Turmeric and its remedies
By Jasminee Sahoye
Most of us have had curry and associate it with its bright yellow colour, which is derived from a spice. That yellow spice is turmeric. It is grown in India and other tropical regions of Asia, as well as in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. It is used raw, dried and ground.
It has a long history of use in herbal remedies, particularly in China, India, and Indonesia and it has been brought down to the West Indies by our forefathers. The root and rootstock, or rhizome, of the plant contain curcumin, an antioxidant which is considered to be the active ingredient.
A wide range of research has identified Turmeric as having a number of health benefits.
Laboratory studies and research on its effects on animals have found that curcumin, demonstrated some anti-cancer effects. Several types of cancer cells are inhibited by curcumin in the laboratory, and curcumin slows the growth and spread of some cancers in animals.
But more research is still needed to determine curcumin’s role in cancer prevention and treatment in human beings. Clinical trials are underway for that purpose.
According to an article published on the American Cancer Society (ACS) website, studies on the medical use of curcumin for cancer prevention and treatment in humans have raised some interesting issues.
One observation is that: “… curcumin does not absorb well from the intestine, so that big doses must be taken for even small amounts to get into the blood circulation. Large doses of curcumin would need to be taken in order to study any effects it might have in the body.”
Another study was done of 15 patients with colorectal cancer, to determine how much curcumin they could safely take, and whether they could take a dose large enough to even be detected in the blood. The results showed that “…patients were able to take 3.6 grams of curcumin without noting ill effects. At this high dose, some curcumin and its products were found in the blood. Lower doses may be enough to directly affect the stomach and intestine. Even though it does not absorb well into the bloodstream, curcumin absorbs into the colon lining and into cancerous tissues in the colon. Small studies have found that most people in study groups were able to take up to 10 grams of curcumin per day for a period of a few weeks without noticing problems other than the large volume of curcumin pills [to be swallowed]….”
Studies are also being done to find out whether curcumin improves the outcome in kidney transplants and whether it helps patients suffering from diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, stomach ulcers, and “bad cholesterol”.
Turmeric is being promoted as an anti-inflammatory herbal remedy and is believed to produce fewer side effects than commonly used pain relievers.
The ACS article further stated: “Some practitioners prescribe turmeric to relieve inflammation caused by arthritis, muscle sprains, swelling, and pain caused by injuries or surgical incisions. It is also promoted as a treatment for rheumatism and as an antiseptic for cleaning wounds. Some proponents claim turmeric interferes with the actions of some viruses, including hepatitis and HIV”.
It added that supporters claim that turmeric protects against liver diseases, stimulates the gallbladder and circulatory systems, reduces cholesterol levels, dissolves blood clots, helps stop external and internal bleeding, and relieves painful menstruation and angina (chest pains that often occur with heart disease). It is also used as a remedy for digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and illnesses caused by toxins from parasites and bacteria.
Another recent safety study in humans suggested that curcumin changes the chemical nature and effects of oxalate, a substance that can form kidney stones. The researchers urged caution against the use of this supplement by people with other conditions that make them susceptible to kidney stones.
“People taking blood-thinning medications, drugs that suppress the immune system, or non-steroidal pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) should avoid turmeric because of the risk of harmful drug interactions,” the ACS article added, noting that other potential interactions between turmeric and other drugs and herbs should be considered.
Always tell your doctor and pharmacist about any herbs or supplements you are taking.