Medicinal values of turmeric – Part 1
In dealing with herbal products in this part of the world, you will find that people are very used to the culinary aspects. We do know that these herbal products also have medicinal properties as we found out when we looked at the classification of the herbs. Nigerians have used these herbs more for their culinary and nutritional properties. Turmeric, the herb we are considering today is one that will interest a lot of people because of its content of curcumin.
Curcumin is the yellow pigment in Turmeric and the most medicinally active compound therein. Curry, the very common spice that we add to our stews and soups is from curcumin. There are about 100 chemical compounds in Turmeric. These chemical compounds confer certain uniqueness to this herb and give it the ability to treat several diseases. The curcumin in Turmeric is made up of polyphenols, which are organic chemicals that possess anti-inflammatory properties. Polyphenols are also present in some other types of foods and beverages also. Examples of these are epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) found in green tea, resveratrol in red grapes and red wine and capsaicin in chili peppers.
Curcumin is part of a group of chemical compounds known as curcuminoids and others in the group are demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is what is responsible for the health benefits of Turmeric. Volatile oils present in Turmeric are tumerone, artumerone, and zingiberene.
I want to believe that as we add the knowledge of the medicinal properties of Turmeric to what we already know about its culinary properties, we shall definitely be the better for it.
The medicinal properties and benefits of Turmeric
The Latin name of Turmeric is Curcuma longa and the part of the plant that is used for its medicinal value is the root otherwise known as rhizome. Among the plants, Turmeric is one of the most powerful free radical scavengers. This is because of its antioxidant content. In combination with its equally powerful anti-inflammatory property, the antioxidant effect of Turmeric is able to neutralise even carcinogens found in the human body; the most likely source of such carcinogens being diet. Such high-risk human behaviour as cigarette smoking also introduces free radicals into the body. Turmeric has the ability to stimulate the production of good quality gastric mucus. This mucus in turn lines the intestinal wall and ably combats irritation of this wall in irritable bowel syndrome. Not only that, Turmeric also helps to restore normal bowel movement and pain that is associated with this condition.
Turmeric is an effective remedy for an upset stomach. Its ability to do this is by increasing bile synthesis by the cells of the liver and secretion of same into the intestine during digestion. Bile, as we know ensures the absorption of fats by the intestines. In the presence of bile, cholesterol is easily eliminated in the feaces in the form of bile salts. Turmeric has both hypolipidemic and hypocholesterolemic effects and with Turmeric the body should be able to regulate the blood level of cholesterol adequately. Turmeric is also able to combine effectively with bromelain (an enzyme from pineapple) in its digestive functions.
In fact, Turmeric has been described as the plant with a thousand and one properties. Turmeric has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4000 years and a lot of research has also been carried out on this herb. Writing about the health benefits of Turmeric without high-lighting all its properties hardly does justice to this wonderful plant. Turmeric contains minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, natural oils, amino acids and digestive chemicals. The health benefits of Turmeric range from boosting the health of cells and tissues along with a variety of chemical compounds – anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, analgesics, with protective, preventative and health promoting functions. Curcumin is what gives turmeric root its beautiful yellow-orange colour.
Turmeric has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It is also endowed with the ability to help in the digestive process and in metabolic functions of the cells. Others are regulating of the blood sugar, boosting the immune system and increase in energy production.
In next Thursday’s edition of the Guardian Newspaper, I shall be presenting 10 of the most important health benefits of Turmeric. Even before then, you can begin to sprinkle turmeric powder on your food, mix properly and eat. You can also add it to your beverages and drinking water.
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