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Hiding in your spice rack is a delicate powder that has been treasured for thousands of years by cooks, food lovers, and holistic physicians, alike.
It’s not just delicious, though… It’s got so many health benefits that 5,600 scientific studies have been done on it! And while it’s becoming more and more well known and popular, not everyone has gotten the memo that it’s also beneficial for your mood and memory.
We are, of course, talking about the wonderful spice, turmeric.
Just in case you HAVEN’T read our previous article about this golden delight of a spice being found more effective than the leading antidepressant… Or read other articles about how amazing turmeric is for your health, here are a few facts.
It comes from the root, or rhizome, of the plant Curcuma longa
It’s related to and looks like ginger
The root is dried and powdered
It’s been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years
Some speculate that the “gold” brought to Jesus was actually turmeric
Its main medicinal component is called curcumin
Turmeric: Mood and Memory Booster
Scientists have been studying turmeric’s many health benefits, including how it helps your mood and memory.
A UCLA study published in January last year concluded that turmeric (focusing on the extract of curcumin) “improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss.” This wasn’t an informal, fly-by-night study...
First of all, UCLA is a respected institution, and secondly, it was an 18-month, double-blind placebo-controlled study on humans. That’s a bit like the Olympics of scientific studies.
These scientists looked at the effect of twice-daily doses of 90 mg of curcumin on 40 adults between 50 and 90, who did not have dementia, but who did have complaints of mild decline in memory.
In order to assess the results of the experiment, participants were given standardized cognitive assessments at the start of the study, and then at six-month intervals. They also monitored curcumin levels in their blood at the start of the study and after 18 months.
In addition, they used a special type of imaging (FDDNP-PET scans) to examine the brains of a large number of participants.
What they found is very exciting.
The adults taking curcumin improved 28% in memory testing, and had an improvement in their mood.
Further, the scans showed the adults who took daily curcumin had “significantly less” amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus than those who took placebos.” The amygdala and hypothalamus are areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling many memory and emotional functions, and amyloid and tau plaques are associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.
In fact, the scans showed a decrease in plaques and tangles in the brains of those supplementing with curcumin (turmeric).
They believed these benefits were due to curcumin having anti-amyloid (anti-plaque) properties, on top of its already well-studied and proven anti-inflammatory benefits.
An earlier Taiwanese study had similar results. This 2014 placebo-controlled study was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They wanted to test for improvements in working memory (critical for cognitive abilities such as planning, problem-solving and reasoning), which commonly declines in people with untreated or advancing diabetes.
Participants, all over 60 with untreated diabetes, were given one gram of turmeric daily, with an otherwise bland breakfast. Their working memory was tested before and then again, hours after the meal.
The results? They found just 1 gram a day improved working memory in the subjects.
Very promising, indeed. But truly the benefits of turmeric and curcumin don’t stop there.
Other Benefits of the Golden Spice: Turmeric & Curcumin
It’s hard to find something turmeric has NOT been used for within traditional medicine. Its long list of uses from times past to now include:
strengthening the overall energy of the body
dispelling parasitic worms
relieving gastrointestinal discomfort (including IBS)
helping to dissolve gallstones
acting as an antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises
acting as an antibacterial agent
remedying skin conditions
treating respiratory conditions
supporting liver disorders
helping to alleviate rheumatism
helping with diabetic wounds
treating a runny nose, cough, and sinusitis
treating diseases associated with abdominal pain
treating sprains and swelling
Turmeric (curcumin) even helps with weight loss… A 2015 study showed a twice-daily supplement of curcumin increased weight loss (overall fat and belly fat loss) by up to 5%.
Have you ever heard of HCAs (heterocyclic amines)? These are toxic substances that form when muscle meat is heated at high temperatures, like when frying or grilling. Cancer.gov (official website of the National Cancer Institute) says they “may increase the risk of cancer”. This is because HCAs cause mutations in DNA, thought to be related to increased cancer risk.
Marinating or mixing your meats in turmeric can actually inhibit these toxic substances (HCAs) from forming.
Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The reasons turmeric is able to do this—and the reasons for most of its indisputable medicinal properties—are believed to be centered around its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Curcumin is even more powerful than three of the most common anti-inflammatories and pain medicines aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac!
One of the ways curcumin helps with pain and inflammation is by preventing signals of a particular molecule (NF-kb) from getting to your brain.
Curcumin works so effectively as an anti-inflammatory due to its supreme antioxidant properties. It is very efficient in helping your body rid itself of cell-damaging free radicals, and in reducing oxidative stress.
Have you heard of the ORAC scale? It measures the antioxidant levels in different substances.
You’ve probably heard that blueberries, cocoa, and acai are touted for their antioxidant properties (and high on the ORAC list).
Well, curcumin has double a score of those three well-known antioxidants, and triple that of broccoli.
That’s noteworthy because antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, which, in turn, reduces inflammation. But there is another spice, that when used together with turmeric, makes it even more powerful.
A Spicy One-Two Punch
Indian food is well known for using turmeric in delicious ways. The average Indian eats half a teaspoon of turmeric a day. What is significant about that is that India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s on the planet.
While the explanations for this do tend to sway towards the high use of turmeric, there is another spice used frequently in both Indian food and traditional, natural medicine: ginger.
As mentioned above, curcumin has been noted to decrease inflammation and untangle the amyloid plaques associated with this devastating disease in people without dementia. It’s also been noted to directly improve the memory of people currently suffering with Alzheimer’s.
A 2016 study found that the combination of turmeric and ginger had even MORE anti-inflammatory effects than when both are used individually.
Ginger has been used in traditional folk medicine for millennia. It also is well known and frequently studied for its high anti-inflammatory properties, and is proven to reduce oxidative stress.
Like curcumin (turmeric), ginger has also been seen to improve memory, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and has tremendous anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger also inhibits the dreaded HCAs that form from cooking meat, and which are connected to increased cancer risk.
Getting back to how these spices help memory, a 2011 placebo-controlled study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine gave daily doses of ginger to 60 women and found that their memories and cognitive function were improved. They noted, as well, that there were no adverse side effects—something that is rare with most prescription drugs.
It will be exciting to see the results of further studies that examine the combination of these two medicinal powerhouses.
Getting the Most Benefit: Overcoming Absorption Challenges
Another thing turmeric and ginger have in common is that they are not always “bioavailable” on their own. That means it’s not easy for your body to absorb them, without some help.
Traditionally, cooking with these spices overcomes this absorption issue to a degree. It’s believed that the fats and oils used in cooking enable your body to absorb turmeric and ginger, so that their medicinal qualities become more available to you.
Likewise, using black pepper has been shown to increase absorption. This is because it contains the compound piperine.
While it’s easy to add some ginger, turmeric, and pepper to meals, it does make knowing how much you are taking and absorbing more of a challenge.
When buying supplements, definitely look for one that contains piperine or, even better, BioPerine®, which is a patented, concentrated extract of piperine. This way you’ll be sure of just what dosage you are receiving, so you can see for yourself the many benefits of both turmeric and ginger!
Discover the wonderful benefits of turmeric and ginger for yourself with Well of Life’s GMO free, gluten free, soy free, dairy free Turmeric & Ginger with BioPerine®