The Health Benefits of Turmeric
The starting point with turmeric is to say, you can achieve the health benefits it offers by including it in your diet. There are parts of the world that do that! If you do take it as an organic food supplement then always take it with meals or with fish oils. It is fat soluble and the health benefits will only be achieved if there is also fat simultaneously in your diet. Black pepper has also been shown to help absorption through the gut.
Curcumin is the key active phytochemical found in turmeric. As with many herbs, the type of pharmacists that carry out this type of research are more interested in the constituent phytochemicals rather than the wholistic benefits of the whole herb. A recent paper by Altaf et al “Curcumin and Liver Cancer: a Review” looks at its antioxidant, apoptopic and anti-inflammatory effects as well as its involvement in various molecular signalling mechanisms related to Liver Cancer. The review covers various preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies and is generally very positive. The full review published in Current Pharmaceutical Biology V13 Issue 1 can be downloaded at www.eurekaselect.com/76073/article
As with nearly all studies into the healing properties of herbs and phytochemicals it ends by recommending full clinical trials. These trials are unlikely to happen (except through non-sponsored academic trials) as they are expensive to run and you cannot patent a herb! Having said that, the University of Leicester is currently running a trial into the effects of giving advanced bowel and liver cancer patients curcumin before they have chemotherapy.
Another review article in the Journal of Nephropathology 2012 1 (1) 17-22 by P Khajehdehi concluded “Further studies are needed to investigate possible beneficial effects of turmeric/curcumin in wide variety of illnesses. However turmeric, a neglected Asian traditional drug, might reemerge as a remedy and/or preventive tool for various illnesses including different type of cancers, obesity, type-2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, CKD and ESRD, which are steadily increasing globally, claiming many lives and tremendous amount of resources worldwide” The review can be found at nephropathol.com/?page=article&article_id=7375
Turmeric and Alzheimer’s Disease
An overview of the Effect of Curcumin on Alzheimer’s Disease by Mishra and Palanivelu reviews everything from epidemiological studies (where, for example, Indians are far less likely to get AD than Americans) through to studies looking at the effect of curcumin on macrophages (where for example, a study conducted at UCLA found that curcumin may help the macrophages to clear the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease). The article can be found at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/
Australian university Edith Cowan has announced a clinical trial into the use of curcumin to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Click here to see the press release
As mentioned above, one of the key issues with turmeric which has affected the results of some studies is bio-availability. For that reason it is generally recommended to take turmeric supplements at meal times, (in particular black pepper and fat based products such as milk have been shown to help absorption). Because of the issue with bio-availability this double-blind placebo study by Small et al used a bioavailable form of turmeric. Their findings indicated the potential for not only improving age-related memory decline but also preventing or possibly slowing down the progression of neurodegeneration and eventually future symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Turmeric and Cognitive Function
Linked to its ability to aid Alzheimer’s there is a lot of research that indicates turmeric can improve focus and attention – useful for students and those worried about the affects of ageing. Now we might know why… a recent study published in the the journal of Stem Cell Research and Therapy found that a turmeric extract boosted production of brain stem cells and helped proliferation of stem cells into neurons. This article in Newsweek provides more detail.
You don’t have to take turmeric for weeks to see a benefit. This fantastic double-blind placebo trial into the benefits of curcumin for the over 60s found significant improvements in attention and memory after just one hour with further improvements to memory and mood in the longer term
Turmeric and Mental Health
Meta-Research shows that turmeric (curcumin) has a significant impact in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with major depression http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26610378
Turmeric and Joint Pain
This meta-analysis of 8 random control trial research studies looking at the benefit of turmeric and curcumin for joint arthritic pain concludes “these RCTs provide scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of turmeric extract in the treatment of arthritis”. That’s about as conclusive as a scientific report gets!