What’s So Great About Turmeric?

Turmeric is more than that pungent yellow spice used to season bread and butter pickles, or to color mustard, and use for curries. It also has potent health benefits.

As far as health food trends go, turmeric has been popular for a few years. But, what is it about turmeric that makes it so trendy? Simply, it’s the curcumin in it and that you can get the benefits of turmeric from a small amount. Amounts less than a teaspoon taken regularly have shown to improve health.

Turmeric is in the same plant family as ginger, and like ginger, it’s a rhizome. Rhizome’s stems grow underground horizontally. It’s the rhizomes that are dug up and used.

Health Benefits

While turmeric is gaining a lot of attention in the West for its medicinal properties, it’s been used in India for this purpose for centuries. Archaeological discoveries near New Delhi found turmeric residue from circa 2500 BCE. The Indian traditional medical system of Ayurveda utilized turmeric for many health conditions. Turmeric poultices were used to heal wounds, blemishes, chicken pox, etc. Turmeric was also used to aid digestion, eliminate parasites, relieve pain, and for other ailments.

Most of the western research on curcumin has used animals.  Recently, studies into curcumin medicinal properties are being conducted on human participants.

Cancer and anti-cancer findings in numerous animal studies show promise that curcumin can help prevent and treat cancer. The cancer research regarding turmeric covered a broad range of types of cancer including lung, breast, stomach, colon, prostate, liver, and others.

Detoxification is a necessary function of the body to remove toxins and thereby prevent diseases. Turmeric has been shown to help the liver detoxify the body.

Colitis is another condition where curcumin in turmeric shows promise. It’s theorized that curcumin may pass through the stomach to the intestines intact where it acts as an inflammatory.

Cardiovascular research on curcumin shows that it may regulate blood fat levels after eating. Specific enzymes become inhibited with the ingestion of turmeric that results in lower blood triglycerides and reduction in cholesterol.

Analgesic properties of turmeric have shown to reduce pain. A report in the U. S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of health showed that turmeric improved postoperative pain.[i] Studies also show that turmeric may have better analgesic results than some prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are said to help arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Turmeric has a powerful number of anti-inflammatory compounds–more than two dozen. Six of the compounds are COX-2-inhibitors that block enzymes responsible for swelling, pain, and inflammation. In other words, the multifaceted compounds in turmeric are what make it an excellent anti-inflammatory.

How to Use Turmeric

Because of the emerging health benefits of curcumin, turmeric is showing up an ingredient in many foods including drinks, such as kombucha, and energizing drinks. It can be purchased as a tea and as a supplement. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends looking for supplement dosages of 400 to 600 mg. Also, buy your supplements from a well-respected company. Many curcumin and turmeric products do not contain the ingredients or amounts of curcumin listed.

Turmeric can also be purchased whole. Fresh turmeric is dark orange and milder than the powdered form. It can be grated and added to soups, egg dishes, curries, and other dishes.

The research on curcumin is relatively new, but current research shows that turmeric is more than a yellow spice sitting in the back of the cupboard waiting to be used in curry. As with many of nature’s bounty, turmeric demonstrates food can be medicine.

As with all supplements, check with your doctor first before adding them to your diet.

References

Agarwal, KA, et al. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21671126/.

Avery, Tori. What is the History of Turmeric? (March 9, 2015). Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/.

Curcumin. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin.

Weil, Andrew, M.D.  Top 3 Reasons to Use turmeric. Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/3-reasons-to-eat-turmeric/.

What’s New and Beneficial About Turmeric. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78.

[i] Agarwal, KA, et al. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study

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