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Curcumin, an extract of turmeric, which curry powder is largely composed of, is a traditional dye substance that is receiving lots of modern scientific attention. Its effect on diseases and maladies is dramatic.

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From Science News

"A spice takes on Alzheimer's disease."

(Biomedicine).(use of curcumin may reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease)(Brief Article)
Issue: Dec 8, 2001

India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease in the world. A diet rich in curcumin, a spice used in yellow curry, may offer a potential explanation and a new therapy for the brain disorder, according to a new study.

Research over the past few years has documented that regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, significantly reduces a person's chance of developing Alzheimer's disease (SN: 8/12/00, p. 101). Yet physicians hesitate to recommend regular use of NSAIDs because the drugs can have serious side effects, including liver and kidney damage, when taken for extended periods.

Looking for a safer and perhaps better, option Greg M. Cole and Sally A. Frautschy of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have turned to curcumin. The spice has well-known anti-inflammatory properties and is safe even when people regularly ingest large amounts. Unlike NSAIDs, curcumin is also an antioxidant--it thwarts the damage caused by reactive molecules called free radicals. Such damage may contribute to Alzheimer's disease, the researchers note.

The UCLA scientists have tested curcumin on mice genetically engineered to develop the brain lesions called amyloid plaques, which characterize Alzheimer's disease. In one experiment, the plaque burden in mice eating food laced with curcumin was 43 percent less compared with that in mice not ingesting the spice. Eating curcumin also reduced inflammation and free radical damage in the mouse brains, the researchers report. --J.T.

Research Studies
From the Cumulated Index Medicus, National Library of Medicine, USA

Titles of scientific studies on curcumin (turmeric)

1998, selected from a total of 40 studies published that year:

Mechanisms of anticarcinogenic properties of curcumin: the effect of curcumin on glutathione linked detoxification enzymes in rat liver

Inhibitory effect of curcuminoids on MCF-7 cell proliferation...

New curcuminoids isolated from Zingiber cassumunar protect cells suffering from oxidative stress

In vivo inhibition of nitric oxide synthase gene expression by curcumin, a cancer preventive natural product with anti-inflammatory properties

Effect of curcumin on the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and cytochrome P450 1A1 in MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells

Inhibitory effects of curcumin on tumorigenesis in mice

Amelioration of renal lesions associated with diabetes by dietary curcumin in streptozotocin diabetic rats.

Inhibitory effects of curcumin and tetrahydrocurcuminoids on the tumor promoter-induced reactive oxygen species generation in leukocytes in vitro and in vivo

1999, selected from a total of 39 studies published that year:

Systemic administration of the NF-kappaB inhibitor curcumin stimulates muscle regeneration after traumatic injury

Anti-metastatic activity of curcumin and catechin

The inhibition of the estrogenic effects of pesticides and environmental chemicals by curcumin and isoflavonoids.

Modulatory effects of curcumin on the chromosomal damage induced by doxorubicin in Chinese hamster ovary cells

Chemopreventive effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, during the promotion/progression stages of colon cancer

DNA damage and repair in human lymphocytes and gastric mucosa cells exposed to chromium and curcumin

2000, selected from a total of 41 studies published that year:

Antibacterial activity of turmeric oil: a byproduct from curcumin manufacture.

Pulmonary protective effects of curcumin against paraquat toxicity

Neuroprotective role of curcumin from curcuma longa on ethanol-induced brain damage

Curcumin enhances wound healing in streptoxotocin induced diabetic rats and genetically diabetic mice

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curry powder health benefits curcumin turmeric prevents or protects against alzheimers hiv cancer research cloves nutmeg cumin cinnamon curries
curry powder health benefits curcumin turmeric prevents or protects against alzheimers hiv cancer research cloves nutmeg cumin cinnamon curries

Curry: as used in India, this simply means "sauce"; Indian foods made with sauces are thus all "curries"

Curry Powder: a readily-available blend of spices which is a Western approximation of Indian spice blends, and typically contains turmeric, cardamom, fenugreek, chillies, and cumin (this has nothing to do with curcumin), and may also contain mustard, ginger, garlic, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and any number of other spices or herbs

Masala: In India and her neighbors, a blend of powdered spices, of a specific type for a specific type of dish; said to be about 100 kinds of masalas in Indian cooking

Garam masala: A readily-available masala composed of delicate, heat-sensitive spices; thus, it is added at the end of cooking, after the flame has been turned off (see left)

Curcumin: Confusion exists in present usage of this word; Curcumin is the name for turmeric in many countries; however, expensive products called "Curcumin" are now being sold with the vitamins at health food outlets, and research on curcumin abounds in current medical literature. Some say that curcumin is the yellow oils that give turmeric its yellow color, and which are also used as both food coloring and textile dyeing. Others call these yellow oils "curcuminoids" or "curcumin extract." Curcumin has nothing to do with "Cumin" spice (see below). See the Curcumin page

Curcuminoids: Chemicals in turmeric that are being studied for their physiological effects; one group of curcuminoids comprises a potent yellow-orange volatile oil (see Curcumin Extract below); this oil contains three compounds called turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberone, among other substances

Curcumin Extract: The term used by Indian pharmacists to denote the potent and expensive yellow-orange oil which is the dye substance extracted from turmeric, used both for food coloring and for textile dye; has been used for centuries in India

Curry Leaves: A plant with small, dark green leaves (about 1 inch long) that give a mild flavor to Indian food; usually used fresh, not dried; they are sometimes included in Curry Powder, but do not give Curry Powder its name

Cumin: A small, warm-climate annual plant of which the seeds are used; often mistranslated as "caraway" in curry recipes due to similarity of the Indian words for both cumin and caraway, jeera, as well as nearly-identical appearance of the seeds; assume that "caraway" means "cumin" in curry recipes; "Cumin" has nothing to do with "Curcumin" (see above)

Chilli: Red chillies, also called Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper in America

Chilli Powder: In Asia/Europe, the powder of pure red chillies -- this would be called Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper in America; American "Chilli Powder" is a very different blend of spices, including cumin and with very little red chilli in it, used in Chili con carne, barbecue and "Texas" style cooking

Haldi or Haldie: The Indian name for Turmeric

Turmeric: A plant of which the root resembles ginger, and is used extensively in India, which produces almost the whole world's supply, as well as consumes 80% of that supply; botanical name is curcuma longa; is native to Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to the humid hilly regions of Southern India; Indian name Haldi