What is curcumin and what does it help counteract?
Turmeric (Curcumin) is known to many cooking enthusiasts as part of curry powder under the synonym ‘Indian saffron’ and in addition to taste, gives the dish its yellow colour, which is why turmeric is known as ‘Gelbwurz’ (‘yellow root’) in German. Whether in curry or Worcester sauce, you can be sure to find turmeric playing its part. Revered in India as a ‘sacred plant’ since time immemorial, turmeric is much more than a spice; it is an excellent medicinal plant that positively influences many an ailment and can have a positive effect on some serious diseases, often healing them completely Curcumin, which is found in turmeric, is once again causing a sensation in research circles; its effect cannot be compared to any other natural substance!
Medical importance of turmeric (curcumin)
Not only is turmeric a spice, but with the important active ingredient ‘curcumin’, it is an important medicinal plant within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Indian medicine (Ayurveda).
The first written records of its medical application date from around 5000 years ago. Curcumin was first mentioned as a remedy in the scriptures of Hinduism. Curcumin has been extensively researched in modern Western medicine for about 50 years.
The medical application is quite broad and ranges from Alzheimer's to diabetes and cancer; the rhizome (root), first ground and then dried, is usually used in powdered form. The example of cancer illustrates how effective it can be. There are experts who believe that there is no cancer that would not respond to treatment with curcumin!
Furthermore, curcumin protects the heart from heart attacks, the brain from strokes and the liver from cirrhosis; it lowers blood sugar levels and also protects against the dreaded consequences of diabetes.
These following sections are dedicated to the objective evaluation of the medicinal effects of curcumin and turmeric, respectively.
Active ingredients in turmeric
Which active ingredients are found in turmeric?
Naturalists agree that not all active ingredients from turmeric can be identified; many are still missing names and definitions. Of the approximately 400 active ingredients identified, curcumin stands out as one of 90 different curcumoids, including turmeric.
Active ingredient groups in turmeric
The following groups of active ingredients are found in turmeric:
- trace elements
- fatty acids
- secondary plant substances
- essential oils
- bitter substances
How does the curcumin in turmeric work, and what does it counteract?
Turmeric is impressive as it is extremely effective against numerous diseases. This is due to the synergetic interaction of the individual active ingredients: curcumin, xanthohriziol, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. Curcumin has particularly proven itself as a potent aid against autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus (type 1) or inflammatory bowel disease. Its range of action is also worthy of note. This is how curcumin actually works in virtually every one of our 37,2 trillion body cells!
Before we take a closer look at the specific effect of curcumin, the main points regarding its general effects are described below:
General effect of curcumin
- Curcumin has an antioxidant (cell-protecting) effect.
- Curcumin has an anti-inflammatory effect.
- It shows an immunomodulatory (immune system-building) effect.
- It has an antibacterial effect.
- Curcumin shows antifungal (antifungal) effects.
- It firms cell membranes.
- It regulates genes.
- It is neuroprotective.
- It is chemopreventive.
- It is choleretic.
- It is anti-inflammatory.
- It oxygenates.
- It is cholekinetic.
- It is anti-ischemic.
- It promotes healing.
- It is a chloretic.
- It is an insecticide.
- It has a detoxifying effect on the organism.
- Curcumin has an anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) effect.
- It lowers cholesterol/lipids.
- Curcumin has a hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) effect.
- Curcumin has an antihypertensive effect.
Antioxidant (cell protecting) effect of curcumin
The best possible way to prevent disease and ageing continues to be the protection of our cells against free radical attacks resulting from the metabolism, respiratory air, air pollution, tobacco smoke and other factors, which aggressively attack each of our cells, leading to loss of function, mutations, and other effects that manifest in countless illnesses, including cancer.
The only way to protect yourself is by modifying your behaviour and taking antioxidants. These antioxidants include the classics vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, beta-carotene, selenium, vitamin E and less efficient substances, including curcumin from turmeric.
How does curcumin have an antioxidant effect?
By inhibiting lipoxygenase (LOX) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), curcumin strongly counteracts the attacking free radicals!
Gene-regulating effect of turmeric
Tests known as microarray analyses have identified a large number of genes, the activation of which is influenced by curcumin. These are genes that are responsible for apoptosis (programme cell death of the cancer cells), but also responsible for cell division and cell differentiation.
Immunomodulatory effect of curcumin
Curcumin also increases the activity of T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes and stimulates macrophages and other immune cells. It is considered by many to be the most potent immunomodulatory herbal agent. This makes curcumin the drug of choice not least in the fight against autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, MS, psoriasis and others.
Anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer) effect
The way in which curcumin influences cancer can accurately be described as holistic and multifactorial. A separate point is dedicated to this important topic: ‘Curcumin and its effect on cancer‘
Oxygenating effect of curcumin
Due to its influence on iron utilisation and its blood-thinning properties, curcumin is able to increase the oxygen content in the blood just one hour after intake.
Neuroprotective effect of curcumin
Curcumin promotes the proliferation of embryonic, neural progenitor cells and thus the neurogenesis in the hippocampus and has a neuroprotective effect as a result of this. Furthermore, curcumin protects against adverse effects of colchicine and phenotoin and also prevents abeta deposits, which can lead to Alzheimer’s.
Detoxifying effect of turmeric
The curcuminoids contained in turmeric stimulate the production of bile as a cholagogue. Because turmeric improves the bile flow, it transports innumerable toxins and pollutants directly into the intestine. Turmeric also contains a variety of curcumoids that activate glutathione S-transferase, an enzyme that breaks down toxic substances.
Turmeric/curcumin has a positive influence on the following illnesses and conditions:
- cardiovascular disease
- protection against heart attack
- protection against stroke
- protection against thrombosis
- varicose veins
- protection against viral infections
- protection from fungi
- herpes virus 1
- intestinal polyps
- poor concentration
- inflammatory diseases
- skin diseases
- multiple sclerosis
- menstrual cramps (PMS)
- kidney stones
- irritable bladder
- gastrointestinal problems
- chronic fatigue
- insect bites
- respiratory diseases
- sleep disorders
- pulmonary fibrosis
- cystic fibrosis
- Bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
- liver disease
- Kennedy's disease (spinal muscular atrophy)
- premature ageing
- gum inflammation
- uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of eye skin)
- excess weight
- post-menopausal symptoms
 Klaus Oberbeil: Kurkuma – die heilende Kraft der Zauberknolle (‘Turmeric – The Healing Power of the Magic Tuber’), 6/2012 p. 68
Foto Curcuma © by Nataraja at fr.wikipedia