Turmeric (scientific name Curcuma longa) belongs to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. This perennial plant has a bright yellow rhizomatous root covered with a tan-colored skin. Turmeric is a popular spice that is widely used in the cuisines of the Middle East, Southeast Asian and North African regions. Turmeric is a very versatile herb that is also one of the key ingredients in spice blends for curries and it augments the flavor of soups, salads, meats, stir-fries and other cuisines.
The active elements in turmeric are called curcuminoids, which offer many health benefits. The particular compound called curcumin is known to be the most potent, therapeutically very powerful and responsible for turmeric’s cancer-killing attributes. This compound facilitates detoxification as well as rejuvenation of the liver, diminishes the negative consequences of excessive iron in the body.
In addition, curcumin augments the body’s antioxidant ability, reinforces the brain cells, enhances cognitive functioning and lessens the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as treats the condition. This compound also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, lessens the chances of developing heart diseases and depression, besides combating premature aging.
We know that curcumin literally kills cancer, but what is its mechanism?
Curcumin’s lethal aspect
There are about 10 to 13 trillion cells in the human body. Every day our body replaces anything between 100 billion to 130 billion of these cells. The old and unnecessary cells are destroyed through a firmly controlled process of cell suicide known as apoptosis or programmed cell death.
Interestingly, unlike the normal cells, the carcinogenic cells do not commit suicide. On the contrary, they render the suicide genes inactive.
In such situations, curcumin stimulates the death receptors in different ways. Scientists are still in the process of learning the mechanism by which curcumin works to activate these receptors. One interesting means by which this compound turns on the death receptors is by activating enzymes that simply breaks up the proteins present in the cells. Scientists are of the view that cancer cells are unable to resist curcumin, unlike the chemotherapy drugs, because this compound triggers the death of carcinogenic cells in various different ways. As of now, we are still not aware of the reason behind curcumin sparing the healthy cells in our body. All that we know is that curcumin just kills the cells that are thought to be dead already.
Unfortunately, our bodies have a propensity to get rid of almost all the curcumin we consume. It is important to note that unless there is a help, it becomes difficult for our body to absorb much curcumin.
Increasing bioavailability of curcumin
Our bodies have a problem with curcumin. As our liver tries to put off or get rid of unnecessary drugs, supplements, and similar substances, it also retards curcumin absorption – a process known as glucuronidation. In effect, this process makes curcumin less effectual in our body compared to its normal effectiveness. Nevertheless, we can enhance the ability of our body to take up this compound.
Consume turmeric with black pepper
The strong flavor of black pepper is attributed to piperine, an alkaloid enclosed by it. Piperine slows down the metabolic functions of specific enzymes resulting in the disposal of what our body deems to be surplus curcumin. However, the action of this compound is not restricted only to curcumin, as black pepper can also augment the body’s ability to take up other supplements and similar substances. When taken with black pepper, piperine helps to raise the body’s ability to absorb curcumin by about 2000 percent.
Blend turmeric with useful fats
It has been established that curcumin dissolves in fats. In the absence of fats, curcumin does not disband as it should. As a result, curcumin finds it difficult to reach the gut and being assimilated into our blood stream and eventually reach the cells where the compound is needed. Hence, it is advisable that you always consume turmeric with beneficial fats such as olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil.
Take turmeric with quercetin
A plant flavonoid, quercetin slows down the action of the enzymes that neutralize curcumin. Hence, it is advisable that you consume turmeric with quercetin.
Apples, blueberries, chicory greens, cranberries, onions, red lettuce leaf, sweet peppers, raw broccoli, raw spinach, raw kale, snap beans, green tea, black plums, red grapes and red wine are some foods that contain high levels of quercetin. However, capers are known to be the best whole food source that encloses quercetin.