Discover the properties of turmeric

Talk about the properties of turmeric it is to delve into Indian cuisine and that of many other Asian countries. It is considered, according to statistics, one of the most used condiments in that country, and little by little it is spreading due to its popularity.

Turmeric has been used for many years. Specifically, there are data that confirm its use since 600 a.C.  Although it was initially used as a dye to dye cotton and obtain colored textile pieces, today it is also used as a food additive (E100), and is an important part in the mixing and manufacture of curry.

What we perhaps did not know is that, in addition to everything mentioned, it is scientifically attributed very interesting medicinal properties.

We do not want to leave any in the inkwell, so we will be commenting on all those that have been demonstrated, as well as the main foods that have turmeric among their ingredients.

Turmeric cultivation

properties of curcuma and its roots

Turmeric, whose scientific name is Curcuma longa, it is a herbaceous plant of tropical appearance, green and lively leaves and whitish flowering. It can reach up to 1 meter in height, although it can usually also be grow in pots.

Turmeric, as a condiment, is extracted from the roots of the plant, adapted to warm climates with some humidity.

It is a typical Plant of Southeast Asia that has passed geographically through areas as diverse as Micronesia and Polynesia. All these zones, climatically are conditioned by a range of stable temperatures throughout the year, between 20 ºC and 30 ºC.

In continental and Mediterranean areas it is very difficult to maintain this stable temperature range, except in greenhouse conditions. However, India develops a perfect climate adapted to the conditions that Curcuma longa Requires.

Specifically, South India is where it is most cultivated for meeting these conditions and for its historical tradition to agriculture, especially the Indian city of Sangli.

Characteristics of curcumin

One of the characteristics of curcumin is that it is the main compound of turmeric. It is considered a natural dye and a polyphenol.

This curcumin can present itself in two ways:

  • Curcumin keto structure
  • Enol structure of curcumin
properties of curcumin keto and enol
Structure of curcumin keto and enol

Properties of turmeric

Properties of turmeric by its composition

For every 100 grams of turmeric root, this is its nutritional composition:

Water content12.85 grams
Proteins9.7 grams
Carbohydrates67.12 grams
Sugars3.20 grams
Fats3.25 grams
Fibre22.8 grams

Properties of turmeric for its mineral richness

For every 100 grams of turmeric root, this is its mineral composition:

MineralQuantity% recommended daily
Potassium2080 mg44%
Phosphorus300 mg43%
Calcium168 mg17%
Magnesium208 mg56%
Sodium27 mg2%
Iron55 mg440%
Zinc4.5 mg45%

As you can see, the mineral concentration is widely distributed and offers large amounts of micronutrients such as zinc and iron.

Precisely of this mineral, iron, is an ideal supplement for diets high in this element, especially in people who suffer from anemia.

Although the amount of turmeric that we ingest as a condiment in the gastronomy that uses this component is very small, in addition to giving the food its great characteristic flavor, everything adds up when it comes to providing a large battery of minerals.

Properties of turmeric for its vitamin content

For every 100 grams of turmeric root, this is its vitamin composition:

ComponentQuantity% recommended daily
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)0.058 mg4%
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)0.15 mg10%
Vitamin B3 (niacin)1.35 mg9%
Vitamin B60.107 mg8%
Vitamin C0.7 mg1%
Vitamin E4.43 mg10g
Vitamin k13.4 μg13%

One of the vitamins of greater concentration that offers us the properties of turmeric is its high value in vitamin E, which acts as a great antioxidant for the body.

In addition, it is interesting to evaluate the active compounds and phytocomponents that are where the good properties of turmeric are really obtained.

  • Curcumins and curcumoids, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Turmerol (sesquiterpene ketones)
  • Essential oils: zingiberene, borneol and cineole.
  • Valeric and caprylic acids.

The properties of turmeric, its taste and its color, are reflected in the concentration of one of the most important compounds, the curcumin.

This polyphenol that gives the characteristic color to curry and its flavor, is being studied for its antitumor functions. These studies come from the most prestigious universities and clinical centers in the world. Many of them, located on U.S. soil, such as M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas.

The properties of turmeric they include antioxidant effects, protectors of brain cells, liver and kidney functions, circulatory system and a long etcetera.

Antitumor properties of turmeric

That hospitals that have a great deal of experience in the treatment and prevention of many types of cancer, such as Houston, are deeply investigating the properties of turmeric to slow the progression of certain tumors is something quite relevant.

