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The Broomfield Acupuncture Blog: Turmeric – Amazing Health Benefits You Might Be Missing

by Gretchen Belenchia

Turmeric is widely used as an Indian spice, but its healing roots go back a few thousand years as part of India’s Ayurvedic Medicine and China’s Materia Medica as Jiang Huang. The active ingredient in Turmeric is curcumin. This is the ingredient that scientific studies focus on when you hear about the health benefits (anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, etc).

But being a whole foodist, I believe that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. If you do decide to start taking a turmeric supplement, I recommend finding one with the whole turmeric, 100% organic with high concentrations of the active ingredient, curcumin.

There are also sources that indicate that the addition of piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, will increase the absorption of curcumin. There are supplements that include both. Eating black pepper with turmeric is another way of achieving this effect.

Of course, adding turmeric to meals is an excellent way to start accumulating its many health benefits. This spice is widely used in Indian cuisine. Americans may be a little intimidated using it because it is unfamiliar, but I think it might be worth experimenting with, especially after reading about all of the health promoting effects turmeric does have. If you don’t cook that much, the supplement is probably the way to go.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Turmeric’s curcumin has been shown to be a potent anti-inflammatory, thereby alleviating the pain and increasing the mobility of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

In subjects with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin improved flexibility, reduced joint swelling and stiffness, and increased the ability to perform everyday tasks. In subjects with osteoarthritis, curcumin helped to alleviate pain and improve joint function.

In Chinese Medicine, it can be used for painful obstruction syndrome with blood stasis. It not only breaks up blood stasis (that causes pain) but also activates blood circulation. So it is also useful in the treatment of bruises and injuries as well as joint pain.

Heart Disease and Stroke Protection

Due to its positive effects on the liver and its antioxidant properties, curcumin has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, helps to prevent clogged arteries, lower triglycerides, and regulate blood pressure. Turmeric’s curcumin also has anti-coagulant properties, which are helpful in the prevention of stroke.

Because of its anti-coagulant properties, herb-drug interactions with anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs are possible. Always check with your primary care provider before taking herbal supplements.

Liver Health

Turmeric can be used as a digestive aid, as it stimulates the liver to produce bile (bile helps to break down fats and oils). Turmeric can help detoxify and decongest the liver, thus improving liver function (no more sluggish liver!).

Cancer

Turmeric’s curcumin has many anti-cancer affects and has been shown to be a powerful agent against breast, colon, prostate, and skin cancers. Studies have also shown it to kill esophageal cancer cells and to also inhibit the growth of lymphoma cells.

Women’s Health

Turmeric is also used to prevent or lessen PMS symptoms and treat menstrual irregularities. Chinese Medicine uses this herb for certain cases of painful menstruation or absence of menstruation (not due to pregnancy).

In Chinese Medicine, which uses a much higher dose than a supplement or using it in food, Jiang Huang is contraindicated in pregnancy because it does stimulate the uterus.

Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, turmeric may also help with: Irritable Bowel Disease, cystic fibrosis, depression, type-2 diabetes (can help lower blood sugar), eye diseases, gallbladder disease, age-related macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease.

I hope this little blog on turmeric piqued your interest in this amazing spice. Recipes for use in foods and tea can be found online. Contact me for more information.

Sources:
Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica by Bensky
Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology by Chen
Healing Spices by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
The Way of Herbs by Micheal Tierra, LAc, OMD 

And as always, these statements have not been approved by the FDA and are for educational purposes only. You should always check with your primary care provider regarding your specific health concern.