Hey everyone! Welcome back to another edition of Ask The ND. I'm Dr. Jeremy Wolf.
In today's episode, I wanted to spend time talking about an herb that has been used for more than four thousand years. The herb I'm referring to is, Cucuma longa; more commonly knows as turmeric. Turmeric has long been believed to be beneficial for inflammation, fighting off infections, cancer, digestive issues, and a whole slew of other conditions. Belonging to the ginger family, turmeric is derived from the rhizome, or root of the Curcuma longa plant. Turmeric is native to India, China and Indonesia, as well as other parts of the tropics where it is commonly used as a spice or food dye.
I always get a lot of questions about what's the difference between turmeric and curcumin. Curcumin is essentially the active constituent of the turmeric plant and may be why this plant has so many health benefits. Let's take a further look into how turmeric functions in the body - here's the rundown. One of the most talked about benefits of turmeric is in its role as an anti-inflammatory.
Research has shown curcumin may be able to help interact with numerous targets involved in inflammation. For example, it down-regulates the activity of COX-2, which is similar to how NSAIDs work. Some inflammatory conditions that turmeric may benefit include rheumatoid arthritis, dyspepsia, and inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Chron's. In general, curcumin can act as an antioxidant.
Some studies have shown that it is comparable to vitamin C and E, and may even protect DNA from oxidative damage. Research has also shown that curcumin may prevent LDL oxidation, which is a critical factor in atherosclerosis. It may also play an important role in our lipid profiles. It seems that it may be able to lower our LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and increase HDLs, the beneficial fats. It inhibits platelet aggregation, which is part of the sequence of events leading to clot formation. Lastly, it is believed that turmeric may have antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties when applied to the skin topically.
Studies have shown that curcumin is rapidly metabolized and excreted by our body, making its availability limited. However when combined with other substances such as piperine, a constituent of black pepper, or attached to a phospholipid, a complex known as Meriva, its availability and absorption increases. Curcumin acts strongly on the liver and may stimulate the gall bladder to release bile into the digestive tract. Therefore, it should be avoided if you have any gall stones or gall bladder obstructions. It should also be avoided if you have gastric ulcers. Turmeric also has slight blood thinning properties, so it's important to check with your healthcare provider before starting your supplement regiment.
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