Curcuma or turmeric (lat. curcuma longa), also called yellow or saffron root, native to Southeast Asia, belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). The perennial herbaceous plant has an intense yellow rhizome, which is used fresh or dried in many ways – both as a dye and spice, but also as a medicinal and nutritional supplement. The curcuma plant can grow up to 1 m high and forms rhizomes as survival organs. It has 30-45 cm long elliptical leaves. In August, it forms an inflorescence up to 18 cm long with numerous flowers.
The strongly yellow-colored curcuma spice has been used in Indian cuisine, mostly in dried form, for about 4000 years. It is an important ingredient of curry powder and is often used instead of the expensive saffron. Relevant ingredients are the curcuminoids, also called curcumin, and 2-7% essential oil. It is recommended to store curcuma powder dry, dark and only for a short time to protect color, aroma and effectiveness.
But turmeric is much more than a kitchen spice. It is considered one of the most important medicinal plants and has been used for a long time, especially in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. Curcuma is a true jack-of-all-trades among medicinal plants. The medicinally active ingredient curcumin contained in it has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Its effectiveness is comparable to that of hydrocortisone, Aspirin® or Ibuprofen®, but without triggering similar side effects.
In addition, curcumin has an antioxidant effect, which is why it is successfully used in inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Thanks to its vitamin B6 content, curcumin helps prevent homocysteine levels in the blood from rising too high. (High homocysteine levels are considered an important risk factor for atherosclerosis and heart disease).
Because curcumin is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, there is growing evidence that regular intake is even believed to provide protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In addition, curcumin appears to exert a curative influence in serious respiratory diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Furthermore, curcumin is able to prevent intestinal inflammations or to alleviate already existing ones. It also protects the liver and supports its regeneration and the healing process in liver diseases. It promotes detoxification processes, especially the elimination of mercury, lowers blood sugar levels and thus reduces cholesterol levels, and it also has choleretic, digestive, analgesic and antiseptic properties.
Last but not least, numerous scientific studies indicate that thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin contributes to a reduction in the risk of cancer and helps prevent it. These anti-cancer properties of curcumin are due to its ability to stabilize the membranes of our body cells, making them more resistant. In addition, there is new evidence that curcuma prevents metastasis in existing breast cancer.
Of course, this does not mean that curcuma alone can be used to treat cancer. However, it is a natural medicine that significantly supports medical measures and is able to improve the patient’s energy and quality of life.
As a dietary supplement, the curcuma preparation is available mainly in the form of capsules and tablets.