Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton
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Curcumin Just May Be the Most Effective Natural Medicine Ever
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) A compound found in turmeric, the yellow spice that’s in almost every kitchen spice rack, is turning out to be miraculous. Known as curcumin, this compound is no newcomer. It has been one of the most frequently used medicinal herbs in the medicine systems of China and India for thousands of years. Today PubMed, the U.S. national library of medicine, shows 8963 studies and papers involving curcumin, suggesting it has been highly documented in the Western world as well. What makes it so in demand? It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer fighter and many systems in the human body respond positively to curcumin. Plus, the side effects are minimal and the cost is relatively low.
Curcumin is a powerful and safe natural anti-inflammatory. Numerous studies have shown the action of curcumin is comparable to potent drugs such as hydrocortisone, phenylbutazone, and the NSAIDs that include Ibuprofen and Motrin. These drugs are associated with high levels of toxicity and have side effects that include reduced white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding, and the formation of ulcers. Curcumin is not toxic, and may be effective for prevention and treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, says studies. Mice receiving an inflammatory agent that induces colitis were protected when curcumin was administered in advance, and all the signs of typical colitis were greatly reduced.
Curcumin inhibits cancerous cell growth and metastases. Studies have linked its frequent consumption to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer, and it can prevent the formation of tumors. A study from the University of Texas found that when breast cancer is already established, curcumin can slow its rate of spreading to the lungs in mice injected with human cancer cells. “Curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch” explained Bharat Aggarwal, lead researcher. “Transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form. When we turn them off, [with curcumin] we shut down some genes that are involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells.”
Other research from the University of Texas on human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells has shown curcumin down regulates a powerful factor that promotes cancer cell growth through the process of inducing inflammatory molecules. Curcumin was also found to suppress cancer cell proliferation and induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (the programmed death of cells). When cancerous cells die on cue they are no longer a threat. Currently the University of Texas is conducting phase 1 trials to investigate the action of curcumin against multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer.
Curcumin works to prevent the initiation of cancer through its antioxidant actions that protect cells from free radical damage to cellular DNA. This is particularly important for cells that replicate quickly, such as colon cells. The compound boosts the ability of the body to destroy mutated cells before they form tumors, through its enhancement of immunity and liver function. It also works to prevent angiogenesis, the setting up of the blood supply needed for cancer growth.
Curcumin can block brain tumors. This was the finding in the first in vivo study of its anti-tumor properties in the brain. Researchers demonstrated that a soluble formulation of curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier but does not suppress normal brain cell viability. They concluded that solubilized curcumin not only blocks brain tumor formation but also eliminates brain tumor cells.
Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a hormone which has been linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases because it helps maintain neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease, and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin provides relief for rheumatoid arthritis. In clinical studies, its high level of antioxidant power neutralized free radicals that damage healthy cells and cell membranes, leading to painful joints and ultimately to joint damage. Researchers have found curcumin worked as well as commonly used drug prescriptions to ameliorate morning stiffness, increase walking time, and reduce swelling.
Emerging research has found curcumin may be as effective as Prozac for relieving symptoms of depression. Further investigation is needed to confirm this study’s finings, but the initial reports are quite positive.
Curcumin has recently been found to help patients with bronchial asthma and inflammatory issues of the airways, through its ability to reduce inflammation. Both in vitro and animal studies have documented inflammation to be the determining factor in asthma. For the study, 77 participants were divided into two groups. Group 1 received typical drugs for the treatment of bronchial asthma. Group 2 received the same drugs with the addition of 500 mg of curcumin twice a day. This went on for a month, after which the groups were assessed. Results showed curcumin helped improve airway blockage. In addition, there was significant improvement in blood parameters, and the absence of any clinically significant adverse effects from the curcumin use.
Curcumin can correct the most common expression of the genetic defect responsible for cystic fibrosis, according to the results of an animal study. This is a fatal disease that attacks lungs with mucus, causing life-threatening infections.
What you need to know about curcumin
The content of curcumin in turmeric is only about 3% by weight. Most studies use turmeric extracts. It would be difficult to reach such levels using the turmeric in your spice rack.
Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, and needs to be accompanied by black peppercorns or a supplement known as piperine. This will enhance absorption. Curcumin is fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with with coconut oil or a meal containing healthy fat(s).
To get around all this, you may want to try one of the Aurora liposomal curcumin products from Vida Lifescience. These are crafted to deliver more curcumin to the bloodstream than any other supplement.
If you are taking drugs or other supplements to thin your blood, be sure to use curcumin only under the care of your doctor or other qualified medical professional, as it also has blood thinning properties.
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