The questions of whether medicines discovered today are safer, more efficacious, and more affordable than medicines that are centuries old - could be answered “no” in recent time. If so, then it is logical to revisit and revive these age-old medicines for the welfare of mankind. Curcumin is one such medicine. It’s history goes back over 5000 years, to the Ayurveda (which means the science of long life). Turmeric derived from the rhizome of the plant Curcuma Longa has been used by the people of the Indian subcontinent for centuries , as such no recorded side effects, not only as a component of food but also to treat a wide variety of ailments. It is a spice of golden color that is used in cooking in the Indian subcontinent. Because of its brilliant yellow color, it was named “Indian saffron” in Europe. Today, India is the primary exporter of turmeric (known as haldi in India). Although its ability to preserve food through its antioxidant property, to give color to food, and to add taste to the food is well known, its health promoting effects are less well recognized or appreciated. In Southeast Asia, turmeric is used not only as a principal spice but also as a component in religious ceremonies. Modern medicine has begun to recognize its importance, as indicated by more than thousands of publications dealing with turmeric that came out within the last 25 years. (Image credit : Times of India)
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The use of turmeric dates back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance. It probably reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD, West Africa by 1200 AD, and Jamaica in the eighteenth century. According to Sanskrit medical treatises and Ayurvedic and Unani systems, turmeric has a long history of medicinal use in South Asia. Susruta’s Ayurvedic ‘Compendium’, dating back to 250 BC, recommends an ointment containing turmeric to relieve the effects of poisoned food. In 1280, Marco Polo described this spice, marveling at a vegetable that exhibited qualities so similar to that of saffron. It was mentioned in the writings of Marco Polo concerning his journey to China and India and it was first introduced to Europe in the 13th century by Arab traders. Although Vasco de Gama (a Portugeese sailor) during 15th century, after his visit to India, truly introduced spices to the West. We all know during British rule in India that turmeric was combined with various other spices and renamed “curry powder,” as it is called in the West.
Composition of Turmeric
Turmeric contains a wide variety of phytochemicals, including curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, zingiberene, curcumenol, curcumol, eugenol, tetrahydrocurcumin, triethylcurcumin, turmerin, turmerones, and turmeronols. Curcumin is the phytochemical that gives a yellow color to turmeric and is now recognized as being responsible for most of the therapeutic effects. It is estimated that 2–5% of turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin was first isolated from turmeric in 1815, and the structure was delineated in 1910 as diferuloylmethane. Most currently available preparations of curcumin contain approximately 77% diferuloylmethane, 18% demethoxycurcumin, and 5% bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is hydrophobic in nature and frequently soluble in dimethylsulfoxide, acetone, ethanol, and oils. It has an absorption maxima around 420 nm. When exposed to acidic conditions, the color of turmeric/curcumin turns from yellow to deep red, the form in which it is used routinely for various religious ceremonies . If any one consumes 100 g of turmeric that serves for 390 kcal, 10 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.2 g calcium, 0.26 g phosphorous, 10 mg sodium, 2500 mg potassium, 47.5 mg iron, 0.9 mg thiamine, 0.19 mg riboflavin, 4.8 mg niacin, 50 mg ascorbic acid, 69.9 g total carbohydrates, 21 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugars, and 8 g protein. Turmeric is also a good source of the ω-3 fatty acid and α-linolenic acid (2.5%).
Turmeric As A Traditional Medicine
In folk medicine, it has been used in therapeutic preparations over the centuries in different parts of the world. In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties including strengthening the overall energy of our body, relieving gas, dispelling worms, improving digestion, regulating menstruation, dissolving gallstones, and relieving arthritis. Many South Asian countries use it as an antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises, and as an antibacterial agent.
In Pakistan, it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, turmeric is used to cleanse wounds and stimulate their recovery by applying it on a piece of burnt cloth that is placed over a wound.
Indians use turmeric, in addition to its Ayurvedic applications, to purify blood and remedy skin conditions. Turmeric paste is applied to the skin of the bride and groom before marriage in some parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where it is believed to make the skin glow and keep harmful bacteria away from the body. Turmeric is currently used in the formulation of several sunscreens. Several multinational companies are involved in making face creams based on turmeric.
In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat diseases associated with abdominal pain. From ancient times, as prescribed by Ayurveda, turmeric has been used to treat sprains and swelling. Aurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is considered a bitter digestive and a carminative.
Unani practitioners also use turmeric to expel phlegm or kapha, as well as to open blood vessels in order to improve blood circulation. It can be incorporated into foods, including rice and bean dishes, to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. It is a cholagogue, stimulating bile production in the liver and encouraging excretion of bile via the gallbladder, which improves the body’s ability to digest fats. Sometimes, turmeric mixed with milk or water is taken to treat intestinal disorders as well as colds and sore throats.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are the two primary mechanisms that explain the majority of the effects of curcumin. It has been shown to improve systemic markers of oxidative stress. It can increase serum activities of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) . The efficacy of supplementation with purified curcuminoids on oxidative stress parameters—indicated a significant effect of curcuminoids supplementation on all investigated parameters of oxidative stress including plasma activities of SOD and catalase, as well as serum concentrations of glutathione peroxidase (GSH) and lipid peroxides. Curcumin’s effect on free radicals is carried out by several different mechanisms. It can scavenge different forms of free radicals, such as reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS and RNS, respectively), it can modulate the activity of GSH, catalase, and SOD enzymes active in the neutralization of free radicals also, it can inhibit ROS-generating enzymes such as lipoxygenase/cyclooxygenase and xanthine hydrogenase/oxidase . In addition, curcumin is a lipophilic compound, which makes it an efficient scavenger of peroxyl radicals, therefore, like vitamin E, curcumin is also considered as a chain-breaking antioxidant.
