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Turmeric for Your Brain?

by Dorothy Crumbly
Rumors, testimonials and some research have long circulated that olive oil is a healthy fat for cooking and salads, that ginger is good for an upset stomach or helping with nausea from chemotherapy, that chamomile tea bags will take away bags underneath the eyes, that aloe juice is good for everything, and that white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are good for blood pressure. There may be some truth in most of the home remedies cited. However, there is emerging scientific evidence that curcumin, the main component in the spice turmeric may prevent or treat numerous illnesses. Turmeric has been used in India, parts of Asia and Africa for centuries. Earlier studies found that elderly individuals living in Indian villages appear to have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the world, with just 1% of those aged 65 and older contracting the degenerative brain condition. Researchers hypnotized that the common thread was curry since Indians in certain villages use at least two mg a day in curry foods.

The guru of alternative medicine, Andrew Weil, Md. is a proponent of the use of turmeric as a medicine and food but favors using turmeric in cooking rather than taking curcumin pills. The spice has a taste that must be acquired but can be undetected in foods such as soups and even salmon croquettes. Numerous recipes are available on the web for the use of this muti-dimensional spice.

Studies cited by the National Institute of Health, The National Cancer Institute, The American College for the Advancement in Medicine and other noted refereed journals have published articles on clinical trials and on-going research extoling the promise of turmeric to slow the growth of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain in order to retard Alzheimer’s disease. Other major studies indicate that turmeric prevents cancer, and relieves the pain of arthritis and osteoarthritis. Dr. Weil cites the work of a respected ethno botanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in the July, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication Herb Clip.

Quoting from Dr. Weil: "Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects."

According to WebMD and some testimonials, curcumin is not well absorbed as a pill by some people. Women who are pregnant and breast-feeding and people with gallbladder problems should not use turmeric. Additionally, people who are having surgery should stop using turmeric at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery. Turmeric might slow blood clotting which could cause extra bleeding during and after surgery.

American meals rarely contain curry. That's why supplements that contain extracts are suddenly quite popular. In fact, there are numerous turmeric/curcumin supplements on the market today.

But like all nutritional supplements, some turmeric supplements are superior to others. When reading the labels, make sure the turmeric extract is high-potency turmeric extract from turmeric (Curcuma longa) rhizome. Moreover, make sure the extract is standardized to contain 90% curcuminoids, the active ingredient in turmeric responsible for the positive research findings. Turmeric is absorbed best when taken with a digestive enzyme.

Finally and as usual, talk to your doctor before using any supplements.


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Dorothy Crumbly