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Curcumin: Wonder Spice?

December 15, 2012

I’ve been reading a lot about curcumin (tumeric) lately after my new doctor told me about its benefits. Curcumin (not to be confused with cumin — a very different beneficial spice) is an active ingredient in the spice known as turmeric and has been regarded as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. It has been used in Chinese medicine to treat wounds, skin conditions and digestive problems. This potent antioxidant has also been suggested as a possible anti-cancer agent. I’m adding it to my daily supplements. Here’s why:

  • Several studies have reported that curcumin is beneficial in lowering LDL and raising HDL or good cholesterol while reducing the lipid peroxidation.
  • Researchers in India found treatment with curcumin prevented the kidney injury and restored kidney function in rats with artificially induced kidney disease. Treatment with curcumin significantly protected against the rats from proteinuria, albuminuria, hypoalbuminaemia and hyperlipidaemia.
  • Research is ongoing, but there is evidence that curcumin could offer significant protection against neurotoxic and genotoxic agents. One research team concluded that “In view of its efficacy and apparent low toxicity, this Indian spice component shows promise for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.”
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the AIDS virus) appears to respond somewhat to curcumin treatment. Curcumin interferes with the replication cycle of HIV.
  • Other scientific studies have shown possible benefits in:
    • Treatment for indigestion and upper abdominal pain due to functional disorders of the biliary system
    • Treatment for cataracts
    • As a contraceptive
    • Possible treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
    • Arthritis treatment
    • A possible weapon in the growing arsenal of cancer-fighting substances

As healthy as a daily dose of curcumin is, it is important to note that it has a number of side effects which may develop when consumed in excess. These side effects include heartburn, stomach ulcers, and excess bile production that is unsafe for those with gallstones. Turmeric curcumin has blood thinning properties, which means that while it may be suitable for those with heart conditions, it may not help those who already have a problem of excess bleeding due to poor blood clotting. It may interact with drugs that you may have been prescribed for other health conditions and cause certain side effects. Lastly, curcumin present in turmeric is known to generate a lot of heat in the body, which makes it unsafe for pregnant women. Even women who are lactating should avoid the intake of curcumin.

Curcumin may be consumed in its natural form, via turmeric, or via the variety of supplements that are available in the market. Health experts suggest that supplements may be necessary because only curcumin derived from food may not be enough to provide all the aforementioned health benefits. There is no minimum daily requirement for curcumin but practitioners recommend capsules that provide 400 to 600 mg of curcumin 3 times daily.

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References

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