CURCUMA (Tumeric)

CURCUMA (Tumeric)
WRITTEN BY R.D.N ANTONIO GOMEZ

Background

Turmeric is a flowering plant from the genus “Curcuma longa” therefore the name Curcuma, this plant is native to India and Southeast Asia, is widely used throughout Asia as the main ingredient in curries and due to its yellow color, bitter-black pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma it’s sometimes referred to as “Indian saffron”, its extensive use in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is also known as Haridra has raised significant interest in its health benefits. Researches have proven that most of the bioactive substances of Curcuma are due to metabolites called curcumins.

In recent years Curcuma has been taunted to have antioxidant,  anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antimicrobial and hepatoprotective properties.

Historical Uses

Curcuma has been used in Asia for thousands of years and is a major part of Ayurveda medicine, Chinese medicineUnani medicine and in Austronesian rituals.

In some parts of India, curcuma is used as a weaning food for babies in the form of starch after boiling Tumeric roots in water or milk.

It was first used as a dye, and then later for its supposed properties in folk medicine.

The pulp of Tumeric roots has been used as an analgesic aid, from headaches to joint pains.

Infusions of curcuma in the form of tea have been used to soothe coughs and treat bronchitis.

Current traditional medicine claims health benefits to gastrointestinal diseases, liver disorder, diabetic wounds, rheumatism, and inflammation. 

Scientific Health Evidence

  • Turmeric contains 69.4% carbohydrates, 6.3% protein, 5.1% fat, 3.5% minerals, and 13.1%.water. (Ravindran PN et al)
  • Tumeric contains three notable curcuminoids, being curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Of these, curcumin is the most active, most beneficial to health and gives turmeric its distinct color and flavor. (Chattopadhyay I et al)
  • Curcumin shown activity against free radicals. Its antioxidant activity is comparable to vitamins C and E. (Bernard GT et al)
  • 25 patients with endoscopically diagnosed with gastric ulcer, were given 600 mg powdered turmeric five times daily, showing positive benefits on 48 percent of patients. No adverse reactions or blood abnormalities were recorded. (Khajehdehi P et al)
  • Curcumin has also been found to have moderate activity against some pathogens (Zhang et al)
  • In laboratory studies, the extract of turmeric was shown to be effective in suppressing inflammation and protecting the epidermal cells from the damages caused by ultraviolet radiation. (Lopex-Jornet et al)

 

Expert Opinion

Turmeric is a unique root with various types of chemical compounds, which are responsible for a variety of activities. Although a lot of experiments have been done only on animal studies, more investigations on human trials are needed to exploit the therapeutic utility of this food. 

Tumeric is mostly consumed in the form of powder nowadays as a culinary ingredient, its unique odor and flavor are attributed to unique substances called curcumins, on the nutritional point of view a 5 grams tablespoon of Curcuma is very low calorie-dense with the main macro-nutrient being mainly carbohydrates.

Curcuminoids have been studied in pre-clinical cell culture and animal studies providing new information to their biological activity as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-acidogenic and radioprotective. 

Different clinical trials are working on discovering added therapeutic potential for numerous chronic diseases such as colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Present evidence can only verify curcuma's health benefits to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and radioprotective properties, curcuminoids are oils found only in Tumeric roots, the main mechanism in which all of these benefits above can be attributed is to curcuminoids ability to inhibit a rise in toxic metabolites inside the cell, this inhibition prevents cell signaling to produce inflammatory proteins.

The evidence shown in human studies against gastric ulcers seems promising, as curcuminoids elicit a protective mechanism inside the mucosa walls to prevent its further decay aiding in regeneration.

Its antioxidant activity has not been well studied, but it seems its flavonoid content base on studies is subpar to the content in vitamin C and E, giving it a good profile but not the greatest, for example, purple corn content of flavonoids is 4 times greater than vitamin E.

The radioprotective properties can be attributed to its flavonoid content since flavonoids' main role is to be scavengers of free radicals aiding in DNA damage, nevertheless, time of exposure and cell type can be a limiting factor since present studies only show positive effects on a short time period exposures on epidermal cells.

“Curcuma is a special culinary spice, it may not be for everyone due to its punchy flavor and smell, but on the nutritional side it can be a very good addition to the diet every now and then, the best benefit backed up by science it is anti-acid properties, making it a wonderful aid for those with gastrointestinal problems related to acidity and /or a compromised mucus layer protecting it from harmful bacteria”

Table 1 Curcuma Nutritional Facts.

Curcuma Powder Nutritional Facts

0.9 kcal per tablespoon (2 grams)

Proteins

0.07 g

Fats

0 g

Carbohydrates

0.1 g

 

Table 2 Curcuma vs Quinoa comparison table.

 

Bibliography
  • Ravindran PN, Nirmal Babu K, Sivaraman K. Turmeric. The golden spice of life. In: Turmeric. The Genus Curcuma. Boca Raton, FL, USA: CRC Press; 2007. 
  • Chattopadhyay I, Biswas K, Bandyopadhyay U, Banerjee RK. Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications. Curr Sci India 2004.
  • Ammon HP, Anazodo MI, Safayhi H, Dhawan BN, Srimal RC. Curcumin: A potent inhibitor of leukotriene B4 formation in rat peritoneal polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNL). Planta Med 1992. 
  • Bernard GT, Esteban P, Christopher JS. Turmerones: Isolation from turmeric and their structure determination. Chem Commun 1982.
  • Khajehdehi P. Turmeric: Reemerging of a neglected Asian traditional remedy. J Nephropathol 2012.
  • Lopez-Jornet P, Gomez-García F, Carrillo NG, Valle-Rodríguez E, Xerafifinc A, Vicente-Ortega V. Radioprotective effects of lycopene and curcumin during local irradiation of parotid glands in Sprague Dawley rats. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2016.
  • Zhang D, Luo J, Yan D, Jin C, Dong X, Xiao X. Effects of two curcuminoids on Candida albicans. Chin Herb Med. 2012.

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