Herbs have a long history of being integrated into home remedies and even medical treatments, and have been used extensively in cosmetics thanks to their anti-oxidant properties. People have put to good use plants with strong pigments in particular due to their valuable active ingredients. Turmeric is one of them. You might be more familiar with its powdered form, as it is an essential ingredient in many dishes, mainly the Indian ones. Still, how much do you know about its health benefits, or benefits when used on the skin? Basic research indicates its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, but more detailed studies show it might even be superior to medical treatments for diabetes or arthritis. In addition, there is evidence that turmeric’s compounds are more powerful than many chemical substances incorporated in popular drugs.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a rhizomatous perennial herb, part of the Zingiberaceae family. The plant is native to regions of Southern Asia where it thrives, due to the area’s high temperatures and frequent rains. It contains cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes(root-like subterranean stems that develop roots and shoots) whose colors range from yellow to orange. The leaves are alternate, divided into two rows, with an oblong shape which gradually narrows towards the tip and a length of 76 to 115 centimeters. Its yellow-white flowers that are gathered in spikes are rather sterile, with only the median stamen of the inner circle producing pollen. The rhizomes are the plant’s primary constituent. They are either used while fresh or grounded into a bright orange powder which is then integrated into dishes, hair dyes or cosmetics.
The Indian people mix turmeric powder with camphor to obtain Sindoor, an orange-red product worn by India women as a sign of their marriage.
What Does it Contain?
Currently, more and more researchers promote turmeric as a truly miraculous plant, due to its numerous properties and multiple health benefits. But they are not the only ones to appreciate it. Unspecialized people or those who show no interest in scientific terms might find a plethora of positive reviews on turmeric’s properties over the internet.
Moreover, research indicates that the active compounds found in turmeric’s composition have the potential to reverse certain medical conditions even more efficiently than most drugs designed for them. In addition, turmeric is possibly one of the few plants with little to no side effects, unless taken in huge doses.
- Curcumin is turmeric’s most important and praised constituent. Its strong flavor goes hand in hand with its many benefits, so it is no wonder that not only Indians but people from all over the world have decided to integrate it into their daily lives. Although present in a small percentage(about three per cent), it is a critical antioxidant. It is less likely for people to take full advantage of it by consuming it as a food source. However, numerous research projects have linked curcumin extract to a decreased risk of cancer and diabetes and symptom alleviation in many other medical conditions that include neurological diseases, liver diseases, autoimmune diseases, chronic disorders and cardiovascular diseases. How does it do that? By modulating multiple signaling molecules such as enzymes, protein kinases, growth factors, chemokines or DNA. One report published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry showed that curcumin was able to decrease the size of one particular brain tumor by no less than eighty-one per cent. Furthermore, scientists have conducted another study on a number of twenty-one patients with either brain tumors or neck cancer. The result might have been surprising but definitely not unexpected: the curcumin tablets(each enriched with 1.000 milligrams) stopped the spread of cancer-inducing cells and substantially improved the patients’ health status.
Pro-inflammatory factors responsible for inflammation and infection are another target of curcumin extract. The compound inhibits their mechanisms of action and negatively regulates them as to impede harmful cell proliferation. More correctly, curcumin down-regulates one particular molecule involved in the development of cancer, obesity, neurological disorders and skin diseases, namely Tumor Necrosis Serum Alpha. There is so much clinic evidence in regards to curcumin’s capacity to cure severe illnesses that one just cannot overlook turmeric as a superior plant anymore. Generally, studies are conducted on rodents and few other animals whose essential functions might differ from those of humans. Scientists usually doubt the final results and their practicability in human subjects because of that. This is not the case with curcumin that enjoyed no less than sixty-five human clinic trials as of 2013. The number is sure to increase in the near future. Of course, there must be a downside to curcumin as well, and that is poor bioavailability. Turmeric’s constituent is an easily digested one, so it reaches the intestines rather rapidly without the possibility to be released into the blood stream as to benefit the body entirely. Even so, turmeric can be combined with other spices such as grounded black pepper which contains piperine, a substance which helps curcumin’s gradual absorption.
