We at Natural Health Journals have previously written about the amazing health benefits of the plant turmeric (see: The Healing Power of Turmeric and Can Curry Cure Cancer?).
Turmeric is a root in the same family as ginger; it’s dried and ground into a golden powder, which is used heavily in South Asian cuisine to make curry. Turmeric is also used as a natural coloring agent and gives mustard its rich golden color.
We told you about turmeric’s manifold properties, including anti-inflammatory, pain-killing, anti-cancerous, anti-oxidative, and as an agent that helps guard against memory and mental decline. Curcumin — the active ingredient in turmeric — also has antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Curcumin is credited with helping people maintain an ideal weight, as it helps to metabolize dietary fat. Curcumin has also been found to help regulate insulin levels and decrease insulin resistance, thus being beneficial to those with diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions.
As if those credentials weren’t impressive enough, a study from India published by Panjab University (April, 2013) shows that curcumin may also greatly curb the onset of brain conditions induced by frequent alcohol consumption.
In the study, groups of rats were administered ethanol over a 10-week period. Researchers found that alcohol-induced cognitive conditions, including poor spatial navigation, poor memory and increased cellular oxidative stress, were markedly reduced in the groups that were also given curcumin during the 10 weeks. The curcumin treatments in fact were found to diminish all the behavioral, biochemical and molecular changes that were produced by the ongoing ethanol consumption, and which were apparent in the rats that got ethanol but no curcumin.
The study authors concluded that curcumin appears to be effective in preventing cognitive impairment brought on by chronic alcohol consumption.
This study follows earlier ones that had shown curcumin to have protective properties against liver damage from excessive alcohol consumption. A 2010 study by Zagazig University in Egypt investigated the benefits of daily curcumin treatments on the livers of rats that were given alcohol and heated oil for 12 weeks. All rat groups that were given alcohol (ethanol) displayed signs of greater oxidative stress compared to the control groups. (Oxidative stress refers to the rate of accumulation of damaging “free radicals” in cells vs. the organism’s ability to neutralize the free radicals or repair tissue damage caused by them.) However, the rats that got curcumin along with ethanol showed fewer signs of liver damage than those that did not get curcumin.
Researchers have repeatedly concluded that curcumin has anti-mutagenic properties: long-term consumption of this ingredient appears to protect cellular DNA from damage. Curcumin seems to protect brain, liver, and indeed, all tissues, against harm from many different environmental and dietary toxins, including alcohol-related oxidative stress.
Turmeric eaten in foods as a spice is considered safe for all. It can also be mixed with warm milk, as curcumin is best absorbed into the bloodstream when it’s dissolved in fats.
Curcumin can also be purchased as a supplement at health stores or online; however, because of possible side effects and interactions with stronger medications, it is recommended that you consult with a health care professional before starting a supplement regime. For instance, because curcumin may thin out the blood (by preventing platelets from sticking together), it is not recommended for people who are on blood thinners, unless you stop taking your blood-thinning medication at least two weeks before starting the curcumin supplements. Talk things over with your doctor to help determine a safe and beneficial supplement plan for you.
By Lisa Pecos