You may have heard about the amazing benefits of turmeric. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that has many health benefits, and an herbal supplement that is rapidly growing in popularity as research continues to unveil its unique medicinal properties. One of the lesser known benefits of turmeric is that it has a positive effect on lung health. In this article, we’re going to explore these lung benefits in depth.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), native to Southeast Asia where it is grown commercially. The rhizome (underground stem) of the turmeric plant is used as a culinary spice and also as a traditional medicine.
Historically, turmeric was used as a medicinal herb in several Asian medical systems, including Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medical system, as well as in traditional Chinese medicine. In India, turmeric was traditionally used for disorders of the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, and digestive system.
Today, turmeric is promoted as a dietary supplement for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, digestive disorders, allergies, liver disease, depression, respiratory infections and many others.
Turmeric is a common spice and a major ingredient in curry powder. It is what gives curry powder its bright yellow and orange color. This yellow and orange color actually comes from a major component of turmeric known as curcumin. Curcumin is also the active compound that most of turmeric’s health benefits and medicinal properties are attributed to.
What Is Curcumin?
As mentioned, curcumin is the active compound that most of turmeric’s health benefits and medicinal properties are attributed to. It has been studied extensively and new research is ongoing and continually finding out more about this impressive compound. In fact, turmeric is one of the most widely studied herbs of any herbal medicine, and there are thousands of studies and research papers published on turmeric and its active compound curcumin.
Research shows that the curcumin content of turmeric actually isn’t that high—it’s only around 3%, by weight. Most of the studies on turmeric use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using turmeric as a spice in your foods. This doesn’t mean that turmeric isn’t still a healthy culinary spice, it just means that if you are using turmeric for its medicinal properties, it is recommended to use a high-quality turmeric extract that has high curcumin content.
Studies on curcumin show that it reliably reduces markers of inflammation and increases the levels of endogenous antioxidants in the body. While research on curcumin has been done in many areas, the areas of anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant activity are by far the most extensively researched. Other research shows that curcumin offers benefits to brain health, joint health, respiratory health, and supports a small to moderate improvement in the symptoms of depression and anxiety. A reduction in LDL-cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure has also been observed.
Turmeric May Improve Lung & Respiratory Health
Turmeric offers many benefits to respiratory health, and may be a great natural remedy for several respiratory conditions. We may not always realize it, but our lungs are under constant attack. We are constantly exposed to a wide range of pollutants that can significantly impact our lung health. Dust, cigarette smoke, mold, dander, chemical aerosol sprays, pesticides, exhaust fumes, industrial waste, and other airborne pollutants injure the lungs, and over time, may result in acute and chronic inflammatory lung diseases.
Lung disease is any problem in the lungs that prevents the lungs from working properly. There are three main types of lung disease:
These diseases affect the tubes (airways) that carry oxygen and other gases into and out of the lungs. They usually cause a narrowing or blockage of the airways. Airway diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchiectasis. People with airway diseases often express difficulty in the amount of airflow they get and say they feel as if they're "trying to breathe out through a straw."
Lung tissue diseases
These diseases affect the structure of the lung tissue. Scarring or inflammation of the tissue makes the lungs unable to expand fully (restrictive lung disease). This makes it hard for the lungs to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. People with this type of lung disorder often say they feel as if they are "wearing a too-tight sweater or vest." As a result, they can't breathe deeply. Pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis are examples of lung tissue disease.
Lung circulation diseases
These diseases affect the blood vessels in the lungs. They are caused by clotting, scarring, or inflammation of the blood vessels. They affect the ability of the lungs to take up oxygen and release carbon dioxide. These diseases may also affect heart function. An example of a lung circulation disease is pulmonary hypertension. People with these conditions often feel very short of breath when they exert themselves.
Many lung diseases involve a combination of these three types. The most common lung diseases include:
- Pneumothorax or atelectasis (collapse of part or all of the lung)
- Bronchitis (swelling and inflammation in the main passages (bronchial tubes) that carry air to the lungs
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Pneumonia (lung infection)
- Pulmonary edema (abnormal buildup of fluid in the lungs)
- Pulmonary embolus (blocked ling artery)
If we look at the underlying causes and the characteristics of most lung diseases we will find that they often include inflammation, oxidation, and a build of environmental toxins. This gives us a clue as to why turmeric and curcumin can be so beneficial for these conditions. Before exploring how turmeric can benefit lung health, let’s look a little deeper into these underlying causes of poor respiratory health.
Understanding Inflammation & Lung Inflammation
Inflammation is a process by which your body's white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. In some diseases, however, like arthritis, your body's defense system – your immune system – triggers inflammation when there are no invaders to fight off. In these autoimmune diseases, your immune system acts as if regular tissues are infected or somehow unusual, causing damage.
Inflammation can be either short-lived (acute) or long-lasting (chronic). Acute inflammation goes away within hours or days. Chronic inflammation can last months or years, even after the first trigger is gone.
