Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is one of the most useful herbal medicinal plants. It has been traditionally used for centuries in Asian cuisine. India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of turmeric. Extensive research has been conducted on turmeric and its medicinal properties. It has been proven that most of the activities of turmeric are due to chemical constituent called Curcumin.
Curcumin has significant antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial, and gastroprotective properties. It also affects neuro system. It is also used in many herbal cosmetics.
1) Antioxidant Effects: Curcumin has strong antioxidant properties that protect your cells against free radicals. Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food and these radicals have damaging effects on the body. The antioxidant activity is comparable to vitamin C and E.
2) Cardiovascular and Anti-Diabetic Effects: Curcumin exerts cardio-protective effects by antioxidant activity. It also shows the effect on cholesterol levels by decreasing the cholesterol uptake in the intestine. Curcumin also decreases blood glucose levels.
Anti-inflammatory Effects: Curcumin reduces the response of specific proteins (cytokines) that occur in the processes of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory activities have been proved in colitis, asthma, pancreatitis and various allergies.
4) Anticancer effects: Studies on Curcumin suggest that it is able to inhibit tumor growth. It also suppresses the activity of several mutagens and carcinogens.
5) Antimicrobial properties: Curcumin shows significant antimicrobial properties. Studies carried out on gram +ve and gram -ve bacteria have shown a 100% inhibitory effect. It is highly effective in suppressing Helicteres pylori in the stomach. Helicobacter pylori bacteria enter the digestive tract and cause damage to the lining of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine.
Apart from the above effects, epidemiological studies have also suggested its effect on Alzheimer’s. Turmeric is also used in skincare products due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits.
Thus from using it in curries to consuming golden milk and as cosmetic, Turmeric has many health benefits that strengthen the body and immune system.
Ms. Rajkumari Sahane. M.Pharm.
The writer is Research Associate in Pharmacology and is an academician with 15 years of research & teaching experience