Turmeric Contains Bioactive Compounds With Powerful Medicinal Properties
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color.
It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb.
Recently, science has started to back up what the Indians have known for a long time… it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties (1).
These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.
However, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high… it’s around 3%, by weight (2).
Curcumin is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound
Turmeric in Wooden Bowl
Inflammation is incredibly important.
It helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage.
Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could easily take over our bodies and kill us.
Although acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term) and inappropriately deployed against the body’s own tissues.
It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions (4, 5, 6).
Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.
Turmeric Dramatically Increases The Antioxidant Capacity of The Body
Turmeric in Bowl and Spoon
Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases.
It involves free radicals, highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons.
Free radicals tend to react with important organic substances, such as fatty acids, proteins or DNA.
The main reason antioxidants are so beneficial, is that they protect our bodies from free radicals.
Curcumin happens to be a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure (15, 16).
But curcumin also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes (17, 18, 19).
Back in the day, it was believed that neurons weren’t able to divide and multiply after early childhood.
However, it is now known that this does happen.
The neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain, they can also multiply and increase in number.
One of the main drivers of this process is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain (20).
Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone. This includes depression and Alzheimer’s disease (21, 22).
Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF (23, 24).
By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function (25).
There is also the possibility that it could help improve memory and make you smarter. Makes sense given its effects on BDNF levels, but this definitely needs to be tested in human controlled trials (26).