Chronic inflammation can be caused by a number of factors—exposure to toxins, pollutants, and chemicals in the air or in food, untreated illness or infection, consuming high amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, consuming a lot of refined carbs, such as white bread, eating processed and packaged foods that contain trans fats, excessive intake of alcohol and processed meat, leading a sedentary or non-active lifestyle, and many others. There are also some cases of chronic inflammation that don’t have a clear underlying cause. When prolonged, chronic inflammation can negative impact on your tissues and organs—including your lungs.
Inflammation, in itself, is not a bad thing. Inflammation is an important healing function of the body. It helps your body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage. Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could take over your body and kill you. Although acute, short-term inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it becomes chronic and inappropriately attacks your body's own tissues.
In fact, scientists now believe that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's and various degenerative conditions.
Lung inflammation can be acute or chronic, and there are many possible causes, including exposures, infections, and diseases like asthma or bronchitis. Because inflammation of the lungs can affect their functioning, it can cause wheezing, difficulty breathing, or chest pain and tightness.
The noticeable effects of lung inflammation can develop rapidly or slowly, depending on the extent of inflammation, the cause, and your overall health. If you have chronic inflammation, you might end up getting used to the situation and ignoring your symptoms, especially if they are mild and fairly steady.
With acute and rapidly worsening inflammation of the lungs, it's hard to overlook the effects, and you will probably be unable to ignore that something is wrong.
Symptoms of lung inflammation can include:
- Feeling tired after physical activity
- A general sense of fatigue
- Dry or productive cough
- Trouble breathing
- Chest discomfort, tightness, or pain
- A sense of lung pain
- Gasping for air
Issues like fevers, weight loss, or hypertension can also occur. But these effects are related to the underlying medical conditions that give way to lung inflammation, not the inflammation itself.
Your lungs can become inflamed when they are infected, irritated, or damaged. Inflammation is the body's way of healing, so it's often a response to something harmful. Sometimes, though, your lungs could become inflamed due to a hereditary disease like cystic fibrosis or an overactive immune system, such as with an autoimmune condition like Sjögren's syndrome.
Understanding Free Radicals, Oxidation & Antioxidants
Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body because they react so easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation and can either be beneficial or harmful.
Essentially, oxidation is any chemical reaction that involves the moving of electrons. Specifically, it means the substance that gives away electrons is oxidized. Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in your body. However, oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. This can result in damaged cells and ultimately ill health.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Antioxidants can donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable. This causes the free radical to stabilize and become less reactive.
As oxidation is a process that is constantly occurring due to numerous chemical reactions in the body, antioxidants must also regularly work to keep free radicals in balance. When there is an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity it leads to oxidative stress.
When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body. Proteins, lipids, and DNA make up a large part of your body, so that damage can lead to a vast number of diseases over time; including:
- inflammatory conditions
- atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the blood vessels
- heart disease
- high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension
- neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Oxidative stress also contributes to aging.
Everyone produces some free radicals naturally in their body through processes like exercise or inflammation. This is normal and part of the body’s intricate system of keeping itself healthy. You may also be exposed to free radicals in the environment from sources such as:
- pesticides and cleaners
- cigarette smoke
- industrial chemicals
- A diet high in processed sugar, oxidized fats, and alcohol
It’s impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure and oxidative stress. However, there are things you can do to minimize the effects of oxidative stress on your body. The main thing to do is to increase your levels of antioxidants and decrease your formation of free radicals.
Toxic Build Up
Toxic build-up is another major source of lung diseases. Toxins may enter the body from a number of sources—including the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the personal care products we use, the utensils we cook and eat with, and so on. When toxins accumulate in the body, it creates what is known as a toxic load.
Toxic load refers to the accumulation of toxins and chemicals in our bodies that we ingest from a variety of sources. Each person has a different toxic load based on the amount of toxins accumulated in their body. The goal of detoxification is to eliminate toxins from the body and to reduce our toxic load, improving our health in the process.
When it comes to respiratory conditions, the toxic build-up is typically from airborne particles that build up in the respiratory tract. The goal of lung detoxification is to remove these particles from the respiratory tract.
The Benefits of Turmeric for Lung & Respiratory Health
Now that we have a deeper understanding of inflammation, oxidation, and toxic build-up, we can explore just how turmeric benefits the lungs.
Over the years, there has been increasing evidence that curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has a wide spectrum of therapeutic properties and a remarkable range of protective effects in various diseases. Several experimental animal models have tested curcumin on lung fibrosis and these studies demonstrate that curcumin attenuates lung injury and fibrosis caused by radiation, chemotherapeutic drugs, and toxicants. The growing amount of data also supports the notion that curcumin plays a protective role in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acute lung injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and allergic asthma. It’s primary therapeutic action being on the prevention or modulation of inflammation and oxidative stress, and the support of the body’s natural detoxification pathways.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory
Turmeric, along with its active compound curcumin, is a natural anti-inflammatory. In some medical studies, curcumin has been shown to reduce the activity of toxins that create inflammation. It also inhibits the activity of inflammatory enzymes, and curcumin may even prevent the activation of inflammation-causing proteins. Because of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is a great remedy for inflammatory lung conditions. Turmeric and curcumin may be taken regularly to manage lung conditions and as a preventative remedy for lung inflammation.
