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Curcumin Turmeric: Prevent Alzheimer’s, Reduce Pain, and End Inflammation With THIS

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Posted Tuesday, Mar. 8th, 2011

curcumin

Here’s a great idea for the next Indiana Jones movie that could also help to save your life.

Indy is barreling through India, fighting his way from Calcutta to New Delhi, fending off poachers and thieves who are trying to rob him of a valuable golden powder that is reputed to have ancient healing powers.

Our hero manages to stash his treasure in an ancient recess deep in the Taj Mahal, only to have it discovered by tourists who think it is powdered gold.

After convincing them that the satchel contains poor man’s saffron, Indy delivers his treasure to a local medicine man who uses it to cure an entire village.

Seem far-fetched? Perhaps, but only the Indiana Jones part!

It turns out that there actually IS a golden spice that used to be considered a less expensive version of saffron, but is now heralded as “Indian gold,” due to its amazing proven healing powers for conditions such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and possibly even cancer.

An Indian Culinary Staple…

The herb turmeric is related to another health-enhancing spice: ginger.

Ginger has a long culinary history and can be traced as far back as 1280, when Marco Polo saw it in China and compared it (at least in color) to saffron.

However, turmeric is more commonly associated with India, where it flavors nearly every Indian dish.  Curcuma longa is the most common type of turmeric grown in India.  It is used in curries, prepared mustard, and even as a food preservative.

Like saffron, turmeric has a distinctive yellow color.  But, unlike saffron, turmeric has powerful healing properties, thanks to the power of curcumin.

Curcumin is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compound found in turmeric and is responsible for the lauded medicinal virtue of the spice.

In fact, curcumin has been attributed to healing a wide variety of health conditions, ranging from cancer and pain relief to Alzheimer’s.

But do the studies back up the claims?  Let’s take a look.

A Potent Anti-inflammatory…

Curcumin is widely accepted as a potent anti-inflammatory.  In fact, one review of curcumin studies found that it is not only safe and non-toxic, but also very effective at reducing inflammation.1

Researchers also found that curcumin works by inhibiting several different molecules that are involved in inflammation,1 including:

  • lipooxygenase,
  • COX-2,
  • leukotrienes,
  • prostaglandins,
  • nitric oxide,
  • interferon-inducible protein,
  • tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and
  • interleukin-12 (IL-12).

Sure, that’s a long and impressive list, but what does it mean exactly? It means curcumin reduces inflammation.  But how well does it do this?

According to a gold standard study, pretty darn well.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study,2 45 post-surgery patients between the ages of 15 and 68 were divided into three groups.  Three times a day for six days, the first group took 400 mg of curcumin.  The second group took 100 mg of phenylbutazone (a popular NSAID), and the third group got a placebo.

At the end of the six days, those taking the curcumin and the NSAID enjoyed a significantly better anti-inflammatory response than placebo.  Or, to put it simply, the spice worked as well as the drug, but without the nasty side effects.

You gotta love that!

An Incredible Pain Reliever…

As the study above shows, one obvious benefit of reducing inflammation is pain relief, and this is proven again in another double-blind crossover study.3

This time, rheumatoid arthritis patients were given either 1,200 mg of curcumin or 300 mg of phenylbutazone (the same NSAID as the earlier study) every day.

At the end of the study period, both groups had significant improvements in morning stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling.

And, once again, the curcumin was well tolerated and showed no adverse side effects.

We get it – curcumin reduces inflammation and eases pain equally as well as a common prescription drug.  But what does this have to do with Alzheimer’s disease?

Funny you should ask…

Looking For A Way to Kick Alzheimer’s?…

In 2008, researchers hypothesized that inflammation may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, it stood to reason that anti-inflammatory NSAIDs should help in the prevention or even treatment of the disease.

To test this theory, they developed the Alzheimer’s Disease Anti-Inflammatory Prevention Trial, or ADAPT.4 More than 2,500 patients enrolled in this randomized, placebo-controlled study.

They were divided into three groups, with the first group receiving 200 mg of celocoxib (Celebrex) twice a day.  The second group received 220 mg of naproxen twice a day, and the third group received a placebo.

The study was to last for seven years, but only four years after it began the researchers terminated the study due to safety concerns related to naproxen.

While they found that the NSAIDs did result (to date) in a 30 percent reduction in Alzheimer’s among those patients taking them, they determined that the drug’s side effects (such as gastrointestinal bleeding and liver and kidney damage) weren’t worth the risk.  We agree.