Oxidative stress has been implicated in many chronic diseases, and its pathological processes are closely related to those of inflammation, in that one can be easily induced by another. In fact, it is known that inflammatory cells liberate a number of reactive species at the site of inflammation leading to oxidative stress, which demonstrates the relationship between oxidative stress and inflammation. In addition, a number of reactive oxygen/nitrogen species can initiate an intracellular signaling cascade that enhances pro-inflammatory gene expression. Inflammation has been identified in the development of many chronic diseases and conditions. These diseases include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, etc. Tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) is a major mediator of inflammation in most diseases, and this effect is regulated by the activation of a transcription factor, nuclear factor (NF)-κB. Whereas TNF-α is said to be the most potent NF-κB activator, the expression of TNF-α is also regulated by NF-κB. In addition to TNF-α, NF-κB is also activated by most inflammatory cytokines; gram-negative bacteria; various disease-causing viruses; environmental pollutants; chemical, physical, mechanical, and psychological stress; high glucose; fatty acids; ultraviolet radiation; cigarette smoke; and other disease-causing factors. Therefore, agents that regulate NF-κB and NF-κB–regulated gene products have potential efficacy against several of these diseases. Curcumin has been shown to block NF-κB activation increased by several different inflammatory stimuli . Curcumin has also been shown to suppress inflammation through many different mechanisms beyond the scope of this review, thereby supporting its mechanism of action as a potential anti-inflammatory agent.
The idea that curcumin can attenuate systemic inflammation has implications beyond arthritis, as systemic inflammation has been associated with many conditions affecting many systems. One such condition is Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), which includes insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hypertension, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), elevated triglyceride levels, and obesity, especially visceral obesity. Curcumin has been shown to attenuate several aspects of MetS by improving insulin sensitivity, suppressing adipogenesis, and reducing elevated blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress. In addition, that curcuminoids modulate the expression of genes and the activity of enzymes involved in lipoprotein metabolism that lead to a reduction in plasma triglycerides and cholesterol and elevate HDL-C concentrations . Both overweight and obesity are linked to chronic low-grade inflammation; although the exact mechanisms are not clear, but that pro-inflammatory cytokines are released. These cytokines are thought to be at the core of the complications associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, addressing inflammation is important.
Turmeric has medicinal properties due to its bioactive components. One of the important components of turmeric is its volatile oil.. Turmeric oil inhibits Trichophyton-induced dermatophytosis. Interestingly, none of the dermatophyte isolates was inhibited by curcumin. Studies of the antiviral effects of the zedoary turmeric oil spray in the respiratory tract showed that whereas influenza virus, parainfluenza viruses I and III, respiratory syncytial virus, and adenoviruses 3 and 7 were inhibited slightly, parainfluenza virus II was significantly inhibited by this turmeric compound. Curcuma oil ameliorated the ischemia-induced neurological functional deficits and the infarct and edema volumes. The neuro protective activity of curcuma oil against cerebral ischemia is associated with its antioxidant activities. Further, cucurma oil attenuated delayed neuronal death via a caspase-dependent pathway. Thus, curcuma oil appears to be a promising agent for the treatment of not only cerebral stroke but also other disorders associated with oxidative stress.
It is used as a coloring agent in cheese, butter, and other foods As a result of Indian influence, turmeric has made its way into Ethiopian cuisine. In South Africa, turmeric is traditionally used to give boiled white rice a golden color. Turmeric is also used in manufactured food products such as canned beverages, dairy products, baked products, ice cream, yellow cakes, yogurt, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn, sweets, cake icings, cereals, sauces, and gelatins. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders. It is used in savory and sweet dishes, and is widely used in Eastern specialties such as fresh turmeric pickle. The use of turmeric as a spice and as a household remedy has been known to be safe for centuries. To date, no studies have discovered any toxic effects associated with the use of turmeric, and it is clear that turmeric is not toxic even at very high doses. The FDA has declared turmeric and its active component curcumin as GRAS (generally regarded as safe). Thus, in the United States, turmeric and its components are currently being used in mustard, cereals, chips, cheese, butter, and other products. And also the safety and tolerance of turmeric oil use, the oil was administered orally to healthy volunteers for 3 months. No side effects of turmeric oil intake were observed in 3 months on body weight, blood pressure, and hematological, renal, or hepatic toxicity.
The beneficial effects of turmeric are traditionally achieved through dietary consumption, even we consume it at low levels, over long periods of time. Curcumin has received worldwide attention for its multiple health benefits, which appear to act primarily through antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and digestive activities. These benefits are best achieved when curcumin is combined with agents such as piperine, which increase its bioavailability significantly. Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has revealed a large number of compounds, including curcumin, volatile oil, and curcuminoids, which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties. Research suggests that curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and subsequent performance in active people. In addition, a relatively low dose can provide health benefits for people that do not have diagnosed health conditions. We may conclude Termeric as an cost effective health promoting spices which augment vitality ,energy, strength at the same time substantial and agreeable for last centuries together.
In Srimad Bhagabat Gita Shloka No 17.8 it is noted as,-
आयु:सत्त्वबलारोग्यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धना: | रस्या: स्निग्धा: स्थिरा हृद्या आहारा: सात्त्विकप्रिया: || 8||
āyuḥ-sattva-balārogya-sukha-prīti-vivardhanāḥ rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛidyā āhārāḥ sāttvika-priyāḥ
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