Did you know that in India they have one of the lowest rates of dementia in the world?
It's believed that the reason is the high amount of turmeric in the Indian diet.
With the World Health Organization predicting by 2050 that cases of dementia are going to triple it's clear that we need to change how we live and what we eat if we want to maintain our health. As yogis we have already taken the first step by doing our yoga but it's only one piece of the puzzle. The modern world presents new challenges that the yogis before us never faced and a large majority of these are a result of the modern lifestyle and diet. Although there are many new threats to our health we also live in a time when we have access to information and resources like never before. It's just a matter of sorting through the information to find out what works for you.
A couple points to bring up before I get into the health benefits of turmeric.
- One is the difference between whole turmeric and curcumin. Curcumin is the active constituent in turmeric powder. Most of the health studies have been done on curcumin. This is why you will see supplements that advertise 95% Curcuminoids.
- The other point is bioavailability or how well your body can absorb the curcumin. Turmeric alone doesn't get assimilated into the body unless prepared correctly. Different methods both traditional and modern have been developed to address this. In India they add it to ghee when cooking which helps it get through the digestive tract. Supplement manufacturers have come up with newer methods like adding black pepper or ginger to do the same thing. I will look at both of these points closer in part II of this post where I give some advice on how to choose your turmeric or turmeric supplement.
6 Reasons Turmeric is Essential for a Healthy Body and Mind
1. Turmeric is Potent Anti-inflammatory
"No Pain, No Gain - Sharath"
I know I've gone through some times of soreness and "sweet" pain as Sharath calls it. In the case that my joints and muscles get stressed and inflamed I use turmeric to calm things down. Turmeric has been used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for centuries for this very reason. I've found that usually if not always the yogis and taoists knew what they were doing. Now modern science is confirming their practices. Turmeric was shown in this study to "profoundly" inhibit joint inflammation and prevent the damage of tissue around the joint.  They found that turmeric has the ability to stop certain molecules that play a role in inflammation. I'm sure the yogis just thought "Hey I feel better. It must work!".
2. Anticancer properties
This is exciting. There are promising signs that Curcumin has anticancer properties. Although human trials are in the very early stages, tests done on mice and in laboratories are positive. According the American Cancer Society website.
"Curcumin can kill cancer cells in laboratory dishes and also slows the growth of the surviving cells. Curcumin has been found to reduce development of several forms of cancer in lab animals and to shrink animal tumors." - American Cancer Society. 
3. Promotes Digestion and Digestive Disorders like IBS
"From one end to the other Turmeric treats the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) system. It increases bioavailability of the food that you eat and the ability of the stomach to withstand stomach acids. It nutures mucus membranes and is traditionally used for weak stomachs, poor digestion, flatulence and dyspepsia. It helps to normalize metabolism and to digest protein" - Prashanti de Jager M.S., Turmeric Spice of life.
It hasn't been proven yet but it believed that curcumin encourages the gallbladder to create bile. Lack of bile is often the cause of digestive problems like nausea, bloating, gas etc. I usually just add some turmeric powder with some ghee when I make rice. It's an easy way to get turmeric into your diet and improve the digestion plus assimilation of nutrients from your food.
4. Effective in Treating Atherosclerosis From Type II Diabetes
People that develop type II diabetes often suffer from a thickening of the artery walls known as atherosclerosis. Since curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammation a study was done to determine it's affects on this condition. They found that turmeric was effective in preventing the deposit of fat on arterial walls and lowering the atherogenic risks. 
5. Prevents Alzheimers Disease
As I mentioned earlier the fact the people in India have lower rates of dementia and AD compared to the US has led scientists to investigate the reason. What they found is that Curcumin, the active constituent in turmeric could be the reason. Alzheimer's disease currently affects 10% of the US population over 65 and is expected to increase by 4 times as much by the year 2050. One of the causes of AD is the formation of beta-amyloid plaque on the brain. Studies done by UCLA have shown that curcumin is effective in clearing up this plaque plus reducing inflammation.  More studies and clinical trials are being done.
6. Alleviates Rheumatoid Arthritic Conditions
Turmeric has been shown to help with rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating disease that affects the joints as well as the heart and lungs. According to this study done in 2012, it was more effective than using prescription drugs with no side effects.  The curcumin in turmeric inhibits particular cytokines and enzymes that cause inflammation.
"In 1980 an Indian hospital tested Turmeric on 49 rhe rheumatoid arthritis patients. They were given 1200 mg of curcumin per day. Everyone of them improved in terms of less pain, more flexibility and more energy" -Prashanti de Jager M.S., Turmeric Spice of life.
So after reading all of this the first reaction is where do I get some? That's how I react when I (re)discover these herbs and plant medicines. First glance online you come across many different options. From straight Turmeric powder to extracted Curcumin supplements with different ingredients like black pepper etc. It's important to know which one is the right for you and most important to be sure it actually bioavailable. Turmeric alone has a very hard time getting through the digestive tract so it could be completely useless. I'm currently creating a Turmeric supplement for my other site Shenfoods.com so I've been digging deep into what actually works. In my next blog post I'll go over all the things you need to know in order to choose the correct Turmeric supplement for you plus a recipe I've been doing which uses Shialjit (superherb) and Ghee for a post practice recovery tea. Sign up for my newsletter here to receive it
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Till next time. Wishing you a long and happy life doing exactly what you love to do
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