Given this, some clever researchers at UCLA were intrigued by the idea that anti-inflammatory drugs seemed to reduce Alzheimer’s disease. So, aiming to sidestep the dangers of NSAIDs, they decided to see if a natural anti-inflammatory could produce the same results.5

Re-enter curcumin.

Researchers tested both a low-dose and a high-dose of curcumin on mice with Alzheimer-like pathology to see if the spice would reduce inflammation, oxidative damage, and plaque pathology.

They determined that curcumin significantly lowered several inflammation markers, in addition to reducing plaque on the brain (a sign of Alzheimer’s) by 43 to 50 percent.

They concluded that curcumin “shows promise for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.”

We think it does too, and without the dangerous side effects of NSAIDs.

However, what we’d really like to see is a gold standard human study that tests the effects of curcumin on Alzheimer’s disease. But this is a good start.

A Way to Derail Cancer?

Staying on the inflammation/disease train, researchers have also wondered if curcumin could be effective in preventing yet another inflammation-related disease: Cancer.

According to an extensive literature review conducted by researchers at the esteemed M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, curcumin has “enormous” potential to prevent and treat cancer.6 Their review found that curcumin was able to suppress tumor formation, growth, and even metastasis.

This is great. We love it when people do our work for us and review studies on our behalf. But it’s not enough; we still want to look at some of those specific studies.

Combined hormone therapy containing both estrogen and progestin (sometimes referred to as MPA) has been shown to increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer (among other things).7 In one animal study,8 researchers used this premise to determine whether curcumin could block the growth of induced, MPA-accelerated tumors in rats.

The rats were given the tumor induction on the first day of a 52-day trial.  On day 30, the rats were given time-released pellets containing the estrogen/progestin combo.  Researchers started the curcumin therapy in days 26 to 50.

Researchers found that the curcumin delayed tumor growth, as well as other tissue changes normally seen in breast tissue exposed to the hormone therapy.

They concluded that curcumin should be tested in women already exposed to combined hormone therapy in an effort to “decrease or delay the risk of breast cancer associated with combined HT.”

This is a very promising study, and we too would like to see the results from human trials.

Now for the men.

In a second animal study,9 researchers artificially induced prostate cancer in mice, and then gave them either curcumin, chemotherapy (gemcitabine), radiation, or a placebo treatment.  They found that curcumin helped to control the progression of the cancer.

Again, this is great news…for mice.

We’d like to see more human trials, though we understand that it is very difficult for researchers to find funding for gold standard studies on natural, un-trademarkable substances.

Especially for cancer.

Where to Find Your Indian Gold…

One of the easiest ways to enjoy all of the therapeutic benefits of curcumin is to use turmeric in cooking.

However, don’t confuse turmeric with curry powder.  While both are yellow spices often used in Indian cuisine, curry is actually a blend of spices, only one of which is turmeric.  You want the straight stuff…just turmeric.

Then you can go to town.  Use it on any protein dish: fish, meat, or chicken.  It also tastes fantastic mixed with lentils and garbanzo beans.

But don’t stop there.  You can add turmeric to vegetables, rice, potatoes, and soups.  Experiment and enjoy.  The result will be delicious AND healthy.

If you are looking for a more concentrated health hit, you can also opt for curcumin supplements.  The recommended dose is 450–600 mg per day.  Just be sure to take it with a healthy fat, such as coconut oil or olive oil, to increase absorption.

And, as with all supplements, look for a product that is free from preservatives, fillers, binders, excipients, flow agents, shellacs, coloring agents, gluten, yeast, lactose, and other allergens.  Ideally, you’ll also be able to find independent analysis done by a third party to verify the active ingredients and identify any contaminants.

Whether you choose to get cooking or rely on supplementation, turmeric and its powerful ally, curcumin, truly is worth its weight in gold.

References:

1Chainani-Wu, N.  Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of turmeric (Curcuma longa).  J. Altern. Complement. Med.  2003 Feb; 9(1):161-8.

2Satoskar, RR, et al.  Evaluation of anti-inflammatory property of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) in patients with postoperative inflammation.  Int. J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol.  1986 Dec;24(12):651-4.

3Deodhar, SD, et al.  Preliminary study of antirheumatic activity of curcumin (diferuloyl methane).  Indian Journal of Medical Research. 1980; 71:632-4.

4Martin, BK, et al.  Cognitive function over time in the Alzheimer’s Disease Anti-inflammatory Prevention Trial (ADAPT); results of a randomized, controlled trial of naproxen and celecoxib.  Arch. Neurol.  2008; 65(7):896-905.

