Does turmeric help with inflammation of the joints and other organs?
Curcumin, one of the chief active ingredients in turmeric that helps prevent inflammation, is a bright yellowy-orange phytochemical that is found in the plants from the ginger family; natural phenols like this are known for numerous health benefits and have long been used in herbal medicine. Is this folklore, or is there any scientific substance behind the claims?
Well, yes, there is research showing that it helps with the control of blood sugar, important for all of us, but especially for diabetics, for arthritis and other conditions associated with inflammation.
This site is not really about treating specific conditions like osteoarthritis or diabetes with this or that; it is all about including small amounts of these important phytochemicals daily in our foods. Prevention always was better than a cure, and though totally ignored, still is today.
I am a strong believer that we eat certain foods, not because of their wonderful taste, but because they are good for us. The powerful theme in today's nosh is that you only have to enjoy those meals that titivate the taste buds, which almost certainly means there is added sugar and they are made from highly refined ingredients. Who eats chickpeas, or lettuce and kale, broccoli and pumpkin because of their stunning flavour?
Luckily turmeric is one of those spices that adds an enormously rich flavour to our food; we find it a great pleasure to add it daily in small amounts to our cooking.
Does turmeric help with the inflammation always associated with raised blood sugar, and diabetes in general? What does the research say?
Scientists, reporting in the journal Nutrients state that curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric and ginger, delays diabetes development, improves the function of B-cells in the pancreas and prevents their death, and makes us more sensitive to the effect of insulin on our tissues.
That means that even if we are significantly overweight, turmeric will ameliorate the noxious effect of raised blood glucose; it will delay the onset of diabetes and increase the ability of our cells to take up glucose from the blood stream.
However, let it be plainly said; this is not a substitute for a healthy diet. The Indian community in South Africa enjoys prodigious amounts of turmeric in their cooking, but has one of the highest rates of diabetes and associated heart disease in the world.
Neither all the green tea in China, nor turmeric in India will save us from the ravages of diabetes if we have an overly sweet tooth.
Parkinson's disease is a pernicious illness affecting nearly 2% of older folk causing tremors, difficulties with standing and walking and cognitive defects. Along with Alzheimer's it belongs to a group of conditions collectively known as neurodegenerative.
Specific cells in a nucleus of the brain known as the Substantia Nigra, and in the lining of the colon, now being called the "second brain", are destroyed by certain unknown toxins causing a depletion of dopamine. Medical treatment is directed at replacing this neurotransmitter; in the early stages there is symptomatic relief but long term the pernicious progress of the motor and intellectual disability continues.
Scientists reporting in Curr Pharm Des report that there are several studies showing that curcumin, because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and gain direct access to those cells that synthesise dopamine, does have neuroprotective properties.
Osteoarthritis of the knee is the fourth leading cause of disability; the weight bearing joints are increasingly at risk in an obese population. Hips and feet are thus also highly prone.
In the early stages, short term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is effective in pain control but long term use has serious side-effects. There is increasing interest in the use of herbs and spices in the management of well-being, so researchers decided to compare the effectiveness of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, with diclofenac, a commonly prescribed NSAID for arthritis of the knee.
In this blinded study, 149 patients with no history of stomach ulcers were divided into two groups, one receiving curcumin and the other diclofenac. After 28 days they found that the two groups responded equally well in terms of pain and disability.
Just as important, the curcumin group lost weight, and nearly a quarter of the NSAID group required H2 blockers for stomach pain.
The researchers concluded that curcumin has similar efficacy to diclofenac but demonstrated better tolerance among patients with knee OA.
Does turmeric help with inflammation is a question often asked by those suffering from arthritis, for example in the knee.
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