- Turmeric essential oil
As in the case of other plants, turmeric contains, aside from solid compounds, a few volatile ones as well. Turmeric essential oil is packed with all-natural, rare and powerful substances with antioxidant, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains more than four hundred molecules of which about twenty act as antibiotics, twelve are anti-tumor and no less than fourteen are backed by scientific evidence in regards to their cancer prevention role. The following are turmeric oil’s main constituents:
- Sesquiterpene alcohol and other sesquiterpene hydrocarbons
- Valeric acid
Studies suggest turmeric essential oil has a broad range of action. It can help alleviate symptoms of indigestion, reduces inflammation, benefits the liver, skin or hair and considerably decreases the risk of cancer in individuals predisposed to it.
Because the oil is highly concentrated, it is for the best not to use more than five drops if you want to ingest it orally. Furthermore, we advise pregnantly and nursing women to stay on the safe side and avoid it or any other essential oil for that matter unless they have consulted with a doctor first.
Aside from curcumin and essential oils, turmeric also contains more than ninety known compounds which include:
- Polyphenols and terpenoids
- Carotenes, carotenoids and xanthophylls
- Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3 and C
- Minerals: calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc
- Phytochemicals: azulene, beta carotene, cinnamic acid, caffeic acid
- COX-2 (natural painkillers)
- Proteins, starch and resin
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is equally well-regarded by specialists in medicine and regular people, although from different reasons. If some prefer its powdered form as to spice up the dishes, others are more interested in its properties and how the body might be helped after using it. Here are some of the turmeric’s benefits that might make you want to integrate it in your daily meals:
Chronic inflammation is one of the root causes for numerous severe diseases. Statistics show that tens of millions of people from all over the world suffer from at least a form of chronic disorder over the course of their lives. Sadly, there is a definite cure for any of them as science has yet to evolve and give us underlying causes for them first. Studies suggest that certain active compounds found in curcumin and turmeric essential oil can inhibit chronic inflammation. Moreover, the turmeric oil contains no less than 65% alpha-Curcuma, a Sesquiterpene hydrocarbon which is believed to be the key factor in turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. There is information according to which curcumin extract might decrease the risk of developing chronic inflammation of any kind when used as a part of treatment.
Helps Against Cancer
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the present-day society. Statistics made public by the National Cancer Institute show that more than 1.600.000 people will receive a cancer diagnosis by the end of 2016. Data from 2012 indicate that nearly 40% of men and women have high chances to be diagnosed with some form of cancer sometimes during their lifetimes. Specialists state that cancer is often times associated with inflammation and gene abnormalities caused by increased chemokine levels which are cells that contribute to infection.
According to clinic evidence, both curcumin and turmeric essential oil can modulate cell signaling pathways and block pro-inflammatory cells from multiplying. Moreover, specific compounds found in their structure might enhance the activity of tumor- suppressing genes as well as block the action of MDM2, a gene responsible for cancer cell growth. The ones stated above are the results of both in-vitro and in vivo studies. One particular research project that involved five human participants aimed to show curcumin’s role in decreasing inflammation in Crohn’s disease patients. All five presented risks of developing colorectal cancer. Four of them registered a lower degree of infection and general condition improvement while one was less influenced by the extract, possibly due to the disease’s severity.
Decreases the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Animals fed substances enriched with curcumin extract showed lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels by almost 21% and higher HDL or “good” cholesterol levels by fifty per cent. One study suggested that the HDL cholesterol levels of people given curcumin extract for seven consecutive days increased by 29%. While the effect was less powerful in the case of human participants, the results were promising enough as to influence scientist to perform additional research projects that are sure to gain people’s attention.
Here are some other advantages:
- It reduces muscle and joint pain as well as the risk for arthritis
- It enhances the liver function and sustains its function
- Provides relief from irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms such as bloating or indigestion
- It is efficient when used in patients with external inflammation as it can kill germs and harmful bacteria
- It hastens the healing process
- It purifies the blood and sustains the production of new blood cells; it might be beneficial for women who recently gave birth or those during their period
- Studies suggest it might be efficient when used in patients with diabetes as it decreases the blood sugar levels and neuropathic pain
- In might improve the condition of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by blocking the action of amyloid beta which are peptides of certain amino acids involved in the diseases’ development
- It is used in massage therapy sessions to help one physically and mentally relax
Researchers have conducted numerous studies on turmeric’s composition and deemed it as safe for general use. The plant as well as each of its compounds has little side effects which can affect people only when used in excessive amounts.
