Turmeric is an ancient spice, celebrated for centuries as both food and medicine. It’s a native to southern Asia. The plant is a rhizome commonly confused with a root. Both roots and rhizomes grow underground. But a rhizome is actually an underground, horizontally growing stem. Other commonly known rhizomes are ginger and asparagus.
If you’ve dined on Indian cuisine, or put yellow mustard on your ‘dog, chances are you’ve ingested turmeric. Turmeric is a key spice in many curries, and it’s also used in some Middle Eastern cooking. It’s often used as much for its color as its flavor.
For centuries, Chinese and East Indians have used turmeric as an antiseptic and a remedy for stomach and liver ailments. Now science is catching up with the ancient wisdom. Scientists have been studying the health benefits of curcumin, the beneficial polyphenol in turmeric. Evidence is accumulating that this brightly colored rhizome is a promising disease-preventive agent as well, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory action.
What are the known health benefits of turmeric?
1. Turmeric promotes anti-inflammatory response:
Curcumin has significant anti-inflammatory properties that are said to rival those found in ibuprofen. Unlike over-the-counter drugs, turmeric has no toxic effects on the body.
Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by joint inflammation. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis and is in some cases more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.
2. Heart health:
Curcumin has beneficial effects on several factors known to play a role in heart disease.
3. Brain health:
Turmeric supports healthy brain cells and promotes healthy mood balance.
Curcumin boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain.
Curcumin’s powerful antioxidant advantages have been shown to protect healthy cells, particularly those found in the colon, from cancer-causing agents. It aids the body in destroying mutated cancer cells before they have a chance to spread to other areas.
How can you get more turmeric in your diet?
It’s important to know that if you take turmeric by itself, it doesn’t get out of the gut. In order to be absorbed it needs to be combined with black pepper or an extract of black pepper. The pepper enhances the bioavailability or absorption by up to 2000%.
Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with a fatty meal.
Indian food is usually made with oils. Some other ways to ingest turmeric:
Sprinkle some on an avocado.
Dissolve it in a tablespoon of coconut oil before adding it to a smoothie.
Stir it into olive oil and then toss in fresh vegetables.
Make Golden Tea – get the health benefits of turmeric, soothe a scratchy cough and bistep the nasty side effects of over the counter medicines.
Simmer turmeric with milk and honey to make an earthy, comforting beverage.
8 ounces (1 cup) almond or coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2-inch wide round slice of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
Optional additions: a small pat of butter, cinnamon, cardamom
Instructions: Gently warm the almond or coconut milk on the stove. In a mug, combine the remaining ingredients. Drizzle a teaspoon of the warmed milk into the mug and mix until the liquid is smooth with no lumps. Add the rest of the milk and mix well. You can leave the pieces of ginger in the tea, or strain it out before drinking.
The anti-inflammatory benefits alone of turmeric make it the star spice of today. Living in a body with a healthy inflammatory response that eases aches and pains is something to celebrate!