Daniel Matthews |
What can’t turmeric do? Given everything we are discovering about this fiery yellow substance, it looks to be the most super of all superfoods. But can it help prevent or cure cancer? Can it help with Alzheimer’s? Given how many people these diseases effect, and Western science’s inability to find real cures, anything as powerful as turmeric is bound to go under the microscope in our search for remedies.
In my previous post, I claimed curcumin, the therapeutic ingredient in turmeric, is able to affect genes in such a way as to fight cancer. This is due to the phytochemical curcumin’s ability to eliminate free radicals and turn off transcription factors in genes that create cancer agents. In the colon, curcumin aids cells with turnover and recovery—it helps prevent colon cancer.
But medical science hasn’t been able substantiate the claim about curcumin’s ultimate effectiveness against cancer. Likewise with Alzheimer’s. The NIH simply says, not enough clinical studies have been performed, but preliminary findings from animal and other laboratory studies suggest that curcumin may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties—but these findings have not been confirmed in people.
Science needs studies on humans to duplicate positive effects in certain conditions.
One might ask, in an absence of sufficient studies on humans, why on Earth does anyone think turmeric can help humans to begin with? Here’s a look at the build-up of positive findings for Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Turmeric for Alzheimer’s
- Wellington Pham, a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, recently published a study showing that curcumin aerosol is able to reduce the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. Researchers have found a build-up of this plaque on the cells of Alzheimer’s patients, and are theorizing it leads to Alzheimer’s.
- Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Germany found that turmeric helps the brain produce stem cells and differentiate them into neurons, which aid the brain in self-repair.
- A study in Japan showed significant improvement for three patients suffering from severe Alzheimer’s symptoms. After taking less than a gram of turmeric for 12 weeks, all three patients experienced real relief from their symptoms, including disorientation, anxiety, agitation, apathy, and short term memory loss.
- Two observational studies of people living in India showed they are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Their ingestion of curcumin is via curry, which increased curcumin’s bioavailability.
- 30 Alzheimer’s studies have shown turmeric’s curcumin is a neuroprotective agent, backing up the research by German scientists regarding stem cells. Curcumin is also an antioxidant.
Turmeric for cancer
- A study at Baylor University found a combination of curcumin and boswellia (frankincense) prevented colon cancer. Both turmeric and frankincense are anti-inflammatory herbs. Combined with chemotherapy, curcumin showed more positive effects than chemo alone.
- Likewise, a 2007 study showed curcumin, combined with chemotherapy, killed more bowel cancer cells in a laboratory than chemo alone.
- Research from Duke University shows that turmeric’s effectiveness against multiple kinds of cancer in animals compares “favorably” with similar research reported by pharmaceutical drugs. In other words, the same studies, using synthetic drugs, have shown turmeric is more effective at treating cancer.
What the evidence means
Although no final, conclusive evidence exists, I think we’re onto something with turmeric. Spices that interact well with the human body are very powerful. In the studies I cited above, we see turmeric working in ways we shouldn’t necessarily dismiss. We may not see turmeric alone as a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s, but this spice’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties are a great teammate.
Ultimately our mind/body is the cure. Turmeric is here to assist I don’t believe in dualism, a disconnect between mind and body, so I think this would reflect that better.
About the Author
Daniel Matthews is a thirty-two years young writer and musician from Boise, Idaho. He loves creativity, psychology, and healthy living. Besides blogging, he is currently working on a long book of poetry.
Twitter – @danielmatthews0