Turmeric wards off Alzheimer's, cancer
As people live longer than ever before, age-related diseases like Alzheimer's are also on the rise.
With no known cure, Alzheimer's is a massive burden.
A study conducted in the University of California shows that one of the reasons why the rate of Alzheimer's in India is four times lower than in the USA is because turmeric is used in Indian cooking.
Turmeric contains a powerful substance called curcumin, which shields the brain from the damage that leads to Alzheimer's.
In 1989, Bharat Aggarwal, a leading researchers on turmeric, threw some turmeric onto cancer cells. The results were unbelievable. He found that turmeric cut down inflammation, preventing the replication of cancer cells.
It was this anti-inflammatory character of turmeric that led researchers to experiment with brain cells in rats, proving curcumin effective in Alzheimer's disease.
The research fits in with Ayurvedic knowledge, which uses turmeric to treat cancer and memory related disorders because of its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities.
The difference is Ayurveda uses turmeric in combination with other herbs or with milk while modern research aims at isolating curcumin and using it as a drug.
Aggarwal prescribes a daily dose of 8 gms of turmeric, about 40 times the amount of turmeric used in Indian cooking.
Experts in India say such a dose could be less safe than Ayurvedic prescriptions.
"It can react in cases of gastric ulcers. We also advise people to take it with milk. So it's absorbed by the fat in the milk, not otherwise," said Dr Joshi, Ayurvedic expert, BHU.
"Ayurveda says use the herb in its full form. It balances the side effects," added Ajay Sharma, President, Baidyanath.
Clinical trials on humans are on in the US to test curcumin's safety and efficacy in treating pancreatic cancer and preventing lung and colon cancer.
If successful, the future could see curcumin being developed into a drug much less toxic than existing anti-cancer drugs.
In India too, scientists are combining turmeric in anti-cancer drugs to reduce both dosage and toxic side effects.
Trials combining turmeric with malaria drug chloroquin to fight chloroquin resistance are also on. If this works, it can prevent many malaria deaths in India.