Target Health Blog

Tumeric for Arthritis, Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer and Longevity?

April 8, 2019

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Target Healthy Eating
Source:

Curry using turmeric, referred to as haldi ki Sabzi, a dish from India and Pakistan. Wikipedia Creative Commons

Spicy delicious recipes from Pakistan and India feature a liberal quantity of turmeric (Curcuma longa). In biryani, the spice is an essential part of the curry mixture that gives the dish its distinctive zing. In American mustard, it's turmeric that gives it that bright yellow color. In Japan, turmeric tea is one feature attributed to Japanese longevity.

Much research has been done on turmeric and the good news is that it's good for arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and other diseases. How much daily consumption, is not clear. With all the studies in mind, I've begun to include in my diet a mid-morning home-made concoction of fresh lemon juice, honey, freshly grated ginger root and 1 teaspoon of turmeric. I've gotten used to the zing of the ginger and look forward to this healthy snack. It adds up to about 1/4 of a cup. Next Autumn, I will switch to a cup of hot turmeric tea with the same ingredients.

The good news about this cross-cultural spice is that elderly villagers in India, who eat turmeric in their daily curries, have the world's lowest rate of Alzheimer's disease. That does not appear to be a coincidence. In a study at the University of California at Los Angeles, scientists fed curcumin, an active compound in turmeric tea, to rats prone to accumulate beta-amyloid plaque in their brains - the abnormality associated with Alzheimer's disease in humans. Curcumin blocked the plaque's accumulation. It also appeared to reduce inflammation related to Alzheimer's disease in neural tissue. The rats fed curcumin also performed better on memory tests than rats on normal diets.

Although, turmeric/curcumin cannot formally claim medical uses established by well-designed clinical research, the research continues. Studies have suggested turmeric has broad anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects as well. But few Americans eat enough curry to achieve these protective effects. Although Dr. Andrew Weil found a potential solution during one of his many trips to Okinawa, the island nation with the world's longest average life span, 81.2 years. Okinawans drink copious quantities of turmeric tea. Some brew it fresh, but others simply buy cans or powdered instant versions of unsweetened tea from their local stores. If you would like to try it, here's a recipe. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and flavorings until you find a combination that suits your taste:

Tumeric Tea

Directions:

  1. Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon or both to taste.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root

While grated ginger and turmeric versions are more convenient, it's worthwhile to experiment with freshly grated turmeric and ginger, for a more vibrant flavor. These distinctive, deep-orange roots are increasingly available in American grocery and natural food stores. One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies is published by ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD. Here are some of the diseases that turmeric has been found to help prevent or alleviate, according to Dr. Duke.

Alzheimer's disease: Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric's effects in addressing Alzheimer's disease. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer's disease. Arthritis: Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme). By itself, writes Duke, curcumin - the component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects - is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies of the efficacy of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms.

Cancer: Duke found more than 200 citations for turmeric and cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. He noted that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action, curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, murine hepatocarcinogenesis (liver cancer in rats), esophageal cancer, and oral cancer. Duke said that the effectiveness of the herb against these cancers compared favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals.

Sources: Andrew Weil MD, DrWeil.com, by Brad Lemley; Wikipedia

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