TURMERIC GOLD RUSH
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, has been used for centuries as a culinary and medicinal plant. Pots, dating back to as early as 2500 BCE, were found near New Delhi and contained the residue of turmeric, ginger and garlic (Avey, 2015). It’s more recent and rapid climb to fame is due to the remarkable effects it has on the body. Curcumin, a polyphenol, found in the plant, has been marketed to reduce inflammation and pain (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Research indicates that it works just as effectively as common pain relievers like ibuprofen. Turmeric can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions like metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. Turmeric can also improve the recovery of muscles aches and pain from exercise induced inflammation and enhance performance for athletes and active individuals (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). It takes a small amount of turmeric to reap the huge benefits of this potent rhizome.
Turmeric has numerous herbal actions which makes it an ideal plant to use daily. Turmeric works as an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and digestive (Prassad & Aggarwal, 2011). Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has revealed a large number of compounds, including curcumin, volatile oil, and curcuminoids, which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties (Prassad & Aggarwal, 2011). We are going to focus on two of its actions as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory.
- Antioxidant – Curcumin, a polyphenol of turmeric, improves how our body responds to oxidative stress. Most of the research samples of curcumin were combined with piperine. Piperine (black pepper) makes curcumin more bioavailable in the body. So the body can use more of the plant more effectively. Turmeric increase the activities of our body’s antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD’s job is to neutralize the free radicals in our body (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Free radicals are atoms that are unattached and looking for a home. Unfortunately, they will create trouble like inflammation and disease when they connect themselves to receptors intended for other atoms. Turmeric can also influence the actions of other antioxidants like catalase, glutathione peroxidase (GSH) and lipid peroxides. In essence, curcumin generally with the assistance of piperine, can increase the activity levels of our antioxidants to help them seek out many kinds of free radicals including lipid based, neutralize them or even keep them from forming, and send them out of our bodies. In doing so, we will have less inflammation which bring us to the second herbal action.
- Anti-inflammatory – Oxidative stress and inflammation develop in very similar
pathological ways in the body and can easily induce each other. Actually, inflammation will free certain types of free radical species at the sight of the inflammation (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Also, reactive oxygen/nitrogen free radical species can prompt a signaling cascade that creates a proinflammatory response from the body. Ouch! Inflammation has been indicated in the beginning of the pathological process for many chronic disease and conditions from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to cancer and arthritis to a whole host of other chronic conditions and diseases (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). One major determinant of inflammation is tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α). While generally a good agent in the body, TNF-α ,when overstimulated, can lead to an overly inflamed state in the body. This heightened increase will produce an almost perfect environment for chronic illness. Essentially, the body begins to break down from
being on constant alert for invaders and putting out the home fires of inflammation. TNF-α is also regulated by another transcription agent in the body, nuclear factor (NF)-κB. NF-κB is also activated by most inflammatory cytokines, gram-negative bacteria and various viruses, pollution, poor diet, all types of stress, radiation, cigarettes and a host of other detrimental elements. So any agent that can down regulate or decrease the actions of TNF-α & NF-κB has the ability to stop the overproduction of inflammation and, potentially, disease in the body. Curcumin has been shown to block NF-κB activation (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017). Curcumin has also been shown to suppress inflammation through many other different mechanisms as well.
These two herbal actions make turmeric an ideal plant for arthritis, metabolic syndrome and hyperlipidemia as well as many other conditions. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials completed by Daily, Yang & Park (2016), concluded that about 1 gram or 1000 mg of curcumin daily was just as effective at relieving pain and inflammation-related symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, as analgesics and NSAIDS and without the side effects. Another group of researchers determined that 1000 mg of turmeric plus 10 mg of piperine daily reduced the risk of cardiovascular events in individuals with metabolic syndrome and those with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia (Qin, et al., 2017; Panahi, et al., 2017).
Safety and Toxicity
Turmeric is totally safe. However, super high doses can cause GI issues. Some caution may be used for folks with kidney stones as oxalates are high in turmeric. So, if you are prone to kidney stones, use no more than a teaspoon of turmeric a day, or take curcumin capsules (Greger, 2015).
- Black pepper – piperine is the major active component of black pepper and, when combined in a complex with curcumin, has been shown to increase bioavailability by 2000% (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017).
- Reishi mushroom – Reishi mushrooms themselves have their own strong anti-inflammatory and anti-metastatic actions (Barbieri, et al., 2017). Combining with turmeric makes for an incredibly potent supplement to combat inflammation.
As always, it is best to check with your healthcare practitioner but also with an herbalist who understands how plants work in the body.
1) Food – By all means, incorporate turmeric into your daily diet. Add a teaspoon to your soups, sauces, meat and poultry, rice, broth, and baked goods. A word of caution – wear an apron – turmeric is also used as a dye for clothing and for the occasional Easter egg. Branch out in your culinary experiences and try a mild curry.
2) Tea – Many herbal medicine are delivered by make a simple tea. For a turmeric tea,
you will want to simmer the rhizome for 15 minutes. Feel free to make it with ginger
or into a chai – don’t forget the black pepper.
3) Golden Milk – there are many recipes online. Find one that you like. Here’s one that is
published by one of my herb suppliers, Frontier, in their free Gold Rush recipe booklet:
Turmeric Golden Milk
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ teaspoon grated whole turmeric root (or ground turmeric), plus extra for serving
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
In a small saucepan, whisk together all of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to two mug. Sprinkle with turmeric and serve.
4) Tincture – alcohol extract – You can make your own or buy from a reputable company.
5) Capsules – Again, it is best to check with your healthcare provider but the research
indicates that 1000 mg daily with 10 mg piperine is a therapeutic dose for
Avey, T. (2015). The History of Turmeric. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/.
Barbieri, A., Quagliariello, V., Del Vecchio, V., Falco, M., Luciano, A., Amruthraj, N. J., Nasti, G., Ottaiano, A., Berretta, M., Iaffaioli, R. V., … Arra, C. (2017). Anticancer and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Ganoderma lucidum Extract Effects on Melanoma and Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Treatment. Nutrients, 9(3), 210. doi:10.3390/nu9030210
Daily, J. W., Yang, M., & Park, S. (2016). Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of medicinal food, 19(8), 717-29.
Greger, M. (2015). Who Should be Careful about Curcumin? Retrieved 2/27/19 from https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/02/12/who-should-be-careful-about-curcumin/
Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
Panahi, Y., Khalili, N., Sahebi, E., Namazi, S., Reiner, Ž., Majeed, M., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). Curcuminoids modify lipid profile in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized controlled trial.
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 33, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.05.006. Epub 2017 May 29
Prasad, S. & Aggarwal, BB. (2011). Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Ren, H., & Hu, H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition journal, 16(1), 68. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0293-y