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Turmeric for a Healthy Heart

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Turmeric (Cucuma longa) is in the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes ginger (Zingiber oficinalis) and cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Humans tend to use the roots of members in this family as spices and for their health benefits.

Turmeric has been used for centuries in India, China, and Indonesia for food and medicine, and is one of the spices found in the Indian spice, curry. Turmeric root has a rich yellow color too and is ground for food and medicine.   

Traditionally, turmeric has been used to treat a wide range of ailments. Topically it has been applied to wounds and burns and taken internally for liver and digestive complaints. Turmeric has many beneficial actions, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, liver protective, stimulant of bile excretion, and cholesterol lowering.  

Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. There are two main ways in which it does this. One is by suppressing an enzyme, called cyclooxygenase (COX) that creates pro-inflammatory signals in the body. The other is by inhibiting a gene, called nuclear factor kappa beta (NFκB) that also produces proinflammatory molecules.

Cardiovascular Benefits

The antioxidants in turmeric also prevent damage to cholesterol, thereby protecting against atherosclerosis.3 In fact, the ability of the antioxidants in turmeric to decrease free radicals is similar to vitamins C and E. Additionally, the antioxidant activities of turmeric are not degraded by heat, so using the spice to cook may also provide benefits. 

Curcumin, the principal active compound, has been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Rats were fed a high cholesterol diet with or without turmeric, for eight weeks. Cholesterol was 12% lower in the rats fed turmeric. Additionally, triglycerides, another fat that circulates in the bloodstream and is a risk for cardiovascular disease, was 53% lower in the rats fed curcumin.  

In a study of atherosclerosis, mice were fed a Standard American Diet (SAD), which is rich in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat, and low in fiber. Some of the mice, however, received this diet plus turmeric mixed in with their food. After four months on these diets, the mice that consumed the turmeric with their food had 20% less blockage of the arteries than the mice fed the diet without the turmeric.

In another study, rabbits, which were specially-bred to study atherosclerosis, were fed turmeric plus a diet designed to cause atherosclerosis. Several risk factors for atherosclerosis were improved, including a decrease in cholesterol, triglycerides and free radical damage.

Herb-Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions. However, turmeric theoretically might interfere with antiplatelet medications. If you are taking any medications, before taking dietary supplements consult a licensed healthcare professional who is knowledgeable in botanicals and pharmacology. 

How to Take Turmeric

Turmeric is available in different forms, including whole root, powdered root, and standardized to the amount of curcumin, one of the medicinal compounds in the root. 

NBI’s MitoForte delivers 200 mg of turmeric root extract standardized to 95% curcuminoids per serving.

And in my FB Live on how to make my morning smoothie recipe, I add fresh turmeric root. This video has been incredibly popular, with nearly fifty thousand views.

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References

Cronin JR. Curcumin: Old Spice Is a New Medicine. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 2003;9(1):34-38. [Article]

Kulkarni AP, Ghebremariam YT, Kotwal GJ. Curcumin Inhibits the Classical and the Alternate Pathways of Complement Activation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2005;1056(1):100-112. [Article]

Olszanecki R, Jawien J, Gajda M, et al. Effect of curcumin on atherosclerosis in apoE/LDLR-double knockout mice. J Physiol Pharmacol. Dec 2005;56(4):627-635. [Article]

Rakel DP, Rindfleisch A. Inflammation: nutritional, botanical, and mind-body influences. South Med J. Mar 2005;98(3):303-310. [Article]

Ramirez-Tortosa MC, Mesa MD, Aguilera MC, et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. Dec 1999;147(2):371-378. [Article]

Selvam R, Subramanian L, Gayathri R, Angayarkanni N. The anti-oxidant activity of turmeric (Curcuma longa). J Ethnopharmacol. 1995;47(2):59-67. [Article]

Shishidia S, Sethi G, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin: Getting Back to the Roots. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2005;1056(1):206-217. [Article]

Singh S, Aggarwal BB. Activation of Transcription Factor NF-kappaB Is Suppressed by Curcumin (Diferuloylmethane). J. Biol. Chem. 1995;270(42):24995-25000. [Article]

Snow JM. Herbal Monograph: Curcuma longa L. (Zingiberaceae). Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine. Autumn 1995:43-46. [Article]

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