Food, herbs, and spices are some of the earliest forms of medicine used in human history. These natural substances have powerful effects on the human body. Indeed, many of the natural remedies used by ancient civilizations are just as beneficial in treating modern ailments faced by humans today. Despite significant pharmacology advancements, nature often supplies some of the most potent remedies with the least amount of harm.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant that belongs to the ginger family. The plant originates from Southeast Asia, and the underground stem is used for cooking and healing. Historically, the use of culinary and medicinal turmeric is rooted in Indian and Indonesian culture. People in these societies used turmeric to treat various ailments, including pain, digestive upset, infections, and skin conditions. Because of its healing properties, turmeric is an essential ingredient used in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine.
Today, turmeric is a common spice used in Middle Eastern foods and gives curry its golden color. Recent research has confirmed that it does have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Tumeric may help treat the following conditions:
People sometimes refer to turmeric and curcumin interchangeably. However, curcumin is a naturally occurring compound found in turmeric. Curcumin is the main ingredient in turmeric, giving turmeric its distinct yellow color, flavor, and medicinal properties. Where curcumin is a distinct property, turmeric contains many other natural substances alongside curcumin.
Tumeric and curcumin both contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, which is beneficial in managing autoimmune conditions. Many studies look at using turmeric for joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. One study found that people taking 1000mg daily of turmeric extract for 2-3 months had the same improvement in pain and inflammation as people taking ibuprofen. Because turmeric has few side effects, people with rheumatoid arthritis have other options besides NSAIDs, which have more severe side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding.
There is potential that turmeric and curcumin may also help fight other autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Hashimoto's is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. People may have Hashimoto's for many years without symptoms. Over time, the thyroid gland's chronic inflammation can produce less thyroid hormone, leading to a generalized slowing of a person's metabolism.
Hashimoto's tends to run in families. For people who have subclinical hypothyroidism, taking daily turmeric may decrease inflammation and stave off clinical hypothyroidism. Subclinical hypothyroidism is when your TSH is mildly elevated, but your thyroxine (T4) is normal.
Furthermore, one study found that consuming daily turmeric may reduce the growth of goiters in the study population. A goiter is when the thyroid gland becomes enlarged and is a symptom of both hyper- and hypothyroidism. Goiters are less common in the United States because iodine is widely available in table salt.
Curcumin also plays a unique role in managing autoimmune disease. Permeability of the intestinal wall is a leading theory behind the cause of autoimmune disease. Also called leaky gut, this theory suggests that wide spaces between the cells in your intestines allow toxins to enter your bloodstream. These toxins can wreak havoc on all of your organs and cause your immune system to become overactive.
Curcumin may help create an intestinal barrier to protect your body from toxins and bacteria. Curcumin may also help your liver process toxins like arsenic, lead, and mercury.
Studies indicate that curcumin has poor bioavailability, which means that the human body has a hard time getting the health benefits of curcumin. In general, curcumin is poorly absorbed, quickly metabolized, and rapidly eliminated by the digestive tract. Certain substances may increase the bioavailability of curcumin, including black pepper, which contains a compound called piperine.
Turmeric and curcumin are often in the same supplement, which can help you tap into both of their health benefits. If you use turmeric powder in food, make sure to add black pepper to the mixture, or look for a curcumin supplement containing piperine.
Finally, when looking for a turmeric or curcumin supplement, make sure that it is clinically tested. The FDA does not strictly regulate dietary supplements, so some supplements' safety and efficacy may be questionable. However, turmeric and curcumin are generally safe to take as a supplement and have few side effects save for possible stomach upset.
Talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your thyroid medication regimen. Dietary supplements do not replace thyroid medication. If your doctor prescribes a thyroid medication, you must take it as prescribed. Thyroid hormone replacement medication is the most effective treatment option for hypothyroidism.
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