The spice Turmeric comes from the underground stem (not root) of the plant Curcuma longa, which is a member of the ginger family. The most active constituent of Turmeric – that we know of at the moment – is Curcumin which accounts for between 2%-6% of this spice. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric has been used traditionally in India as a disinfectant and as a treatment for laryngitis, bronchitis, and type 2 diabetes. In studies it has been demonstrated that Curcumin has the following properties: alleviating symptoms of arthritis, IBS, Crohn’s disease; destroying cancer stem cells and multi-drug resistant cancers; reducing inflammation; protecting against radiation-induced damage and heavy metal toxicity; and preventing and reversing pathology associated with Alzheimer’s.
It is important to remember though, that in most healing foods there are hundreds of constituents which act together to create the healing qualities. It is therefore better, when possible, to eat the whole food (Turmeric) rather than one component of it (Curcumin). To use only one component is to take a pharmacological (drug) approach.
When using Turmeric it is best to use it with ginger and black pepper. This is because Curcumin has a poor bioavailability (when a substance enters the circulation system and so is able to have an active effect) due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall and so on its own the medicinal properties are low. However, when combined with black pepper and ginger, the piperine – which is an alkaloid in black pepper – increases the bioavailability of the Curcumin by 2000%. So we can see that foods need to be eaten combined and whole, not just one constituent of them. Ayurveda medicine has been doing this for hundreds of years as Turmeric is often used with black pepper, long pepper and ginger, which are known as Trikatu or three acrids.
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GreenMedInfo.com – Curcumin Studies
Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. PMID:9619120
Enhanced intestinal uptake of iron, zinc and calcium in rats fed pungent spice principles–piperine, capsaicin and ginger (Zingiber officinale). PMID:23332714