Every once in a while the nutrition industry becomes extremely excited about a nutrient or food which is precipitously hailed as the new saviour; a liberator of disease and/or the answer to the prayers of those who are seeking that elusive magic pill.
Ironically these “new” found wonder nutrients/foods are very rarely new at all and their discovery, or rather their re-discovery isn’t going to justify a Noble Prize; if that was the case, the founder of many a super nutrient would need to be exhumed from a ancient grave and their acceptance speech in a language long forgotten by modern life. That said, the re-introduction of these nutrients/foods into our lifestyles is literally a breath of fresh air compared with the toxic foods that have dominated our everyday lives since the mass use of synthetic pesticides in the 1940s.
Of all the super foods/nutrients making us quiver with excitement (it doesn’t take much to animate a nutritionist) Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is possibly the daddy, and has even been touted as the most effective nutritional supplement in existence! A statement as sweeping as this about a substance most people see as a mere colorant added to curries, definitely warrants further scrutiny and indeed deserves a dedicated blog post.
With its mass appeal and potential application in almost every ailment from inflammation to cancer, we feel it important to explore the history of this “wonder” food and uncover its potential as a natural medicinal aid.
The medicinal use of turmeric, also known as the "Golden Spice”, can be traced back almost 4000 years to South East Asia, with one of the oldest mentions found in Susruta’s Ayruvedic Compendium (250 BC), where it was used in an ointment to relieve the effects of food poisoning. Since then it has been used in various medical formulations and is known under many different guises around the world, with many cultures basing its name on the Latin “curcuma”. There are around 133 known species of curcuma, most have their place in medical formulations, with the majority of the world’s supply coming from India; India’s turmeric is considered to be the best in the world. For centuries the “Golden spice” has been used to treat various ailments, with both Ayruvedic and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners putting it to great use as an aid for anything from arthritis and liver disorders, to gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory issues, as well as a means to improve the overall energy of the body. Turmeric is said to have anti-bacterial properties and has also been used as an antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises.
The list of potential benefits is extensive and in recent times, modern medicine has embarked on various tests and studies (both in vivo and in vitro) in an attempt to harness the myriad of health properties for use in applications, including turmeric's use as a antimutagenic (Polasa et al. 1992), as an aid for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Bundy et al. 2004), in the treatment of peptic ulcers (Prucksunand et al. 2001), as an anti-depressant - with effects of turmeric being more potent than the antidepressant Fluoexetine (Yu, Kong and Chen 2002) - admittedly this study used mice and not humans, making the dosage of 560 mg/kg for 14 days a pretty hefty consideration for the average human being, but none-the-less its a promising sign. Further studies have shown turmeric to be a potent antioxidant, which is 10 times more effective than vitamin C (Song et al. 2001) and therefore a major consideration in immune support protocol. Animal studies have also shown turmeric to possess exceptional liver protection properties - turmeric extract has the ability to prevent the deposition of triacylglycerols in the liver (Asai, Nakagawa and Miyazawa 1999). Miyakoshi et al. 2004 also demonstrated the effectiveness of turmeric as a hepatoprotective (prevents liver damage). There are numerous studies to suggest turmeric may be an effective anticancer agent - by inhibiting cell proliferation (reducing the rate at which cancer cells grow and multiply) and inducing apoptosis of cancer cells (helps to kill cancer cells) - Aratanechemuge et al. 2002 reported turmeric to induce apoptosis in human leukemia cells.
Ongoing research endeavours to determine the effectiveness of turmeric when included as a part of cancer treatment, in particular in the treatment of breast, prostate, colorectal, intestinal, bowel, oesophageal, mouth and skin cancers.
Perhaps the best known use for turmeric in medicine and the main attribute for herbalists when considering its efficacy, is as an anti-inflammatory. Studies show it to be particularly effective at inhibiting joint inflammation, which would explain why turmeric is the go to treatment for ailments such as arthritis in India. Evidence also suggests turmeric may be beneficial after surgery, with dosages of 1200 mg/day helping to decrease pain, inflammation and accelerate healing. It’s worth pointing out that inflammation as a whole is one of the main considerations for the onset of pretty much every life threatening disease in modern day society, and so including turmeric in your daily nutrition could well be one of the best preventive measures you take in your quest for longevity.
The jury may still be out in the Western world when it comes to using the “Golden Spice” as an anti-inflammatory in mainstream medicine, but there are studies which suggest it’s just as, if not more effective than pharmaceutical medicines. (Ghatak and Basu 1972 found it to be more effective than hydrocortisone) and with more and more of us looking for natural remedies, it seems there is a small, but growing movement waking up to the amazing health benefits of this potent little spice.
Turmeric In Monkey Nutrition Products
After reading this brief incite (believe us, we could go on!) into the potential benefits of turmeric, it should be obvious why so many nutritionists are keen to include this wonder spice in formulations. At Monkey, we continue to develop products which include only the best and most extensively researched ingredients, to bring you products with enhanced biological activity and unsurpassed efficacy. Our latest additions Bionic & Immutech (coming soon) both include turmeric; the former takes advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties and potential ability to speed recovery after exercise, whilst the latter focuses on its ability to protect the liver and support the immune system. If you take a look at either of these labels, you will notice the inclusion of turmeric as being: Turmeric 95% Extract (Curcuma longa) (Rhizome). The rhizome is the stem part of the plant which grows underground, and according to studies published in the International Journal of Pharmacology, is more effective than curcumin. One study examined the efficacy of extract of turmeric rhizome (ETE, prepared as an ethanolic extract of raw turmeric) when compared to commercially obtained curcumin. As well as other benefits, turmeric extract was shown to “cause a heightened expression of perforin, the effector molecule to carry out T-cell mediated immunity. It was almost double that of curcumin, which could not elicit the response beyond controls.” - In other words, the rhizome extract faired better than curcumin at mobilising the immune system.
To increase the absorption and allow you to maximise the potential of the “Golden Spice”, we have included Bioperine in both Bionic and Immutech formulations. Bioperine is the patented form of piperine (black pepper extract) and has been shown to enhance the bioavailability of nutritional compounds.