Is Curcumin Really Anti-Inflammatory?
Turmeric and its antioxidant component curcumin are widely recommended by natural health experts for treatment of inflammation. The turmeric is long known for its anti-inflammatory properties. The scientific literature is slowly confirming that turmeric and curcumin relieve inflammation that causes:
Turmeric as an Anti-inflammatory
- Chronic bladder infections
- Crohn's disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Inflammatory eye diseases
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Peptic ulcer disease
Turmeric for Inflammation - What Form of Turmeric Should You Use
The form of turmeric you would use to support recovery from these conditions is turmeric and curcuimin in capsules. The reason you take a combination of turmeric, the herb, plus curcumin (or "curcuminoids"), the antioxidant, is that it turns out that turmeric's analgesic power is not just due to curcumin. If you take a curcumin "phytosome," your body will absorb the curcumin more quickly and more completely than it absorbs pure curcumin.
Turmeric also contains capsaicin, which relieves pain by "distracting" the central nervous system. Turmeric contains gingerol, the chemical also found in ginger that gives both herbs their "hot" taste and that relieves arthritic pain and nausea. Turmeric also contains caffeic acid, which counteracts the carcinogenic effects of aflatoxin, and ferulic acid, which helps maintain the integrity of DNA, especially in the skin.
Turmeric for Inflammation
Turmeric helps reverse inflammation caused by bad diet. Arachidonic acid is a compound found in hot dogs, hamburgers, processed cheese, bacon, and scrambled eggs, foods that many people in the English-speaking world despite being warned they are not good for them. The curcumin in turmeric interferes with the conversion of arachidonic acid into prostaglandins that cause inflammation.
Turmeric also helps reverse the progression of diseases that are stimulated by insulin. This hormone not only transports sugar and stores fat, it also is a signal for the growth of scar tissue. In the liver, the curcumin in turmeric slows the signals to the liver that it needs to grow scar tissue that can eventually cause cirrhosis, and interfere with detoxifying processes for the entire body.
What can you expect if you take turmeric with curcumin for any of the inflammatory diseases listed above?
- You'll probably experience less stomach upset caused by the pain medications you already take. Turmeric helps settle your stomach.
- You may experience some additional pain relief in joints and muscles in 24 to 48 hours. Turmeric usually doesn't "kick in" as quickly as aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Tylenol, but the advantage is you don't get the stomach upset and you may be able to take less of your regular medications. The full effects of turmeric for joint flexibility and pain relief make take as long as six months.
- If you are exposed to second-hand smoke, you may find that you are less likely to suffer allergies and asthma attacks.
- If you have allergies and asthma, you may find you need medication less frequently to treat them.
- If you have psoriasis, you will probably notice a lessening of itching and scaling. You'll get better results if you use a product that combines both turmeric and curcumin, since other plant chemicals in the herb seem to exert skin-specific effects. Learn more about benefits of turmeric for skin problems
- If you have acne, you may get fewer pimples. You won't get fewer blackheads or whiteheads as a result of taking turmeric.
- If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you'll probably notice a lessening of diarrhea and flatulence before you experience improvement in constipation. The effects in irritable bowel syndrome take about 3 or 4 days to start.
And what about benefits you won't necessarily notice?
- If you have chronic bladder infections, turmeric may relieve symptoms, but it does not kill bacteria.
- If you have type 2 diabetes, curcumin may work with vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid to lower oxidative stress and increase the rate at which your cells burn sugar, but the effect will be small. Turmeric won't cause hypoglycemia, but it's not a cure, either.
- If you smoke, it's best to quit, but if you can't quit, turmeric may reduce your risk of lung cancer. Nicotine causes lung cancer by maintaining an "on switch" for cancer cell growth. Curcumin activates an "off switch" for cancer cell growth.
- If you have been exposed to arsenic from treated lumber or contaminated cosmetics, turmeric may reduce long-term genetic damage.
- If you have diabetic retinopathy, curcumin may slow the progression of the disease, although it's not likely to cause improvement in existing retinopathy.
- If you are at risk for breast cancer, curcumin may slow the development of tumors long enough for your immune system to eliminate them. Women who live in countries where turmeric is used daily have much lower rates of breast cancer, but it is unlikely that turmeric by itself would stop breast cancer, especially in women who have had many years with low antioxidant status.
- Similarly, turmeric with curcumin may help prevent the kinds of prostate cancer that do not respond to hormone therapy, but it's impossible to say what will happen when men start taking turmeric with curcumin after the tumor has already developed.