Turmeric has become a staple ingredient in every home cook’s kitchen, known for its healing properties and its vibrant orange/yellow hue. This humble root is mildly aromatic with scents reminiscent of orange and ginger, and rich in a multitude of health benefits.
Turmeric is probably most well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in the body can show itself in various ways – as something physically uncomfortable, or even painful; be it rashes on the skin or irritation on the linings of vital organs, and sometimes it can be present in more silent ways and not be noticeably painful. Nevertheless the inflammation is still there and has an impact on our health. Inflammatory mediators are compounds that are produced by your body to try to deal with the injury. These compounds include serotonin, histamine, prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and oxygen- and nitrogen-derived free radicals — but when these compounds don’t go away, it can potentially lead to chronic inflammation or illness.
The pigment in turmeric comes from curcumin. Curcumin is commonly sold as a herbal supplement, cosmetics ingredient, food flavoring, and food coloring. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties comparable to prescribed pain medications. Whereas most medical anti-inflammatories will work to reduce a couple of inflammatory mediators at a time, for example, focusing on pain management, curcumin, on the other hand, is effective against a dozen of these compounds simultaneously making it a much for effective pain medication than pharmaceutical medication. It can be used to treat a variety of external inflammatory conditions from arthritis, sprained ankles, and bursitis as well as internal inflammatory conditions like neurological disorders.
To elaborate on the previous paragraph; the application and consumption of turmeric can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health. Conditions that contributed to aging like dementia and other conditions of the brain can also be considered inflammation. changes in or the loss of balance in these inflammatory mediators can cause damage to the brain cells or inhibit their function, which can then contribute to cognitive decline, memory loss, and other unwarranted conditions.
Dementia is classified as an inflammatory condition. Dementia is a hypernym referring to any deterioration of cognitive function, and Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form of age-related decline. Alzheimer’s is characterized by abnormal protein deposits in the brain, and these seem to increase in number, peak, and plateau sometimes decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s show themselves. These protein deposits then cause inflammation by free radicals which in turn damage brain tissue.
This is where turmeric can be the star of the show. As previously mentioned, turmeric contains curcumin, and curcumin has at least 10 known neuroprotective actions, so it helps our brain in at least 10 different ways:
Having anti-inflammatory power
An excellent antioxidant which helps fight the oxidative damage and free radicals that our brain is subject to in conditions like Alzheimer’s
It helps with heavy metal detoxification, and heavy metals are big offenders that can damage brain mechanisms
It helps with the regeneration of brain cells in a similar way that exercise does
It also helps to slow the accumulation of those abnormal protein deposits in the brain which can lead to conditions like Alzheimer’s
DISEASE & CHOLESTEROL
Again, the curcumin in turmeric is the thing that does
the work here. Curcumin works in a number of different ways to help with heart
disease, as well. It helps with LDL cholesterol in two ways: one, it works as
an antioxidant to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, keeping it
beneficial instead of harmful; two, it increases LDL receptors to give LDL
cholesterol more places to go and do its job, preventing it from spending too
long in our bloodstream and oxidizing. Both of these are excellent steps to take
in the direction of healthy cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health!
Curcumin is also helpful for endothelial function. We
have this lining of all our blood vessels called the endothelial and its job is
to keep blood vessels healthy. When that’s not working, it’s a failure of, or
disease of, or lack of action in this endothelial spot. Curcumin helps the
endothelial work better, helping the vessels use their own safety mechanisms to
keep themselves healthy.
The liver performs 500 different functions in the
body—and can therefore easily become overwhelmed. I mean, can you imagine
having to juggle 500 responsibilities every second of every day? No wonder it
starts to lag behind sometimes!
Fatty liver disease can occur through excessive
alcohol consumption or, more commonly nowadays, through sugar consumption. It
is becoming very common, and increasingly common in younger people. The good
news is that by fixing up the diet to avoid refined sugars and things that
break down easily into sugar, you can take a big step towards avoiding fatty
liver. Curcumin also helps, though! It’s been shown to lower liver enzymes
which are the markers that are used to measure liver function.
So far, the turmeric you added to your curry could
help with heart disease, cholesterol, liver health, inflammation, and cognitive
function… isn’t the healing power of food amazing?
