The health benefits of turmeric have long been known. A natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and cancer-killer, turmeric has been touted “a miracle spice”. The antioxidant curcumin in turmeric has been proven responsible for all these characteristics. Because of this, curcumin supplements have become popular. Everything is a sum of its parts, however, and no one component should be singled out as the only powerful phytochemical.
There’s more to Turmeric than Curcumin.
Research published in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy explored another compound found in turmeric that also seems miraculous: aromatic-turmerone (ar-turmerone). Ar-turmerone is what gives turmeric its smell and flavor.
Tumeric and your Brain
Turmerone induces neural stem cell proliferation and regeneration. The basic problem in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s is that neurons in the brain stop talking to each other. Eventually, these essential cells weaken and die. Turmerone revitalizes neurons and promotes the creation of new stem cells. Plus, the compound promotes cell differentiation to allow stem cells to become new neurons (1).
This is accomplished is by turmeric’s formidable anti-inflammatories properties. Reducing neural inflammation and stimulating new stem cell production is especially vital for people recovering from a stroke, which damages brain cells by cutting off blood supply (2).
Additionally, turmeric’s antioxidants have been found to reverse the effects of damage caused by pharmaceuticals, particularly in the treatment of schizophrenia. Commonly-prescribed antipsychotics often cause involuntary muscle movements and severe behavioral changes. One study found that when treated with curcumin, the effects of the motor disorder tardive dyskinesia were reversed (3).
Turmerone not only promotes neural regeneration, with implications for diseases like Parkinson’s, but it also is an anti-depressant (4).Not only a brain healer, aromatic turmerone also kills cancer cells.
Studies of various cell lines have concluded that this potent compound causes cancer cell death and prevents existing cancerous tumors from growing by activating proteins in the body that further attack cancer cells (5, 6, 7, 8).
But wait—there’s more.
In 2005, ar-turmerone as an active phytochemical in turmeric was found to regulate blood glucose:
“These results indicate that turmeric is a promising ingredient of functional food for the prevention and/or amelioration of type 2 diabetes and that curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and ar-turmerone mainly contribute to the effects.” (9)
These studies and others demonstrate that to get the most benefit from this extraordinary rhizome, you have to eat the entire thing, not just a curcumin extract.
The ability of the body to use turmeric’s nutrition purely in the form of curcumin is limited; absorption increases substantially when aromatic turmerone is ingested with it (10). Additionally, there is more ar-turmerone in fresh turmeric than in dried (11).
It’s become easier to find whole turmeric in supermarkets; natural food stores will carry it if your local market doesn’t. Turmeric can be cooked (with black pepper to increase its bioavailability), or eaten raw in a salad, smoothie, or on a sandwich.
Nature’s Miracle, Indeed
Please be aware, however, that if you are taking certain medications, unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects can occur as the result of chemical interactions. Do not take turmeric as medicine if you are on blood thinners, antacids, or diabetes drugs.