Inflammation is a necessary process in the body, as it fights off harmful invaders and repairs damage caused by bacteria, viruses and injuries. However, long-term inflammation has been implicated in most chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer, so must be controlled. The curcumin in turmeric has proven, strong anti-inflammatory properties that block the action of inflammatory molecules in the body. Studies show positive effects of curcumin on people suffering from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, amongst others.
Curcumin has been shown to be a robust scavenger of oxygen free radicals, which are chemically active molecules that cause damage to the body’s cells. Free radical damage, along with inflammation, is a key driver of cardiovascular disease, so curcumin can play a part in preventing and managing heart disease. Antioxidants in turmeric may also reduce the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Numerous animal studies have explored turmeric’s influence on cancer, and many have found that it can affect cancer formation, growth and development at a molecular level. Research has shown that it can reduce the spread of cancer and can contribute to the death of cancerous cells. Turmeric and curcumin may also be able to counteract the effects of some carcinogens, such as certain additives used in processed food.
There is growing evidence that curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and may help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. It works to reduce inflammation as well as the build-up of protein plaques in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers. Another study of 60 patients showed that curcumin was as effective as an anti-depressant in treating depression, by boosting levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (reduced levels of this chemical are associated with depression).