The Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric Benefits of Turmeric The benefits of turmeric to human health may include arthritis prevention and treatment, treatment of diseases of the immune system, support of a healthy immune system and the prevention (and possibly the treatment of) many forms of cancer, according to the most recent studies. It would be difficult to select the most valuable health benefit of turmeric, since there are so many, but the anti-inflammatory activity of the spice may be one of the keys to a longer and healthier life. Researchers now believe that most chronic and life threatening diseases, including those that we commonly think of as accompanying the aging process, are linked to chronic inflammation. Because the available anti-inflammatory drugs are accompanied by numerous side effects and are only effective on the short term, scientists throughout the world have studied the anti-inflammatory activity of herbs, spices and other plant foods. Most of the plants that have been studied were used historically by traditional healers to relieve pain, swelling or inflammation. Doctors of Ayurvedic Medicine (practiced widely throughout India) and others have long known that one health benefit of turmeric is the relief of pain. In a report by the Division of Immunology at the University of Cincinnati, researchers refer to natural compounds derived from plants as a “gold mine” for arthritis treatment, because they inhibit or suppress the body’s production of pro-inflammatory compounds, such as COX-2 and tumor necrosis factor. Scientists have shown that one of the benefits of turmeric is the inhibition of COX-2 activity. Curcumin is the compound that provides the health benefits of turmeric, but it is not the only natural anti-inflammatory derived from plants. The researchers in Cincinnati composed a list of numerous plant components that can suppress or inhibit inflammation, including curcumin (turmeric), resveratrol (found in red grapes), quercetin (found in buckwheat) and the polyphenols found in green tea. Inflammation is a function of the immune system, but should simply be an initial response to injury. For years, doctors have studied diseases in which the immune system seems to go a little “haywire”, producing compounds that lead to inflammation when there is no visible cause. Doctors have long been aware that chronic inflammation accompanies arthritis and other conditions such as the inflammatory bowel diseases, but have only recently identified chronic inflammation as a factor in life threatening conditions such as heart disease and many types of cancer. So, as natural anti-inflammatories, the health benefit of turmeric and other herbs, spices and plant foods cannot really be overstated, but other benefits of turmeric have recently been identified. In January of 2007, the scientists at the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the University of Texas’ Anderson Cancer Center published a paper describing turmeric as an agent that supports and regulates immune system activity, the body’s natural defense system against diseases of all kinds. They mention that a reported health benefit of turmeric is arthritis treatment, but also mention that beneficial effects have been reported in the treatment of allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Crohn’s disease and cancer. The researchers suggested that the benefits of turmeric or curcumin “might be due in part to its ability to modulate the immune system”. What they are saying is that turmeric stimulates the production of cells that fight diseases and cancers, while inhibiting the production of pro- inflammatory compounds known as “cytokines”. Also, in January of 2007, researchers at the University of Kentucky found that, in the laboratory, curcumin (turmeric) inhibited the growth of cancerous tumors. It appears that scientists are beginning to understand just what curcumin from turmeric does in the human body and why it is effective. Ayurvedic Medicine focuses heavily on balance. It appears that turmeric helps to “balance” immune system reactions. It is hard to understand why modern medicine, at least in the United States, has moved so far away from traditional forms of medicine that were safe and effective, but things may be changing, slowly. In 2005, the Cytokine Research Laboratory suggested that we should “get back to our roots”, since the benefits of turmeric are ascribed to curcumin, which is derived from the “root” of the plant. They mention “roots”, because 6-gingerol, derived from the “root” of ginger, displays activity similar to curcumin. At that time curcumin was being used to treat cancer in some countries. Other plant derivatives and even common vitamins are being used in various countries throughout the world to treat and cure cancer, but in the United States doctors focus primarily on chemotherapy and surgery. Doctors of Alternative Medicine, who understand the health benefit of turmeric and other natural products, are starting to be accepted in the United States, but are still less common and sometimes harder to find. Hopefully, this will change over time. A good dietary supplement should contain turmeric, ginger, quercetin, resveratrol, green tea, vitamins, minerals, co-factors and many other nutrients. Although the benefits of turmeric are numerous, when it comes to preventing chronic diseases and possibly extending our life, it is important to include a variety of healthy “herbs and spices”. If we continue to focus on “prevention”, it is possible that we can reduce our need for “treatment”. Mila Sabido is editor of http://www.nutritional-supplements- information.com. Visit http://www.nutritional-supplements- information.com/benefits-of-turmeric.html now for more info on turmeric and how to select a quality turmeric supplement.
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