A new study of the disease fighting properties of turmeric shows that developing compounds from the main ingredient in turmeric may help humans fight a variety of diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease and more. Researchers have discovered exactly how turmeric has the astonishing ability to fight disease.
Scientists recently got a look at the main ingredient in turmeric by using a special technique called solid-state NMR spectroscopy. Using spectroscopy, the scientists were able to watch curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, enter cell membranes. The discovery unveiled why the Indian spice turmeric has been used for healing for centuries, earning the name “holy powder”.
The main ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin, when introduced into the body, enters the cell membrane. Once there, researchers say curcumin in turmeric has the ability to keep cell membranes in order, acting as a disciplinarian. The result leads to increased resistance to infection and cancer.
Turmeric has been used for centuries to heal wounds, calm indigestion, and as a poultice to heal cuts and bruises. Southeast Asians and Indians have recognized the healing and even practical uses of turmeric for centuries. Turmeric is widely used by Ayruvedic health practitioners.
Professor Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy led the University of Michigan study. He explains, "The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so that information flow through it can be controlled." The study shows that turmeric has a wide array of health benefits, including anti-oxidant powers, anti-viral properties, and other astonishing abilities that may help humans fight many diseases.
Dr. Ramamoorthy is Associate Professor, Chemistry at University of Michigan. His expertise lies in the study of membrane proteins, nanomedicine and natural antibiotics. In India, Ramamoorthy ingested turmeric laced milk to fight colds, and inhaled turmeric infused steam for congestion, leading to his interest in developing technology that would allow him to study how proteins interact with cell membranes at an atomic level.
Ramanmoorthy’s team developed the NMR spectroscopy used in the current study. The same technique is allowing the researchers to investigate amyloid proteins, as the scientists study how curcumin in turmeric might help humans fight diseases like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson’s disease. They also are exploring a pain reliever derived from hot peppers (capsaicin), to see if it reacts with cell membranes the same way as curcumin, found in turmeric.
If the scientists can pinpoint how other plant polyphenols promote health, it could lead to the development of natural compounds with enhanced potency. The result may be powerful disease fighting compounds from natural sources, with fewer side effects to patients.
The newest study reveals exactly how turmeric helps fight disease. Curcumin in turmeric acts indirectly to improve cellular function by inserting itself directly into the cell membrane to boost resistance to infection and cancer, and potentially many other diseases.
Journal of the American Chemical Society
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