In the last 10 years, there are several clinical trials where a anticancer activity (by induction of apoptosis in cancer cells) without negative effects on the organism or cells considered healthy.

Improves cognitive functions in adults

One of the fundamental problems facing modern civilization, after managing to extend life expectancy much longer than dreamed of by our distant relatives, is to face the mental illness and cognitive disorders in adults and the elderly.

The percentage of patients with Alzheimer’s or senile dementia does not increase in the population, but there are more because simply more and more people reach old age, something that 50 years ago could not be imagined.

This has led to the emergence of numerous studies, such as that of evaluate the properties of turmeric, studying neuroprotective effects to reduce this type of disease.

In the case of the compound curcumin, has been scientifically proven in adults and the elderly (aged 60 to 90 years) who habitually consumed turmeric, better scores on cognitive tests and delay in the onset of senile dementia.

It is beneficial for diabetics

Another interesting point within the properties of turmeric is its benefit in people who are not able to control blood sugar levels.

On the one hand, an improvement in insulin secretion and reduced glucose production has been demonstrated, although it is still undergoing further extensive analysis. On the other hand, its antioxidant effect allows reduce oxidative damage in the brain and cell death when there is an excess presence of sugars in the bloodstream.

Improved liver and kidney function

Clinical trials that advanced in the study of the properties of turmeric against diabetes, have obtained parallel results in the protection of liver and kidney activity.

These organs are closely linked to the concentration of sugar in the blood, so in chronic patients, they are usually severely affected and reduce their drainage capacity and cleansing of the body.

Turmeric has proven to be an ally against diabetes and organ degeneration in patients with a long clinical history of this disease, both in the brain (due to its antioxidant effect), as well as in the kidneys and liver.

Reduces heart disease

The phytoactive compounds of Curcuma longa they reduce the viscosity of the blood, allowing an improvement in blood flow to all parts of the body.

In people with low motor activity, common in the elderly, the consumption of drugs that reduce the formation of thrombi is common. In this case, much research has been done on the properties of turmeric and its delayed blood clotting activity.

High presence of antioxidants

As we have seen in the vitamin properties, the concentration in certain compounds that act as antioxidants was not negligible.

The properties of turmeric offer great potential to reduce the effect of free radicals, protect brain cells and prevent organ degradation.

High anti-inflammatory activity

Animal studies have been conducted with successful results in the development of joint problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other muscle and joint damage.

This has been developed in depth in the Integrative Medicine Program of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Institute, from which conclusive results have also emerged regarding the development of certain tumors.

The properties of turmeric reduce respiratory diseases

In the attempt to deepen the properties of turmeric based on the presence of its phytochemicals, good results have been obtained in the treatment of respiratory diseases.

Curcumin, a priority compound present in Curcuma longa, has been subjected to more than 70 clinical trials in the US alone, one of them, studying the benefits of its consumption and the pure extract in the reduction of pulmonary emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.

The study on pulmonary fibrosis was carried out in mice affected by this disease (with a breakthrough in the healing process. This study used a dose of 200 mg/kg body weight in mice.

The increase in cathepsins K and L caused a reduction in the deposition of collagen in the lungs (between 17 and 28%), so a great advance has been documented as a complement to the current authorized drugs.

Contraindications of turmeric

In general, it is a spice suitable for consumption by all populations, but it is always recommended to consume it in moderation or stop its consumption in pregnant or lactating women.

In some cases, problems and intolerances of its consumption have been diagnosed in people with problems in the gall bladder or reflux diseases.

This is because turmeric is usually absorbed very little through the intestine, and yes through the gallbladder. Having this part affected, reduces the ability to process this seasoning and can offer harmful health effects.

However, it has been shown that when turmeric is combined with pepper, the latter exerts a synergistic effect on its absorption, increasing it between 1500% and 2000%.

The acceptable daily dose for WHO is up to 0.1 mg/kg of dye.

See more bibliography on the properties of turmeric

Aggarwal BB, Shishodia S. Suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway by spice-derived phytochemicals: reasoning for seasoning. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1030:434-41. PMID 15659827.

Ng TP, Chiam PC, Lee T, Chua HC, Lim L, Kua EH. Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 1 Nov 2006;164(9):898-906. Epub 26 Jul 2006. PMID 16870699.

Rondón, Carlos (December 15, 2011). “Overexposure of cathepsins K and L by curcumin appears to show antifibrotic effects.”

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