated curcumin’s ability to inhibit oesophageal cancer cell proliferation through testing performed in a variety of cultured cell lines. Curcumin’s anti-proliferation effect on tumour cells was observed within 24 hours, significantly increasing over the next 72 hours.6
CURCUMIN AND HEART DISEASE
As an anti-inflammatory antioxidant, curcumin can strengthen the heart. When 121 patients, who had all undergone non- emergent bypass surgery, were given 1 gram curcumin supplements four times a day, only 13 per cent of the curcumin group had a heart attack during their hospital stay, compared to 30 per cent of the placebo group.7
CURCUMIN AND INFECTION
In 2012, researchers observed the antiviral effect of curcumin on the potentially deadly Rift Valley Fever virus, spread by mosquitoes. Aarthi Narayanan, research assistant professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University and lead study investigator, confirmed that curcumin provided protection against the dangerous virus by stopping infected cells from multiplying.8
CURCUMIN AND INFLAMMATION
Researchers have long observed curcumin’s anti-inflammatory benefits in the treatment of chronic disease. Curcumin’s safe use in fighting inflammation in people of all ages was proved when it was used to treat premature infants with potentially life-threatening lung damage. In a study published online in the American Journal of Physiology, Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, researchers noted that curcumin could protect against bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature babies, an inflammatory lung condition that results in scarring, as well as hypoxia, for up to three weeks after birth. These results matched the findings of a similar LA BioMed study, where curcumin offered anti-inflammatory protection for up to one week after birth.9
CURCUMIN AND LUNG DISEASE
When researchers examined the pharmacological application of curcumin, they discovered that the compound’s widespread anti-inflammatory effect could aid in treatment of most chronic diseases, including those that are cardiovascular, neurological, neoplastic, metabolic, and pulmonary in nature. “Perhaps suppression of inflammatory intermediates is the most important mechanism for its role in most of these chronic diseases,” say University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers.10
Research supports this natural compound to improve joint and muscle health, aid in detoxification, calm whole-body inflammation, boost cognitive and cardiovascular function, and fight off chronic disease. Bioavailable curcumin taken daily at a high dose can provide maximum health benefits, without any known side effects associated with anti- inflammatory pharmaceuticals. When taken with other nutrients like coconut oil and DHA, curcumin has a more targeted effect –protecting the brain from dangerous levels of inflammation, supporting mental function, and reducing risk of cognitive decline.
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1. Biswas J, Sinha D, Mukherjee S, Roy S, Siddiqi M, Roy M. Curcumin protects DNA damage in a chronically arsenic-exposed population of West Bengal. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2010 Jun;29(6):513-24.
2. “Turmeric.” University of Maryland Medical Center.
3. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008 Jan-Mar; 11(1): 13–19. doi: 10.4103/0972-2327.40220.
4. Biogerontology. 2013 Apr;14(2):187-96. doi: 10.1007/s10522-013-9422-y.
5. Int Immunopharmacol. 2013 Mar;15(3):517-23. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.02.002.
6. Subramaniam D, Ponnurangam S, Ramamoorthy P, Standing D, Battafarano RJ, Anant S, et al. (2012) Curcumin Induces Cell Death in Esophageal Cancer Cells through Modulating Notch Signaling. PLoS ONE 7(2): e30590. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030590.
7. “Effects of Curcuminoids on Frequency of Acute Myocardial Infarction After Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting.” The American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 110, Issue 1, Pages 40-44 A. N.
8. A. Narayanan, K. Kehn-Hall, S. Senina, L. Hill, R. Van Duyne, I. Guendel, R. Das, A. Baer, L. Bethel, M. Turrell, A. L. Hartman, B. Das, C. Bailey, F. Kashanchi. Curcumin Inhibits Rift Valley Fever Virus Replication in Human Cells. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2012; DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M112.356535.
9. Reiko Sakurai, Patricia Villarreal, Sumair Husain, Jie Liu, Tokusho Sakurai, Emiley Tou, John S.
Torday, and Virender K Rehan. Curcumin Protects the Developing Lung Against Long-Term Hyperoxic Injury. American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 2013 DOI: 10.1152/ ajplung.00082.2013.
10. Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern target. Bokyung Sung Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.