Do you have inflammation in your body? It can be localized such as inflamed joints (arthritis), muscles or tendons (tendonitis) or more widespread which is often seen in autoimmune conditions. While there are many natural treatment options for decreasing inflammation depending on the root cause, turmeric is a very well-known anti-inflammatory herb. It has been used in East Indian cooking and ayurvedic medicine for many years to add spice and warmth to the food along with hidden health benefits.
The active constituents of turmeric root that are known to provide health benefits are known as curcuminoids. The major curcuminoid, curcumin, is responsible for the yellow colour turmeric creates when added to food/drinks.
Curcumin also has potent anti-inflammatory properties and works by inhibiting leukotriene (1) and prostaglandin (2) formation. It does this through decreasing the activity of lipoxygenase and cycloxygenase 2 (COX2) enzymes respectively (2). Prostaglandins and leukotrienes trigger inflammation in the body and while they are needed for acute situations to help trigger the inflammatory cascade to fight infections, prolonged synthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes can create chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation affects many areas of the body such as the brain, organs, muscles, tendons and joints.
As an aside, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) works in a similar manner but may have stomach related side effects and the risk of stomach ulcer formation.
Turmeric also helps with liver detoxification and enhances your digestion as well. In Chinese medicine, turmeric is considered a warming food that aids your spleen and stomach (Chinese medicine organs responsible for digestion) to digest food and transform it into energy or 'qi'.
Adding turmeric powder to warm water or to your salt water gargles is great for taking way that inflammation associated with sore throats.
You can use turmeric powder or purchase turmeric in capsule formulations. Depending on the brand, different companies will standardize their capsules to different concentrations of curcumin. With either option, if you want to use it medicinally, you do have to take a large dose because it is rapidly metabolized by the liver within a couple hours (2). It does help to consume it with food to make it better absorbed since curcumin is a fat soluble compound. If you are taking many medications, you should speak to your healthcare provider to make sure there are no interactions.
Feel free to check out www.suhanishah.ca for a delicious turmeric elixir hot beverage that can be part of your bedtime routine instead of a cup of tea.
If you experience chronic inflammation and are interested in knowing what the best natural treatment approach is for you, feel free to book an initial appointment. I see patients Tuesdays, Thursdays, and some Saturdays at Quarry Park. I am also available for a FREE 15 minute meet and greet prior to the initial appointment.
(1) Godfrey A, ND, PhD & Saunders PR PhD, ND, DHANP, CCH. Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine. Toronto ON: CCNM Press. 2010; p.371-372
(2) Jurenka JS. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of curcuma longa: A review of preclinical and clinical research. Alt Med Rev. 2009:14(2);141-153.