Photo courtesy Medicine Hunter
Long ago in another period of my life, I lived in a communal household. My housemates and I practiced yoga together, ate natural foods, and learned how to cook, plant an organic garden and make bread together. We had a greenhouse, and we milked our own goats. For a while, I even learned to tend bee hives and collect honey. It was a lively and mind-opening experience. In that household, I learned to use spices and seasonings of all kinds. One of the spices we cooked with regularly was turmeric – the bright yellow spice that is commonly used to season curries. I can still smell the turmeric cooking in oil, and I can vividly remember the bright stains I occasionally got on my shirts when I used the spice incautiously.
Since the time I lived in that commune, a lot has happened. As relates to turmeric, science has investigated this humble root and has discovered in it a powerful compound called curcumin. This simple material has the power to turn modern medicine on its proverbial ear.
Traditionally, turmeric, or Curcuma longa, has been widely used for food, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes. Turmeric provides the distinctive yellow color to curry, and is used to color butter, cheese and other foods. In India’s 5,000-year-old traditional system of Ayurveda, turmeric enjoys a long history of use for the treatment of respiratory conditions including asthma and allergy, coughs, sinusitis, for liver disorders, for rheumatism and to treat diabetic wounds.
The compound in turmeric most responsible for its broad uses is curcumin. This yellow colored material demonstrates antioxidant and anti-inﬂammatory effects, anti-carcinogenic and antimicrobial activity, liver-protective, heart-protective and anti-arthritic benefits. Whole turmeric root and concentrated curcumin are also very safe. No studies in animals or humans have discovered any toxicity associated with the use of either, even at very high doses.
Additional studies suggest that curcumin may also offer significant cognitive-enhancing and anti-depressant benefits. This effect appears primarily due to curcumin’s capacity to promote the activity of neuroprotective factors in the brain, and to regulate certain neurotransmitters.
Despite the broad benefits described above, curcumin’s greatest health property may be its capacity to relieve pain by relieving inflammation. The role of inflammation in pain is pretty straightforward. Various injuries can cause inflammation in the tissues of our bodies. External injuries like burns, bites, scrapes, stings, cuts and bruises cause skin tissue to swell as protective fluids pour into damaged tissue between cells. Nerves may also be directly hurt. All of this activity is accompanied by pain. This is also the case with internal injuries that may be diet-related or the result of wear and tear. Aging joints and ligaments can become occasionally or chronically inflamed, resulting in pain. Stop the inflammation; stop the pain.
Like the popular anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and acetaminophen, curcumin inhibits the COX2 enzyme. But unlike these drugs, curcumin additionally affects the activity of other key factors in pain and inflammation, including NF-kappaB, PPAR Gamma transcription factors, and 5-LOX. By inhibiting the activity of all these factors of inflammation, curcumin delivers far superior anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving activity than most drugs.
If you can relieve pain and do so naturally and safely, if you can lift the veil of darkness that chronic pain engenders, then you can transform people’s understanding of the benefits of natural remedies through positive experience. I believe that curcumin does this remarkably well.
Additionally, curcumin also delivers other benefits to heart, liver, brain and immune system described here earlier.
Natural, plant-based remedies are the most widely employed medicines on earth, more than over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Today we are able to blend the very finely developed body of traditional medicinal knowledge, with modern technology and science. As a result we have access to safe, effective natural remedies like curcumin, to enhance people’s health, and open up the doors to greater vitality through the restorative and healing powers of nature’s bountiful pharmacy.