On One Hand

February 1, 2005

Curcumin

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:38 am
Tags: ,

After decades of research, they’ve found a chemical compound that significantly reduces the effects of Alzheimers disease. Previous compounds could help compensate for damage that Alzheimers causes, but no existing drug has been able to directly combat Alzheimers the way that this new compound can, and none have been able to do so without some negative side effects. This new compound treats the disease by breaking up the plaques that suffocate neurons and cause Alzheimers to occur. The new compound is more effective and more direct in Alzheimers prevention than any other compound discovered so far, and some scientists speculate that it can actually stop Alzheimers in its tracks or reverse it in someone who has already gotten it.

It is somewhat misleading to refer to the compound as “new.” The compound is the the most prominent natural molecule in curry, an ancient spice, and the compound has been ingested by humans since before recorded history. Curcumin is the yellow compund that gives curry its color and its pungent flavor. It isn’t produced in a laboratory or factory, and it wasn’t developed by any enterprising corporation or government research program. It comes from a plant, produced entirely by nature, and can be effective when eaten in its unprocessed form. Science realized the power of this compound when someone noticed that Alzheimers and many other age-degenerative diseases are much less common in India than they are in the West. The connection has been strongly supported in extensive studies and in labratory tests, and hopefully soon there will be ways to give Alzheimers patients high enough doses of the compound to completely cure or prevent the disease.

I am always fascinated when we discover in nature, as if by providence, miracle medicines that leap years upon years ahead of millions of dollars and decades of human ingenuity and cooperation. In one sense it’s depressing that nature has this power, because it shows us how our efforts are much less meaningful than we may hope, paled in an instant by something that was present around us all along. But in another sense I think it’s uplifting, that there are potential cures for awful diseases and all we have to do is cut open the stem of the nearest plant. If we find this miracle compound in a generic spice, who knows what we may find in rare plants that have yet to be explored? The discovery speaks to the need to protect our natural resources, particularly tropical areas where over ninety percent of the Earth’s plant species live, many on the edge of extinction. Maybe such protection is the moral of the story. In any case, the discovery, which is in no way a one-case scenario, asks us all to reflect on what we consider a priority in our economy and what we think of as progress in society and culture.

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3 Comments »

  1. very interesting… I’ll have to let my granny know, maybe there’s hope for her yet.

    Comment by twistedshroom — February 1, 2005 @ 9:25 am | Reply

  2. that’s so amazing. thanks for sharing that matt. i love hearing about stuff like this. i recently read an article about asprin [comes from willow tree bark] and all of the amazing stuff that asprin can do for our health.

    Comment by missargyle — February 1, 2005 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  3. Wow this made me happy, for some odd reason. Firstly, I love curry so so so much! Secondly, it proves that the tree huggers aren’t crazy for wanting to save the planet!

    ~James~

    Comment by xnewxbeginningx — February 2, 2005 @ 4:36 am | Reply


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