Skin Benefits of Turmeric?
While research studies indicate its miraculous properties in patients suffering from severe diseases, turmeric can as well help your body’s largest organ- the skin. Below you can find some of the ways the active substances found in turmeric’s composition can beautify your skin and make it look young and healthy for longer.
Not only does turmeric prevents acne from occurring, but, thanks to its strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it can also heal it when other treatments have failed. A 2012 study showed that participants who used a facial mixture containing curcumin extract registered a decrease in sebum by nearly 25%. Furthermore, in a 2013 project, participants were split into two groups, with the first being offered a regular cream. The other was given cream with turmeric extract. After six weeks of treatment, people from the first group experienced lower sebum levels in comparison to the second one which saw an increase in facial oils in spite of using an anti-acne cream.
Do you want to reduce acne by using turmeric? Mix one tablespoon of powder with enough milk as to easily apply on the problem area then let it dry for twenty minutes. Wash it with plenty of water afterward.
Protects the Skin from UV rays
Sun exposure for extended periods is one of the leading causes of skin aging. The fine lines you will notice in the beginning can quickly turn into deep wrinkles if you choose not to do something to prevent them. Turmeric is a handy solution for this problem as well. Researchers suggest curcumin extract and turmeric essential oil can successfully inhibit the action of MMP-2, an enzyme which reduces the collagen levels and causes premature skin aging. MMP-2’s effect is enhanced by sun radiation. This can easily explain why people who love to stay in the sun for more than necessary have a less elastic skin that tends to lose texture more rapidly than normal. In one study, hairless mice were exposed to mild UVB rays after which their skin was treated with turmeric extract. Usually, such exposure would lead to wrinkles and cell damage but none of the mice saw any changes in skin structure. Specialists suggest turmeric might also have moisturizing properties and could successfully be integrated into facial creams.
Prevents Skin Cancer
Evidence shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric extract inhibit the action of pro-inflammatory cells which can lead to any type of cancer, including the skin one. A 2005 research project indicated that curcumin stops melanoma-producing cancer cell growth, while in a 2011 one mice treated with turmeric extract presented lower risks of cancer development when injected with malignant cells. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma patients could benefit from the use of turmeric-enriched treatments, as the compound showed potential effects in these two cases as well.
Reduces Facial Hair
If used on a daily basis as a facial treatment, turmeric might slow down the growth of facial hair in women who show signs of hirsutism. Here is a wide-spread home remedy currently promoted on the internet that is highly praised by women who have tried it: mix a tablespoon of turmeric powder with gram flour and enough sesame oil to obtain a thick paste. Spread the mixture all over the face then let it sit for at least forty minutes. Gently scrub it and wash with water afterward. You will experience less facial hair in just a few weeks of use.
Lightens Stretch Marks
Turmeric can help you lighten the stretch marks. Some people even use it as a means to clear and lighten their face as well. Mix a tablespoon of turmeric powder with either rose water or plain yogurt and apply on the affected area. Another way to use the powder is to combine it with 2 tablespoons of sandalwood powder and enough lemon juice to obtain a textured mixture. Spread it on your face and neck before letting it dry then gently wash it. You might want to repeat this several times before noticing changes.
Turmeric in its natural form can be equally efficient when used to:
- support the healing process of bruises and wounds
- correct oily skin
- help treat psoriasis
- delay wrinkles appearance when used in topic creams
- heal cracked heels by moisturizing them
In addition, curcumin extract and turmeric essential oil:
- might treat chronic skin conditions thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties
- can even out the skin tone
- help rejuvenate scalp health and controls dandruff
In a nutshell, people who want a radiant and nice-looking skin, as well as those whose medical condition might benefit from some extra vitamins and minerals can take full advantage of turmeric’s miraculous capacities. The plant has tremendous potential to become one of the most sought after herbs, judging by how promising the results of numerous studies appear to be. Aside from the turmeric powder, you can find capsules enriched with curcumin extract for maximum benefits. Make sure you look for formulas that contain black pepper extract as well, as curcumin is hardly absorbed into the bloodstream and might show little efficacy when used by itself.