5Lim, GP, et al.  The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse.  J. Neurosci.  2001 Nov 1; 21(21):8370-7.

6Aggarwal, BB et al.  Anticancer Potential of Curcumin: Preclinical and Clinical Studies.  Anticancer Research.  2003; 23:363-98.

7Writing group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators.  Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women.  JAMA.  2002 July 17; 288(3):321-33.

8Carroll, CE, et al.  Curcumin delays development of medroxyprogesterone acetate-accelerated 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced mammary tumors.  Menopause.  2010 Jan–Feb; 17(1):178-84.

9Li, M.  et al.  Curcumin, a dietary component, has anticancer, chemosensitization, and radiosensitization effects by down-regulating the MDM2 oncogene through the PI3K/mTOR/ETS2 pathway.  Cancer Res.  2007; 67(5):1988–96.

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  • Dot

    I truly am amazed and happy that finally something has come around that is good for us instead of a complete array of drugs. It was here all along created by the greatest alchemist of all time.

    • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

      Dot,

      We couldn’t agree more!

      Naturally yours,

      The Sherpa

  • Anonymous

    I am always dismayed by articles with sensationalistic promises in their titles. When you read the article itself, you find that it is not even close to what the title promises. In this case it referred to “powdered gold” as the ant-Alzheimers cure, while in fact the “gold” referred to is curcumin. It is false, misleading and downright deception. This sort of deception is very disheartening to folks who are caring for Alzheimers patients who are searching with great intensity for a cure to help their loved one. I support curcumin for brain function enhancement, however, this article is, in fact, very, very old news.

    • Acgeggco

      Ican help but say get real! Their has been a cure, yes CURE for cancer since mid 1800’s and the AMA has suppressed it as long as they have know it existed! Every aspect of natural herbs must always be looked at as one step to a cure not all in itself. There is no one herb to cure cancer or any other sickness, just lessen the affects. But, there is a combination of herbs that can cure cancer ! ! Seek and yee shall find, unless your mind is also blocked and not open to the light, that Education in Man’s world don’t always lead to the answers you seek!

      • Fccroft222

        ??what is it??

      • Anonymous

        Acgeggco: You are correct that Curcumin is a very old remedy for cancer and other diseases. The AMA has suppressed many, many cures and it is really sad. I read the literature for at least 3 hours daily on various cures and so forth to help my clients. Thanks for your input. It is good to see that so many people are anxious to help others. Blessings, Dr. Kathleen

      • Elizabethbloom

        HI What are the combination of herbs that helpcancer
        Elizabeth

      • Putzs_mom

        why do you speak of a cure but offer no explaination of what you mean for those desperate for answers. that makes no sense to me

    • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

      DrKathleen,

      We are sorry you felt the title overstated the promise. We used the word “prevention” rather than “cure” for that very reason. But we do feel the article makes good on the promise of curcumin as a preventative for Alzheimer’s.

      As for the “powdered gold,” as the article states, curcumin used to be referred to as Indian gold. We don’t see it as manipulation, bur rather combining facts with interesting tidbits about the spice (or therapy or food) to create a compelling article.

      And, as the studies show, curcumin does appear to help prevent the disease. Please continue to challenge us so we can continue to keep our bar high.

      Naturally yours,

      The Sherpa

      • Anonymous

        I read many, many articles by holistic physicians and occasionally they “overstate a promise”. They never get defensive when people point this out to them on their forums. Rather, the usual reaction is a positive one.

  • Dano

    DrKathleen: Oh please, it’s about prevention not a cure.

    • Anonymous

      Dear Dano: You are correct. It is for prevention. Absolutely. I use Curcumin myself without expectations of it being a “cure”. However, I have had clients ask me if Curcumin can “cure” various diseases. Every doctor faces that question many times a day and find it very hard to look into the eyes of a person who is stressed and desperate and say “no” it is not a cure, it is a prevention. Just sayin’

  • Mom

    Curcumin helps with inflammation also… I tried it and it worked….Big pharma and the cancer society have a cure for cancer, but they keep it hush, hush… Why? because they do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg… Think about it… what would happen if they find a cure… good bye to all that money they are taking in, plus all the job losses etc…..

    • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

      Mom,

      Curcumin is a great anti-inflammatory. We are thrilled it has worked for you!

