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TURMERIC AND CURCUMIN: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE (UPDATED: 2018)

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You’ve probably heard of at least a few of the wonderful benefits of tumeric, the flavorful spice that gives Indian curries their distinctive yellow color. 

The spice has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for over 4,000 years. 

Today it's more widely in demand than ever as a go-to healing ingredient that's used to treat conditions as diverse as minor cuts to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Since the 1900's, scientists have published over 11,000 studies documenting turmeric's wide-ranging health benefits, making it one of the world's most well-researched natural health remedies.

But the real secret to turmeric's success is in the compound curcumin.

Today I'm going to answer the question,

What is curcumin?

We’ll also discuss how long it takes for turmeric/curcumin to work, and cover the topic of turmeric for pets. 

Read on for an in-depth overview of curcumin's health benefits, guidelines about how much to take, and how to find the best quality supplement.

WHAT IS CURCUMIN?

Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound which benefits your skin, metabolism, heart, blood vessels, and even your brain. 

It's technically classified as a “polyphenol,” a class of natural plant-based substances well-known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Curcumin works at the cellular level in almost every different part of your body — which is why its benefits extend to preventing and treating so many diverse conditions.

Tumeric is made from the rhizome (underground stem) of the plant Curcuma longa, a flowering plant native to Asia that is part of the same family as ginger.

When the root is dried and processed it contains about 2-5% curcumin — the active compound with the most health benefits.

Turmeric and curcumin are two of the hottest compounds in natural health today.
Here’s what experts are saying about it:

“Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence.” [1]

“Adding turmeric to your diet is one of the best moves toward optimal health you can make.” [2]

I personally try to use curcumin every single day!

After I tell you about some of the best, research-backed health benefits, I think you'll understand why curcumin deserves a place in your daily health regimen too.

 

Related: 10 Best Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Foods: Plus How To Use Them

CURCUMIN HEALTH BENEFITS

When the body is damaged from injury, illness, exposure to environmental toxins, or even oxidative stress, inflammation is its natural response.

Short-lived inflammation is a natural process that helps your body heal, repair damage, and function at its best. 

This is how our bodies fight off pathogens that cause disease.

Without inflammation, bacteria, viruses, and other disease-inducing microorganisms could cause significant damage — and even death. 

Common symptoms of inflammation include raised temperature, swelling, redness, and pain.

Problems arise when the healing process is incomplete and the body is in an inflamed state for too long, which is otherwise known as chronic inflammation.

When the body is in a state of inflammation for an extended period, tissues can become damaged.

How do we know?

Because chronic inflammation has been linked to a huge array of conditions,  including:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary and cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Curcumin might be the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory we know of; in fact, it might even be more effective, in some instances, than over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin.  

One study found curcumin to be more effective in treating inflammation than other common anti-inflammatory drugs including aspirin and ibuprofen. [3]

And curcumin might not only improve the symptoms of diseases caused by inflammation but also prevent the onset of such diseases. 

It's no wonder experts are calling curcumin “nature’s miracle compound!”

CURCUMIN IS A POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT

Many diseases are caused by the harmful effects of oxidation in our bodies, which is essentially the same reaction that causes metal to rust.

Scientists call this process oxidative stress (OS).

OS is common in diseases such as the heart, lungs, and brain, since they use a lot of oxygen.

OS is also associated with, and may even cause, age-related degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Curcumin is effective in fighting OS because it attacks on two fronts:

First, curcumin can neutralize the free radicals that cause disease and prevent them from causing damage.

Second, it triggers antioxidant enzymes which boost the body’s own defence system against OS.

This means that a regular dose of curcumin could help treat or even avoid diseases such as: 

  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

BENEFITS OF CURCUMIN FOR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS

Poor diets, expanding waistlines, and unhealthy blood sugar levels are some of the most common health problems that we face in the developed world.

Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes are also on the rise, and are contributing to a global epidemic of unnecessary health problems and even death.

Long term, high blood sugar levels can also cause nerve damage, prevent wounds from healing, and lead to other health problems like vision loss.

There is mounting evidence that curcumin could help maintain normal blood sugar levels by preventing the body from producing an excess of glucose.

When there is a proper balance of glucose, the body uses it more efficiently,  promoting the production of insulin in the pancreas.

In one study, pre-diabetics were given curcumin capsules or a placebo for 9 months. A significant number of the subjects taking the placebo developed Type 2 diabetes, compared to none of those taking curcumin.

The sugar metabolism rates of the subjects taking curcumin also improved. [4]

In another study published in The Indian Journal of Biochemistry, diabetic patients were randomly divided into two groups.

In one group, the subjects were given curcumin in addition to the diabetic drug Metformin, and the subjects in the other group only received Metformin.

The results of the study showed the patients who took curcumin in addition to Metformin had lower blood sugar levels plus reduced inflammation and oxidative stress. [5]

The role of curcumin in lowering blood sugar is good news for both people who already suffer from diabetes, as well as the millions of people who are at risk of getting this disease.

CURCUMIN AND DIABETIC NEUROPATHY

Curcumin might also have an important role to play in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, a serious and common complication of diabetes that damages the nerves. 

The resulting pain and discomfort is not the only symptom; neuropathy often leads to serious problems such as muscle weakness and vision loss.

The results of a study carried out on rats suggested curcumin could reduce foot, arm, leg, and hand pain caused by diabetic neuropathy.

This is likely because curcumin stimulates the opioid system which is the body’s own method of pain management. [6]

Another study suggested that curcumin may also be able to prevent kidney failure, another symptom of diabetic neuropathy. [7]

CURCUMIN BRAIN HEALTH BENEFITS

Curcumin has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to enhance brain function and wellbeing. Modern research supports this claim.

If you're reading this, you're probably already aware that our diets can affect our brains. On one hand, regularly eating highly processed, sugary junk food increases inflammation and oxidative stress, which can lead to disease.

On the other hand, including brain-healthy foods such as curcumin in your diet enhances cognitive function, memory, and focus and can reduce the risk of you contracting degenerative brain diseases.

Older people who regularly consume curcumin as part of an Indian diet have better cognitive function and lower instances of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

In a study carried out over 18 months, adults aged 50 - 90 with normal brain function were given 90 mg curcumin twice daily or a placebo.

The group who took the supplements had a 28% improvement in memory function, lower depression scores, and less accumulation of two markers for Alzheimer’s: amalcid (brain gunk) and tau (tangles). [8]

Scientists don’t know exactly how curcumin improves brain function, but they know that as well as reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (two major causes of brain disease), curcumin can also cross the blood-brain barrier.

The blood-brain barrier is a lining of endothelial cells that protect your brain. Curcumin is one of the very few substances that can pass through this barrier and nourish your brain.

Scientists also know that curcumin increases levels of the growth hormone brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) which enables your neurons to continue to form new connections in adulthood.

People who suffer from Alzheimer’s often have low levels of BNDF. Boosting BNDF could slow, treat, or even possibly even prevent the disease.  

An increase in BNDF may also improve your general brain health by enhancing memory, focus, and learning systems. 


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