Curcumin, a bioactive ingredient in turmeric, exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, and anti-cancer properties that have been intensely studied.
What Makes Curcumin Such Potent Medicine?
Researchers have found a number of different mechanisms of action for curcumin, and part of the answer as to why curcumin appears to be such potent medicine is because it can:
- Modulate about 700 of your genes
- Positively modulate more than 160 different physiological pathways3
- Make your cells’ membranes more orderly4
- Affect signaling molecules.5 For example, curcumin has been shown to directly interact with:
Inflammatory moleculesCell survival proteinsHistoneHuman immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV1) integrase and proteaseDNA and RNAVarious carrier proteins and metal ions
As a result of these (and potentially other) effects, curcumin has the ability to benefit your health in a variety of ways, and prevent a number of different diseases. According to a study published in the Natural Product Reports6 in 2011, curcumin can be therapeutic for:
Lung and liver diseasesNeurological diseasesMetabolic diseasesAutoimmune disordersCardiovascular diseasesInflammatory diseases7
More specifically, studies8,9 that now number in the hundreds have shown that curcumin and other bioactive compounds in turmeric can:
Support healthy cholesterol levelsPrevent low-density lipoprotein oxidationInhibit platelet aggregationSuppress thrombosis and myocardial infarctionSuppress symptoms associated with type 2 diabetesSuppress symptoms of rheumatoid arthritisSuppress symptoms of multiple sclerosisProtect against radiation-induced damage and heavy metal toxicityInhibit HIV replicationReduce systemic inflammation in obese individuals10Enhance wound healingProtect against liver damage11Increase bile secretionProtect against cataractsProtect against pulmonary toxicity and fibrosis
Turmeric May Help Combat Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Inflammatory Conditions
Curcumin is capable of crossing your blood-brain barrier, which is one factor that has led researchers to investigate its potential as a neuroprotective agent for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.12,13
The potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin suggests it may also promote brain health in general. In the case of Alzheimer’s, recent animal research14 has discovered another bioactive ingredient in turmeric, besides curcumin, that adds to its neuroprotective effects.
This compound, called aromatic turmerone, help endogenous neutral stem cells (NSC) to grow, and these stem cells play an important role brain repair and regeneration activities. According to lead author Adele Rueger:15
“While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine. Our findings on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal.”
Curcumin may also be helpful. Previous research has shown that curcumin helps inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques associated with the disease. People with Alzheimer’s tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, and curcumin is perhaps best known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. It can inhibit both the activity and the inflammatory metabolic byproducts of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX) enzymes, as well as other enzymes and hormones that modulate inflammation.
Another common condition that can benefit from curcumin’s anti-inflammatory activity is osteoarthritis. Research16 published in 2011 found that patients who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility compared to the control group. Earlier research17 also found that a turmeric extract blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
Curcumin Appears to Be Universally Useful for All Cancers
Among the most exciting benefits of turmeric is its potent anti-cancer activity.18,19 Curcumin actually has the most evidence-based literature20 supporting its use against cancer of any other nutrient, including vitamin D! As noted by Dr. William LaValley—one of the leading natural medicine cancer physicians whom I’ve previously interviewed on this topic—curcumin is unique in that it appears to be universally useful for just about every type of cancer. This is odd, considering the fact that cancer consists of a wide variety of different molecular pathologies. One reason for this universal anti-cancer proclivity is curcumin’s ability to affect multiple molecular targets, via multiple pathways.
Once it gets into a cell, it affects more than 100 different molecular pathways. And, as explained by Dr. LaValley, whether the curcumin molecule causes an increase in activity of a particular molecular target, or decrease/inhibition of activity, studies repeatedly show that the end result is a potent anti-cancer activity. Moreover, curcumin is non-toxic, and does not adversely affect healthy cells, suggesting it selectively targets cancer cells—all of which are clear benefits in cancer treatment. Research has even shown that it works synergistically with certain chemotherapy drugs, enhancing the elimination of cancer cells.[Health benefits via Dr. Mercola]
Moroccan Carrot Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped organic yellow onion
1 pound large organic carrots, cut in ½- inch dice (about 2 ⅔ cups)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium organic chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 minced garlic cloves (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup sour cream, crème fraishe, or plain yogurt, optional for garnish
- Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute for 2 minutes. Mix in carrots and broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Stir cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 4 – 5 minutes. Finely grind in a spice mill.
- Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to sauce pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle soup into bowl. Sprinkle with toasted cumin, or mix cumin and sour cream in a small bowl and dollop on top. Serve.