      Naturally yours,

      The Sherpa

    • Jaycee

      Stay with your comments re Curcumin. Your other comments re Big Pharma are garbage—they are humanitarians too . They would love to find a cure too!!!
      Canada Guy

  • Glo

    Thanks for this wonderful insight to tumeric!! & coconut oil as a “good” oil!!

  • Madelahaye

    good article, thanks, I’m nurse in NZ and work in wellness centre combining conventional and functional medicine. This supports the knowledge I already have. Thank you

  • Tricia

    Does anyone know of a good source for high quality curcumin that meets the quality standards listed in the article?

    • http://www.facebook.com/hdolgin1 Hana Dolgin

      Please contact me for a high quality organic turmeric supplement from Japan, grown in Okinawa, home of many centenarians. It is called Ukon Sigma. It has both curcumin and essential oils of turmeric plus vitamins and healthy oils for better absorption. I am a distributor. I can be reached at 917 509 3256.

  • Janfaith

    I love this article. I am currently on a quest to find the cause of the inflamation devouring my body. I currently take meds for arthritis, HBP, acid-reflux, and a chronic cough. I took blood tests for food allergies and they came back negative. I know my body isn’t ridding itself of inflamation on it’s own but why? I recently finished a 10 day Master Cleanser program and lost 10 pounds. I think it was all inflamation! I am going to try the curcumin supplements. Thank you.

    • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

      Reducing systemic inflammation is one of the best things you can do for your body. Keep up the great work!

      Naturally yours,

      The Sherpa

    • Nmeggs

      I don’t know your eating habits…however, my suggestion would be this: No artificial sweeteners…ever…especially aspartame. & very little cane suger either… There are several anti-inflammatory supplements you may consider….ginger (in gel caps), cayenne ( hot, but can cool flames of inflammation, garlic (capsules)…..all of this is food and should produce no major issues otherwise….:) :)

  • Carolruss

    I love it if it works.
    Will try this one

  • Debbie lifshen

    What is the dose for the tumeric that should be used. It’s not clear from the article

    • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

      Debbie,

      The recommended dose is 450–600 mg per day. Just be sure to take it with a healthy fat, such as coconut oil or olive oil, to increase absorption.

      Naturally yours,

      The Sherpa

  • Putzs_mom

    Why is it that some seem convinced of their knowledge of supplements that can cure cancer but they do not list them in order to increase knowledge of others and give them the hope they desperately need?

    • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

      Dear Mom,

      We aren’t really sure how to answer that. One possible answer is that there are SEVERE limitations regarding supplements and cancer claims from the FDA perspective. The other is that cancer is a terrible and frightening disease and, unfortunately, there are very unethical people out there that make promises they cannot deliver on.

      The best solution is to look for solid, scientific studies from unbiased sources (like Natural Health Sherpa) that are committed to providing science-based information rather than anecdotal stories or hearsay. Education is always the best advice.

      Naturally yours,

      The Sherpa

  • john

    Wonderful article with great footnoted information. I am surprised and disappointed to see from the comments that it has been around for 2 years before I found it.

    The benefits of turmeric, which I am learning more and more about all the time, is why I invest in the finest organic turmeric I have been able to find. It is not cheap, but then neither is my health and well being. I take only Organic Okinawan Ukon. I know of none better and if I find one better, I’ll take it!

  • john

    Wonderful article with great footnoted information. I am surprised and disappointed to see from the comments that it has been around for 2 years before I found it.

    The benefits of turmeric, which I am learning more and more about all the time, is why I invest in the finest organic turmeric I have been able to find. It is not cheap, but then neither is my health and well being. I take only Organic Okinawan Ukon. I know of none better and if I find one better, I’ll take it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/hdolgin1 Hana Dolgin

    Great article! Turmeric is really amazing! For more information on the highest quality organic turmeric supplement, please contact me at 917 509 3256. This supplement contains organic turmeric powder and essential oils of turmeric plus vitamins (C, E, B1, B2, folic acid, niacin, B12) and healthy oils for greater absorption, exactly as mentioned in the article.

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  • Ali

    I believe that turmeric can be used to whiten the enamel on teeth. Brush
    with it, swallow it and then follow up with toothpaste. Am I correct to
    believe this?

  • skilroy

    My wife has dementia and we have the usual doctors prescriptions which did not seem to help so we have added readily absorbable curcumin 400mg and ibuprofen 800mg and this has brought her out of being lost in a room to being able to participate in every thing we do, but still has not brought back her short term memory. Can you recommend a way of achieving this.

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