The golden-colored spice, turmeric, is having its moment in the spotlight.
In use medicinally for over 4500 years, this ancient plant has been an essential part of Ayurvedic medicine since 500 BCE. Curcumin, the compound that imparts the vibrant color of turmeric, is a well-studied bioactive compound derived from turmeric root.
Curcumin contains significant natural anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful antioxidant. It fights inflammation at the cellular level, as effectively as medications like ibuprofen. Short-term inflammation like redness, swelling, heat, and sometimes pain at the site of a problem is common. Inflammation is how our body visibly defends itself from illness, injury, or infection.
On the other hand, long-term low-level inflammation silently affects the internal body.
Oxidative stress and inflammation play a role in triggering premature aging and chronic disease. As an antioxidant, curcumin neutralizes free radical compounds and defends against oxidative stress.
The combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties shows curcumin can prevent or help repair visible signs of aging, and improve skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. It has demonstrated the ability to help boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a hormone that enhances brain function and lowers risk of certain brain diseases. A growing body of evidence suggests curcumin may help ease inflammatory symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
And, research is ongoing for treating other conditions that affect the brain, heart, and joints.
Why not merely add turmeric and curcumin to our diet?
Turmeric root can be found fresh in the produce section or dried as a seasoning spice. It’s also in many food products, but many of these items contain very little useful curcumin. As a spice, curcumin contained in turmeric is estimated by weight to be only 3 percent. It would be rather difficult to get therapeutic dosages just by using turmeric spice in food or beverages.
It is a fact that curcumin has low absorption and leaves the body quickly, so bioavailability has always been a challenge. Standard turmeric needs to be bound to pipeline, a substance found in black pepper, for absorption from the digestive system into the bloodstream. Also, standard turmeric is fat-soluble and requires fat to be absorbed by the body into the bloodstream. And, there is too much of a good thing. Too much turmeric root or powder can generate side effects: reflux, low blood sugar, increased bleeding risk, reduced iron absorption, and gallbladder problems.
These water-soluble curcuminoids utilize carriers to move quickly through cell walls. Thus, the smaller micronized particle size is more fully efficiently absorbed, stays in the blood longer, and is more effective.When we consider ways to balance physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, curcumin may prove to be a valuable and beneficial superfood to include in the healthy aging arsenal.
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