Curcuma longa, an year long herb, is a member of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. The plant grows to a hight of three to five feet, and is cultivated extensively in Asia, India, China, and other countries with a tropical climate. It has oblong, pointed leaves and bears funnel-shaped yellow flowers.
The rhizome is usually boiled, cleaned, and dried, yielding a yellow powder. Dried Curcuma longa is the source of the spice turmeric, the ingredient that gives curry powder its characteristic yellow color. Turmeric is used extensively in foods for both its flavor and color.
Turmeric has a long tradition of use in the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of medicine, particularly as an anti-inflammatory agent, and for the treatment of flatulence, menstrual difficulties, hematuria, hemorrhage, and colic. Turmeric can also be applied topically in poultices to relieve pain and inflammation.(1)
The active constituents of turmeric are the flavonoid curcumin and volatile oils including tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone. Other constituents include sugars, proteins, and resins. The best researched active constituent is curcumin, which comprises 0.3 to 5.4 percent of raw turmeric.
Water- and fat-soluble extracts of turmeric and its curcumin component exhibit strong antioxidant activity, comparable to vitamins C and E. Incubation (18 hours) with curcumin resulted in enhanced cellular resistance to oxidative damage. Curcumin's antioxidant role in down-regulating nitric oxide formation, a key element in inflammation and possibly in the process of carcinogenesis.
In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs with anti-inflammatory effect. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity. Curcuma longa significantly reduced inflammatory swelling and inhibiting pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, as well as neutrophil function during inflammatory action..
Curcumin's ability is to inhibit carcinogenesis at three stages: tumor promotion, angiogenesis, and tumor growth. In two studies of colon and prostate cancer, curcumin was found to inhibit cell proliferation and tumor growth. Turmeric and curcumin are also capable of suppressing the activity of several common mutagens and carcinogens in a variety of cell types. The anticarcinogenic effects of turmeric and curcumin are due in part to direct antioxidant and free-radical scavenging effect but they also enhance the body's natural antioxidant system, increasing glutathione levels, thereby aiding in hepatic detoxification of mutagens and carcinogens, and inhibiting nitrosamine formation.
Turmeric's protective effects on the cardiovascular system include lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreasing susceptibility of low density lipoprotein (LDL) to lipid peroxidation, and inhibiting platelet aggregation.
Other turmeric applications
Natural remedies such as turmeric, have been used topically for the avoidance and treatment of many conditions. For example, turmeric is used in many Countries as treatment of wound, burns, including sun burns and psoriasis as well as in body lotions, moisturizers, antiseptic agents, beauty aids, allergic reaction formulations, anti-inflammatory products, anti-cancer products, anti-aging products, anti-oxidant products and osteoporosis products, including vitamin D. Turmeric extract inhibits the growth of a variety of bacteria, parasites, and pathogenic fungi .
Curcumin derived from Turmeric has positive influence on various diseases.