Plenty of people probably consume some curcumin or turmeric in their diet without even realising it. The yellow coloured spice is used a lot in Indian cookery and is one of the main ingredients of curry powder. The powder has long been used in Asian and Ayurvedic medicine, but research has indicated that this powerful spice could soon play an increasingly important role in Western health care.
The following article will explain what curcumin is, what it does, and how to use this health-giving spice in your daily diet.
Curcumin Health Benefits
Curcumin is a highly effective anti-inflammatory and some believe that it could be as powerful as NSAIDS, which are often prescribed to help fight inflammation. The spice is suggested as treatment for relieving pain when it comes to tendonitis and arthritis.
The spice is full of anti-oxidants, which are believed to help reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer; it is thought that these compounds can also protect against heart disease as well.
Studies have shown turmeric to be helpful in stabilising the blood sugar levels and increasing insulin receptors in the pancreas. However, research is still needed in this field, and it is not recommended that diabetics add extra turmeric to their diet without speaking to their doctor first as it could lower the need for insulin in some cases.
Turmeric has gained much interest from researchers due to its apparent anti-cancer properties; studies have shown that it could be helpful for patients with bowel, pancreatic, prostate and other types of cancer.
Cultures that use a lot of curcumin in their diet generally have far fewer cases of bowel cancer in their population. A number of tests have been carried out to confirm the connection between curcumin consumption and a reduced risk of bowel cancer.
During one trial conducted by Cancer Research UK, patients were given up to five capsules of turmeric, or the equivalent of half a teaspoon a day for two weeks. It was determined that taking the spice was safe, although there were some mild side-effects.
There is some evidence to suggest that curcumin could have some potential in fighting low moods and depression. It is also suggested that it can improve the effectiveness of some antidepressant drugs such as fluoxetine, but more research is needed.
In addition, the spice could help the body to beat stress and reduce insomnia.
Other Health Conditions
Patients with skin conditions such as psoriasis might find turmeric beneficial, and there have been some studies to investigate the possibility of using the spice to help diabetic wound healing.
It could play a role in boosting the immune system as well, helping the body to fend off colds. However, these are all areas that require further study before it can be determined if it really is an effective treatment.
It is generally safe to supplement the diet with additional curcumin provided the patient is in good health and isn't on any type of medication that could interact with it.
Patients on anti-inflammatories or blood thinning drugs should not supplement with the spice without speaking to a doctor first and pregnant women also need to be careful.
In addition, topical application of turmeric can cause skin irritation, dermatitis or redness, so people with sensitive skin should take care.
The most common problems of consuming turmeric are digestive upsets; it can cause bloating, gas, stomach pains and heartburn in some people. Turmeric has been associated with an increased chance of bleeding so it should not be taken by patients on anti-coagulant medication.
How to Supplement Your Diet with Curcumin
Curcumin can be taken as a supplement and comes in the form of capsules or tablets. It can also be purchased as part of a combination of other herbs, such as boswellia and ginger, which also have anti-inflammatory properties. It can be given as a topical application by using a cream; this can be helpful for patients with joint pain.
However, one of the most effective ways of using curcumin is to add the spice to the daily diet. In addition to curries, it is perfect for spicing up every day meals. Turmeric works particularly well in pulse based recipes such as lentil soups and burgers.
Adding the circumin to pasta, grains and noodles will give extra colour and flavour to a meal.
Curcumin can also be found as an ingredient in many yellow mustards.
Image credit: kenishirotie / 123RF Stock Photo