Today’s topic is about one of my favorite herbs – curcumin. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant native to south India and Indonesia. Its tuberous rhizomes have been used from antiquity as a condiment, as a textile dye, and medically as an aromatic stimulant.

Curcumin is the substance that gives the spice turmeric its yellow color. Curry powder which is extensively used in Indian cuisine, is largely made of turmeric. Curcumin contains many powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Curcumin is an herb with multifaceted effects. They include the following:

1. Block estrogen mimicking chemicals that induce the “out of control” cell growth. Essentially, it blocks the pathway used by estrogen and similar substances that promote cell growth. Examples would include fibroids and cysts.

2. Strong antioxidant. It protects our body against free radical damage as well as a DNA protector. A recent study showed curcumin protected bacteria from a lethal dose of radiation at nearly 100% effectiveness.

3. Induces apoptosis. This is a process that identifies abnormal, dangerous cells and “instructs” them to destroy themselves.

4. Inhibits angiogenesis by blocking the so-called AP-1, an enzyme needed for this process.

5. Removes excess copper and iron from the blood stream and finally,

6. Acts as a powerful digestive aid. Curcumin is available at most health stores and is usually found in liquid or capsules. As with most substances, the former is preferred.