Turmeric: The spice of life

Turmeric is a yellow spice which contains a powerful antioxidant known as curcumin. In fact curcumin is the yellow pigment itself, and is often taken as a supplement.

Many clinical trials using curcumin supplements have been carried out on a whole range of diseases including cancers, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. Sixteen clinical trials have been conducted on osteoarthritis, 14 of which yielded significant improvements. Eight out of eight trials on type 2 diabetes have also yielded significant improvements in symptoms or laboratory outcomes. Two out of three trials on ulcerative colitis–an autoimmune disease involving severe diarrhoea due to inflammation of the large intestine–have yielded significant improvements in at least one clinical outcome. There is also a great deal of scientific interest in using curcumin against diseases of the nervous system.

No-one knows exactly how curcumin works to bring about these improvements. The researchers know that somehow it is fighting inflammation and oxidative stress (damage caused by a lack of antioxidants), but they are not sure how. Curcumin is not well absorbed from the intestines, and attempts are being made to create more bioavailable formulas.

Naturopaths are very aware that turmeric / curcumin has a powerfully therapeutic effect on the liver, and can even help a damaged liver to regenerate. The liver is the body’s major organ of detoxification, so if it is working better, this could result in a substantial reduction in the number of toxins that may promote inflammation and cause damage to the nervous system and organs.

But the microbiome–the bacteria that permanently reside in our bowels–can also be a major source of toxicity. If curcumin is somehow reducing the toxicity coming from the microbiome, this may explain its therapeutic effects, despite not being very well absorbed. You can read the whole explanation at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835970/

In some countries such as the UK, the law does not allow the sale of curcumin supplements, but it is easy to buy turmeric products that are guaranteed 95 per cent curcumin. Some products also contain biopterin, a black pepper extract that is thought to improve curcumin’s bioavailability.

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