The Indian curry spice, turmeric, is comprised of three curcuminoids: bisdemethoxycurcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and curcumin. These are usually responsible for the yellowish coloring that is characteristic of turmeric and is sometimes used in food colorings. For years it has been believed that curcumin has a variety of medicinal purposes.
The beneficial properties that Curcumin is known for are:
It is hypothesized that curcumin is effective in the prevention of cervical cancer and the treatment of malaria. Additionally, its properties are now being tested because there is some speculation that it may interfere with the replication of the HIV virus. Curcumin is also known to function as a scavenger for free radicals and as an antioxidant.
In a recent study involving 1,010 people who consumed yellow curry in their diets and were between the ages of 60 and 99, circumstantial evidence was found regarding curcumin's ability to improve certain mental functions. In this study involving curcumin, neither Alzheimer's nor the beginning stages of the disease were apparent in any of the study's subjects. In India, where curry is a dietary staple, Alzheimer's rates are among the world's lowest and the speculation is that curcumin apparently blocks and breaks up certain amyloid plaques in the brain that are responsible for the disease.
Studies involving animals targeted oxidative damage and inflammatory conditions, which are believed to be part of the onset process of Alzheimer's. Studies in India are also being conducted regarding a relationship in function between curcumin and vitamin K, where retinol deficiencies and the brain are concerned, as well as an interaction between the two as an anti-inflammatory.
In September of 2005, an article in the online issue of the Dermatology Times found curcumin to be quite effective for the treatment of a variety of skin conditions, the most notable one being psoriasis. Curcumin for treatment of psoriasis has been successful most likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is obviously the basis of psoriasis flare-ups, but it was also discovered that acne and sun-damaged skin were affected positively by curcumin treatments.
It was also noted that curcumin, like other antioxidants can be a double-edged sword. In lab studies involving antioxidants and cancer, it was also seen that there were pro-oxidant effects from a higher ingestion rate of curcumin. When body cells are attacked by cancerous cells, the anti-tumor protein p53 goes to work to inhibit the spread of the disease by defending against cancer mechanisms. An overabundance of curcumin tends to suppress p53 function. Additionally, an excessive intake of curcumin causes some individuals to suffer with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and nausea.