Turmeric is a stunningly beautiful spice. It’s intense goldish orange colour evokes a certain richness. And it is rich. It is rich with nutrients and it is rich in health benefits almost too many to name. Let’s see what it’s all about and how we can add it to our lives.
According to Wikipedia, turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. That’s right, one (relatively) small plant name with a whole string of botanical aliases!
So, what does the botanical description of turmeric mean? Well, according to the above, it is rhizomatous, which means that the plant has stocks that grow underground as well as above ground. The term herbaceous simply means that the plant is an herb and that it does not have “woody” or hard stems above ground.
As for the ginger family name, well, let’s just say if you marry into that family, your credit cards will look ridiculous … particularly if you hyphenate! It also explains, though, why turmeric looks very much like ginger except with a brighter colour on the inside.
The brilliant, rich colour is due to a compound contained in turmeric called curcumin. There’s curcumin in ginger too, just not as much, so the colour is less evident. In fact, turmeric is used as a dye, a food colouring and in cosmetics because the colour is so vibrant.
The turmeric plant originates in India. It requires a tropical environment in order to thrive, and is now grown in many other tropical Asian countries. For many years, turmeric has been used in Indian medicine as well as traditional Chinese medicine. I find it interesting that many of the therapies and remedies the western world is now embracing originated in Asia.
Here’s a list of some of the remedies that can be enjoyed from curcumin/turmeric.
Our bodies need oxygen to survive, but when we use it, our body also creates molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, and they can cause disease. Turmeric can help reverse or even stop the creation of free radicals.
Our body creates inflammation when we are sick or injured. Inflammation helps our body to kill bacteria and helps our body repair itself. Sometimes though, inflammation can become chronic and turn on us … creating disease. Turmeric can block the molecule that allows inflammation to continue in our bodies.
Memory and Mood
A study (and I think this is really cool!) in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows that curcumin is beneficial in improving memory, attention and mood.
Turmeric is known to prevent plaque from building up in the arteries as well as for lowering cholesterol. A study done in India and published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that supplementation with curcumin significantly lowered LDL cholesterol (after only seven days!).
Honestly, I’m not trying to bury you in studies, but I find it exciting when a natural product can so beneficially alter our health. And, it doesn’t stop there.
Inflammation of Arthritis
For the same reasons as outlined under anti-inflammatory benefits above, but I mention this on it’s own because arthritis is so debilitating for so many people. It can even be beneficial for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis (you know, the nasty one), by reducing stiffness and reversing joint damage.
Skin Conditions and Wounds
Turmeric has antiseptic properties and can help treat small wounds and cuts, skin rashes, psoriasis, acne and dry skin, only to name a few.
Turmeric can help reduce inflammation in the gut as well as improve digestion. Like ginger, it can also reduce nausea and prevent vomiting, and it can lessen the chance of developing heartburn and indigestion. Another benefit is that turmeric helps build healthy bacteria in the intestine. It is claimed that if you mix some turmeric in yoghurt it can provide a great probiotic benefit.
This is a pretty impressive list, from the curcumin content alone, but turmeric also contains these nutrients:
- Vitamin C
But how can you incorporate turmeric into your diet? Of course, it is sold in capsules, but it can be used in many more creative ways too including, soups, teas, soaps, and even as a tooth whitener. Here’s a great article by Katie of Wellness Mama Turmeric: 12 Practical Uses (& Benefits of Curcumin) which offers some really great ways to incorporate turmeric into our daily lives.
I like this recipe too, Turmeric Latte from Dr. Axe, made with turmeric powder.
Another thing to note is that turmeric is more effective when combined with black pepper. It is believed that turmeric on its own is metabolized by the body quickly and before any benefits are received, and studies have shown that consuming black pepper with turmeric increases the concentration in the bloodstream by 2000%.
Of course, like all good things, we have to approach with a bit of caution, and it is important to note that turmeric can interact with some medications including:
- blood thinners;
- some ulcer medications;
- antidepressants; and
- diabetes medications.
and, this is not a full list, so it’s a good idea to do some research if you take a particular medicine or have a particular condition.
Also, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use turmeric in high doses and should check with their doctor before using it.
Turmeric could very well be a powerhouse in our fight against disease. It is a time honoured remedy that has been used in Indian medicine for many years for relief from various different ailments, and I think it is worth researching further to see how it can help us, and how we can add it to our daily lives.