Turmeric has been used in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for almost 4,000 years. More recent scientific studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may help treat a number of illnesses, such as digestive and liver problems, cancer, skin diseases and inflammation. Curcumin is also an antioxidant and may help the body get rid of free radicals and to repair cells and cell membranes.
Tumeric has traditionally been used to treat indigestion and other stomach problems. Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which some people think may help improve digestion and prevent gallstones. At least one study has shown that turmeric may help people who are in remission from ulcerative colitis to stay in remission for a longer period. Because turmeric may increase the amount of acid in the stomach, it is not recommended for people with ulcers.
Cancer should always be treated with conventional medicine. There is some evidence that turmeric may help increase the effectiveness of conventional medicines to prevent or control some types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin and colon cancer. Curcumin may do this by preventing new blood vessels from forming--helping to starve tumors of nutrients and oxygen. Curcumin's effect as an antioxidant may also protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer.
Turmeric can reduce some types of inflammation and may help people suffering from osteoarthritis by reducing pain and swelling. Few human studies have been done, but turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. It is often prescribed for muscle and joint aches and post-surgergical recovery, and many yogis use it to keep their joints supple as they grow older.
Turmeric can help to prevent blood clots by stopping platelets from clumping together. It may also be useful in preventing heart attack and stroke by keeping blood clots from building up along the walls of arteries, especially when combined with conventional medicines. Turmeric may also lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) in the blood, but no reliable human studies have been performed.
Although few scientific studies have been done, turmeric may be helpful in treating diabetes, bacterial and viral infections and uveitis, an inflammation of the eye. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is often used to treat scabies and other mild skin conditions.
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