For more than a year, now, I have been reading about and doing research on this polyphenol (i.e., chemical substance found in plants), and this morning I did a search for curcumin in the news.” I found thousands of references. It’s mind-boggling! There is not much curcumin literature in Italian, unfortunately. However, I was still able to add a few links to my blogroll, both in English and Italian; please check them out.
What is curcumin? It’s the main biologically active curcuminoid of Curcuma longa, which is part of the ginger family of herbs, native to southern and south-eastern Asia. This plant’s root and rhizome are crushed and powdered into the spice commonly known as turmeric, which contains about 5 to 8 % curcumin. The use of turmeric as a medicine and condiment is recorded as far back as 600 BC. In the 13th century, Marco Polo wrote a description of turmeric, which he saw and tasted while travelling in China. As I read in one of Prof. Aggarwal’s presentations, traditional Indian medicine uses turmeric for biliary disorders, anorexia, coughs, diabetic wounds, hepatic disorders, rheumatism, and sinusitis. Turmeric powder mixed with slaked lime is a folk remedy for sprains and swelling. In the U.S., curcumin (labelled as E100) is used to colour cheeses, spices, mustard, cereals, pickles, ice-cream and other foods.
There seems to be no end to the powers of curcumin. It has antitumour, antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-amyloid and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as beneficial effects on arthritis, allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer. Curcumin is effective against a variety of cancers, so, if you have cancer, check to see if there are any studies on this polyphenol and your particular type of cancer. A few months ago, someone wrote me an e-mail, asking if curcumin had any effect on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. To my surprise, I found a 2005 study on HNSCC growth in Clinical Cancer Research. The beauty of curcumin is that it attacks only malignant cells, leaving healthy ones alone; it also has no toxic side effects. Note of caution: always consult your oncologist before trying anything.
If you cut yourself, dab some curcumin on the wound, and it will heal faster (you might turn a bit orange–I have experienced that in person!–so be careful not to dab it on your face; don’t forget that turmeric is used as a commercial dye in Indian textile industries!). Got a sore throat? Drink some turmeric tea. High cholesterol, memory loss, blood-clotting problems, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, constipation, high blood pressure, etc. etc. etc.?
The remedy is simple: curcumin.