Turmeric is a plant native to India and part of the ginger family. Most of the population knows it as the orange/yellow spice in curry. In addition to curry, it is frequently used in mustards, butters, and cheeses. It has a slightly bitter taste but complements many dishes. The root of the plant is used for its medicinal qualities.
In Chinese and Indian systems of medicine, turmeric has been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory. In addition to the oil, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory, it is believed that curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its color, is the primary pharmacological agent. In studies, curcumin has shown to be comparable to hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter drugs like Motrin and Ibuprofen (World Health Foods). However, curcumin has NO toxicity to it. All the medicines do.
Curcumin has also been shown to reduce the signs of colitis in mice. This is important for those suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) (ie – Chron’s, ulcerative colitis, etc). The mice that received curcumin lost more weight than the control animals and when checked for signs of colitis, they were significantly reduced. But what is also very cool about this study? The improvement was done at a low dose, the amount you would easily put in foods. Although curcumin has shown to be safe a very large doses, it is being shown that you don’t have to have that much to enjoy the benefits. (World Health Foods)
I have severe IBS-C and am always looking for alternative means to help with this condition. Turmeric is something I add into my diet, through capsules, every day. It is a pill filled with turmeric and black pepper. The black pepper helps the body to absorb the curcumin in the turmeric. Taking just one capsule a day helps to reduce the amount of inflammation I have. It’s enough that I can actually feel the difference.
There has been research showing that taking turmeric extracts can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis and in one study worked just as well as ibuprofen. (World Health Foods)
This is a word that is thrown out a lot, we all know it’s good, but not many of us know what it means. Antioxidant means that the substance inhibits oxidation in the body. Not helpful right? Here is a VERY simplified explanation. Your body has things called “free radicals.” These free radicals are needed to fight off viruses and such. However, free radicals do this by damaging things. When they damage your cells, DNA, etc., it can cause cancer, aging, and a variety of other diseases. So, your body uses antioxidants to keep the free radicals in line. There are many different things that cause you to have free radicals, and having too many can be dangerous. Also, not having enough antioxidants in your body to counter the free radicals can also be dangerous. So, the moral of the lesson? Make sure you get antioxidants! Turmeric is a way you can do that!
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are why curcumin has shown to be effective for arthritis, cancer prevention, inhibiting cancer cell growth, reducing childhood leukemia risk, improving liver function, protecting cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol, and protecting against Alzheimer’s.
A recent study indicates that Turmeric may help your body turn Omega-3s into useful DHA and EPA (these help brain function). The body is inefficient at turning plant based Omega-3s into EPA and DHA. Yet these are what the body needs. This is a problem for people who have a hard time getting Omega-3s into their diet. I am one of those people. I need to be able to convert plant based Omeag-3s into DHA and EPA because I have a hard time digesting fish based Omega-3s.
The study showed, in animals, that when turmeric was added to their diet, the body created 50% more DHA (Steven Devries). That’s fantastic! Just adding turmeric in the diet can improve your body’s ability to improve brain function.
WHAT CONDITIONS DOES IT HELP?
Although the western scientific evidence is still working on researching turmeric, the spice has been used in multiple cultures around the world for medical purposes. Turmeric has been used to treat, prevent, or aid in symptoms in regards to arthritis, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, gallbladder disorders, flatulence, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothaches, bruises, colic, cancer, bacterial infections, and viral infections.
Many of these conditions just need a small dose (enough to flavor your food) of turmeric in order to start getting positive results. However, other conditions may need more. It is always important to consult with your physician or your alternative medicine practitioner before taking turmeric in large doses.
WHERE DO I GET IT?
You can buy turmeric, as a spice for your food, in most grocery stores. However, if you have local spice stores or ethnic markets, go there to get your spice. The quality is generally better which means the health benefits will be better too.
Make sure to buy turmeric. Don’t by curry powder. Curry is a mixture of different spices. You want only turmeric. Make sure you store it in a sealed container, away from light and in a dry place (cabinets work great!). If you buy the actual rhizome, keep it in the refrigerator.
Don’t like the taste of turmeric in your food? That’s OK! You can purchase turmeric pills on the Internet. Basically, it’s just a capsule full of turmeric. I personally buy Swanson’s brand of Turmeric and Black Pepper. The pepper makes smaller doses of turmeric more effective.
IS IT SAFE?
Turmeric is always safe when taken in amounts found commonly in food. It is usually always safe in medicinal amounts as well, however it is not safe for women during pregnancy when it is at such high doses (Steven D. Ehrlich). As is always the case, if you have any medical conditions, you will want to seek the advice of medical personnel or your alternative health practitioner before utilizing in medicinal amounts.
You should always let your doctor know you are taking turmeric. Especially if having surgery. It is possible that it thins your blood slightly.
EATING AND COOKING
Many of us in the Western Hemisphere do not know how to cook with turmeric. That’s OK! It’s easier than you think. Here are some easy ways to incorporate it into your diet.
- Add it to your scrambled eggs or egg salad.
- Add to sautéed apples.
- Add to frittatas.
- Add to steamed vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, and onions.
- Make tea with turmeric, milk, and honey.
- Add to a mayonnaise dip.
- Toss it with roasted vegetables.
- Add it to rice.
- Add to recipes that have lentils.
- Sprinkle into sautéed vegetables. This works very well with Kale.
- Add to salad dressings.
- Use on chicken.
- Use on fish.
- Add to casseroles.
- Add to macaroni salad.
- Add to potato salad.
- You can also use it like salt or pepper and just sprinkle it on dishes.
I hope this is helpful to you. Turmeric is a great spice and it gives great health benefits. In addition, it is so easy to add to your diet. Take a small step in improving your health, and add Turmeric to your food.
The World’s Healthiest Foods. Turmeric. The George Mateljan Foundation.
Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Turmeric. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2014.
Steven Devries. Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory, Omega-3s, and More. Gaples Institute. http://www.gaplesinstitute.org/turmeric-anti-inflammatory-omega-3-booster-and-more/