Turmeric is a potent antioxidant
Oxidants are molecules that cause damage to the body’s cells, and they’re also known as free radicals. They are held in check and removed by other molecules called antioxidants, and the curcumin found in turmeric is one such antioxidant. In fact, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that can help your body neutralize free radicals such as superoxide, hydroxyl and hydrogen peroxide, and neutralizing these free radicals may also help to reduce inflammation in the lungs.
Turmeric acts as an expectorant
An expectorant is something that helps loosen mucus so you can cough it up. It does this by increasing the water content of the mucus, thinning it out, and making your cough more productive. Respiratory toxins build up in the mucus that lines the respiratory tract. Expectorants help us to clear this mucus, and in doing so, help us also remove toxic build up in the lungs. One of the most common symptoms of COPD is the excess production of mucus, and this excess mucus tends to build up in the airways and make it harder to breathe. Turmeric has been shown to break down mucus, which makes it easier for your body to remove the mucus from its airways. The break down and removal of mucus may also help relieve coughing and improve your ability to breathe.
When we really think about it, turmeric is the perfect herb for lung health. Most lung conditions can be tied to inflammation, oxidation and toxic build-up, and turmeric happens to be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and expectorant herb. This single herb can address all three of the main causes of respiratory conditions. However, there is an issue with turmeric that is very important to understand if you wish to get the benefits that this plant has to offer.
The Issue with Turmeric & Curcumin
We touched on this earlier, but it is important to keep in mind so we will reiterate it here. Most of turmeric’s benefits are attributed to the active compound curcumin. The curcumin content of turmeric, however, isn’t very high (around 3%, by weight).
Most of the studies on turmeric use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day—dosages that would be very difficult to reach just by using turmeric as a spice in your foods.
If you wish to use turmeric for its medicinal benefits, then you need to get a turmeric extract. However, there is another issue worth mentioning. The curcumin compound has a very low absorption rate to the blood and therefore much of this amazing compound is lost in the digestive tract and eliminated without being utilized.
The Solution to Curcumin’s Low Absorbability
To get beyond this barrier of curcumin’s low absorption rate, and to receive the maximum benefit that curcumin has to offer, you need to take a turmeric and curcumin extract in a liposomal form, like in our Biodynamic Inflammation Tonic.
This micelle liposomal delivery system protects the active curcumin compound in the formula from the hostile environment in the digestive tract and optimizes it for absorption (Think 20 times the absorption rate of a regular turmeric supplement).
We are proud to say that our Zuma Nutrition Liposomal Curcumin Tonic is actually the first Liposomal Delivery Turmeric supplement on the market that is organic, Biodynamic, pesticide-free, and not filled with synthetic emulsifiers and solvents like other liposomal turmeric supplements. Our biochemists focus on effectiveness and purity and you can taste the quality in each drop.
Another Supplement for Lung Health
Our Lung Detox & Support tonic is another great remedy for lung health that is a powerful blend of organic herbs, therapeutically extracted to help cleanse, support and open up the airways. Through the combination and dosage of key lung supporting herbs, the Lung Detox & Support formula may support the cleansing of the lungs by supporting the elimination of toxic build up in the respiratory tract, and also helps to thin mucus, relax the airways and muscles of the respiratory tract and promotes free breathing. The combination of herbs in this formula may also help increase circulation in the lungs, making it easier to breathe, promoting lung and respiratory health, and clearing congestion. When taken together, our Liposomal Curcumin Tonic and Lung Detox & Support Tonic create a perfect pair for protecting and supporting lung and respiratory health.
The lungs are very important organs that are, unfortunately, under constant attack from microscopic airborne particles in our environment. If we take in too many of these particles, and do not take the right nutrients and compounds that can help us to cleanse and protect ourselves from toxins, then we may develop a respiratory disease over time.
Turmeric is a wonderful herb that can help protect and enhance our respiratory health. Known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric also has many benefits to the lungs. The primary actions of turmeric that support lung health are its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as its expectorant properties that help to break down mucus and expel it from the respiratory tract.
The health benefits of turmeric are attributed to the active compound curcumin, which gives turmeric its stunning yellow-orange color. The curcumin content of turmeric, however, is very low. To get the many benefits that curcumin has to offer, it is best to take a turmeric extract, rather than simply using turmeric as a culinary spice.
However, many turmeric extracts also have their issues. One of the biggest issues is that curcumin has a low absorption rate. To remedy this, we formulated our turmeric extract with a liposomal delivery system that allows the curcumin compound to be immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, providing the maximum benefit.
Turmeric is really an incredible herb for lung health as most lung conditions can be tied to inflammation, oxidation and toxic build-up. Turmeric happens to be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and expectorant herb, and so this single herb can address all three of the main causes of respiratory conditions. If you wish to use turmeric for its lung-supporting benefits, be sure to get the best quality turmeric extract you can find, as it can make all the difference in whether or not you receive the real benefits that this amazing plant has to offer.