Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, derived from an asian plant called Curcuma longa. It has been used for thousands of years as a spice in food, dyes and in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) and Chinese medicinal traditions. The medicinal properties and health benefits of the spice are attributed to: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-dyspepsia, anti-platelets, anti-viral, antifungal and antibacterial effects. It can be used for arthritis, psoriasis and other skin conditions. Chinese medicine has been using it for years, studies have shown it inhibits tumor cell growth and transformation of normal cells into cancer cells. Turmeric can even be used to prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Usage of Turmeric dates back to ancient Greek where physician Dioscorides used it to stimulate appetite and cure indigestion. In India, Turmeric is one of the main ingredients for their cuisine, we can see why it is considered a valuable substance and was called the ”Indian saffron” in the middle ages.
Its significant effects on major diseases amazed scientists. With more than 4300 articles cited by PubMed on the subject of the different clinical uses of plant, curcumin or the Turmeric spice. This includes 1604 studies on cancer, 181 on Alzheimer’s, 151 on diabetes. Studies among the elderly populations in India, who consume Turmeric regularly, indicate low rate of occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s, Turmeric extract breaks up sticky polymers that usually fail to repair brain cells and their synapses. In the alleviation of arthritis, curcumin significantly inhibited inflammation of the joints and its destruction, thus it relieves pains experienced by patients. Its anticancer activities result to the death of various cancer cells in the skin, lower gastrointestinal tract and ovaries in laboratory trials. Another surprising health benefit is that those who regularly consumed Turmeric in food performed significantly better in examination than those who consumed it less frequently.
Curcumin, the active component in Turmeric, is extracted by first boiling the curcumin plant’s root and then dried and ground into a powder. Curcumin is then extracted by using a solvent and then, the solution is dried to recover the active component in powder form. Different extractions would result into Turmeric extracts of varying purity – tests conclude that the best concentration to achieve the clinical results against diseases is standardized at 95%.
While Turmeric can certainly be made part of one’s diet, some people might be put off by its bitter taste especially those who are not used to it. To make it easier for people to experience the health benefits brought by Turmeric extract consumption, laboratories have extracted and purified Turmeric into pills or capsules which would most probably have different concentrations of ingredients. When choosing Turmeric extract, it is strongly advised to choose one with curcumin that is standardized at 95%, the concentration where it would have the most effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
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