An herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family may have the ability to prevent heart attacks in recent bypass surgery patients, according to a new study. Researchers believe that extracts from ground up turmeric, often sold as a spice in grocery stores, may have heart-healthy benefits.
After bypass surgery, patients are often susceptible to heart attacks because of damage to the heart muscle caused by prolonged lack of blood flow during the procedure. The Thailand-based study revealed that the compound that causes the yellow pigment in turmeric, called curcumin, may ease the risks of this surgery when supplemented with traditional drug treatment. Researchers observed 121 patients who had non-emergency bypass surgery between 2009 and 2011. At the end of the study, it was calculated that the patients who had been taking curcumins had a 65 percent lower chance of suffering from a heart attack following the surgery.
Turmeric is one of the main ingredients in curry powders.
Photo by Steven Jackson Photography/Courtesy Flickr
This isn’t the first time researchers have celebrated turmeric for its health benefits. The plant’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have been utilized for centuries by practitioners in traditional Chinese and Indian medicines. The curcumin in turmeric is considered to be the primary pharmacological agent in the plant.
In multiple studies, the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin have shown to be as potent as popular medications, such as hydrocortisone and Motrin. These anti-inflammatory effects, paired with its antioxidant effects, make curcumin an ideal treatment for arthritis. It helps neutralize the free radicals that are responsible for painful joint inflammation and joint damage that is common in arthritis sufferers.
Curcumin may also aid in the fight against cancer. Studies have suggested that the compound can help destroy mutated cancer cells and prevent them from spreading through the rest of the body, thus causing more harm. According to researchers at Medical University Graz in Austria, turmeric may also help delay liver damage that can eventually result in cirrhosis.
In its plant form, turmeric grows to be a flowering plant that stands between 3 and 5 feet tall. To get to its spice form, the plant’s rhizomes are harvested, boiled for several hours, dried in hot ovens, and ground into the spice that most folks are most familiar with. In addition to its uses in the kitchen, turmeric is also used for dyeing and to color mustard condiments.
In order to reap the benefits of curcumin, you could purchase a turmeric tincture, capsule or tablet. However, it is much more delicious (and fun!) to use turmeric in the kitchen as a spice. Check out a few of our favorite recipes:
Spicy Tomato-Olive Soup
Vietnamese Chicken Curry