From the root of the curcuma longa plant, turmeric, this relative of ginger not to be confused with Javanese turmeric, has been traditionally called Indian saffron because of its deep yellow-orange color. Turmeric is a peppery, warm, bitter flavored and mildly fragranced herb used throughout history as a condiment, textile dye and has been long-touted as a healing remedy. It’s best known a key ingredient in curry and it also colors common mustard.
An excellent source of manganese, iron, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), dietary fiber, potassium, turmeric’s active ingredient, turmeric's active ingredient curcumin, a centuries-old chemical used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, pain reliever and antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. Researchers are now investigating its effects to better understand how it might be used for health purposes.
Studies demonstrate its antibacterial properties, its anti-tumoral effects against melanoma cells, its promising effects in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer, cystic fibrosis, enhancement of the effect of taxol (a breast cancer drug) in reducing metastatis of breast cancer, and is eefficacity in the reduction of joint inflammation, to name a few. Further clinical trials are underway to discover possible treatments for the alleviation of arthritis symptoms.
Traditionally, turmeric's finger-like underground stems (rhizomes) are dried and taken by mouth as a powder or in capsules, teas, or liquid extracts. It can also be made into a paste and used on the skin to treat eczema and in wound healing. In India, where its dermatological efficacy is well known, turmeric-treated band aids were commonly purchased in stores. Researchers are now working to develop a curcumin-based topical remedy to control cold sore outbreaks common in Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1).
Turmeric is used as a dietary supplement which allegedly helps with stomach problems, aids in digestion, liver function, relieves arthritis pain, and regulates menstruation, treats heartburn, stomach ulcers, gallstones, as and anti-cancer agent of prevention and treatment, lowers blood pressure, reduces susceptibility of hemorrhagic stroke and aids with other ailments.
Scientists speculate that curcumin in the turmeric lessens insulin resistance and prevents type 2 diabetes by dampening the inflammatory response provoked by obesity. Turmeric treatment lessens susceptibility to developing type 2 diabetes based on blood glucose levels and glucose and insulin tolerance tests, as well as its significant reduction in inflammation in fat tissue and liver. A recent study has shown that turmeric slows the transference of breast cancer into lungs and other body parts.
A Yale University study revealed that curcumin might also decrease the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients, while preventing and breaking up existing plaques in the brain. Curcumin treatment also restores physiologically-relevant levels of protein function. Though considered safe for most adults, however, high doses or long-term use of turmeric may cause indigestion. People with gallbladder disease should avoid using turmeric as a dietary supplement.