Curcumin (Curcuma longa) is the active ingredient of the spice Turmeric, and is what gives the curry its characteristic bright yellow color and strong taste. It has been used in India, Asia, and the Middle East for thousands of years as a medicinal preparation and food additive. It recently has gained a great deal of attention from the western medical community based on its anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant properties (combats free radicals), and anti-inflammatory properties (helps to reduce irritation to tissues characterized by pain, redness, swelling, and heat) .
Curcumin has a molecular formula that is similar to other plant pigments called polyphenols (chemicals containing muliple “phenol” groups). These phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) have been demonstrated to have anti-carcinogenic properties, antioxidant properties, and anti-inflammatory properties. Other polyphenolic compounds include catechins from green tea extract, resveratrol from grape seed extratct, quercetin from apples, and luteolin from celery. Their antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties have all been examined for possible medicinal or preventive value.
Curcumin has recently been considered as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. A major factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is the development of beta amyloid plaque in the brain. Curcumin appears to directly bind to beta amyloid plaque and help the immune system (microglia) remove amyloid protein . In animal models that simulate Alzheimer’s disease, treatment with curcumin reduced the levels of beta-amyloid by 40 percent compared with mice not treated with curcumin . This same study demonstrated curcumin to be more effective in the inhibition of beta amyloid plaque than ibuprofen or naproxen . Human studies have demonstrated curcumin to be safe in doses up to 12 grams per day. When taken in appropriate doses, side effects are rare.
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