Most people who think of inflammation think of
arthritis—and turmeric, through its curcumin content, definitely helps the pain
associated with this condition. In fact, it helps with Rheumatoid Arthritis as
well! Its powerful antioxidant effects neutralize free radicals. Free radicals
damage healthy cells and cell membranes, and they are quite prevalent in
conditions like arthritis because they are responsible for causing the joint
pain and damage. By neutralizing these free radicals, curcumin helps stop their
spread throughout the body, protecting the cells and joints from their damaging
effects. In fact, a recent study showed that the effects of curcumin on
rheumatoid arthritis were comparable to those of a medical anti-inflammatory
when dealing with morning stiffness and joint swelling.
Turmeric is a rich source of many vitamins and
minerals, including Manganese. In fact, just 2 teaspoons provide 17% of your
daily recommended intake of this vital mineral. What does manganese do for you?
For one, it helps maintain proper thyroid function. It has been estimated that
200 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease. In Canada,
30% of the population suffer from a thyroid condition. Of those, as many as 50%
The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in our overall
health. If it is not operating at peak performance, it can produce
life-altering symptoms that impact your health and happiness. What are some
signs that your thyroid might be a bit sluggish? Dry or gritty eyes, thinning
hair, weight gain, numbness or tingling in any area of the body, constipation,
tinnitus, heart palpitations, dry skin, fatigue, feeling cold.
You can see why it’s important to have your thyroid in
proper working condition, and turmeric provides the manganese you need that
could help do that. Plus, it helps with hormone synthesis which benefits a wide
variety of health issues like weight loss, appetite, metabolism, and organ
efficiency. It also helps with vitamin absorption for vitamins like B & E,
and also magnesium, meaning manganese helps you get more out of the healthy
foods you’re eating!
Finally, turmeric is a good source of other vitamins
and minerals, such as iron, fiber, vitamin B6, copper, and potassium. In just 2
teaspoons, it has 10% of your recommended iron intake. We know that iron is
mainly an aid in our energy, since it helps metabolize proteins and plays a
role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. But it’s important to
not just get iron from red meat, as this can actually cause a burden on the
body. Turmeric is a great meat-free source of iron! And what about vitamin B6?
2 teaspoons contain 5% of your daily B6 intake, which helps to stimulate
co-enzyme activities, protect the immune system, and produce positive effects
on things like metabolism, PMS, hormones, skin conditions, and the like.
BENEFITS AGAINST DEPRESSION
has shown some promise in treating depression.
controlled trial, 60 people with depression were randomized into three groups.
took Prozac, another group one gram of curcumin and the third group both Prozac
and curcumin. After 6 weeks, curcumin had led to improvements that were similar
to Prozac. The group that took both Prozac and curcumin fared best. According
to this small study, curcumin is as effective as an antidepressant.
is also linked to reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area with a role in learning and memory.
boosts BDNF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes.
There is also some evidence that curcumin can boost the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Spiritual and Cultural Significance
Turmeric, the auspicious spice implies a symbol of purity, fertility, and prosperity among the Hindus. It is used in Indian rites and rituals. Turmeric powder along with sandal powder is used in preparing ‘Kalabha,’ to be poured on the presiding deities in temples.
The dried turmeric roots in betel leaves are given to
the women during the ceremonies as they are considered as fertile and bring
good luck. Married Hindu women apply ‘Kumkum’ on their forehead longitudinally
along the hair partition path to indicate the marital status or smear turmeric
paste on either side of the cheek.
Turmeric paste is applied to the skin of the bride and groom before
marriage in some parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where it is believed
to make the skin glow and keep harmful bacteria away from the body. Turmeric is
currently used in the formulation of several sunscreens. Several multinational
companies are involved in making face creams based on turmeric.
This ginger family member is used as a spice, color/dye, and in the traditional medicines of its native India. It’s beautiful and sacred yellow and orange coloring and healing powers, it also has cultural and religious significance in Hinduism, Buddhism, and throughout southeast Asian society.
Uses and Precautions
As a drink, turmeric can be steeped in boiling water to make tea, into coconut milk to make the now-famous Indian health remedy: Haldi Doodh, otherwise known as Golden Milk. It is also used throughout the Asian continent in a variety of dishes; ranging from Indian curries to Indonesian stews. Turmeric should always be used in combination with freshly ground black pepper to ensure that your blood absorbs the important nutrients.
As aforementioned, turmeric is also used as a beauty product in facial treatments and as added to topical creams to reduce inflammation.
It should be noted that turmeric can decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Also, turmeric slows blood clotting which can cause excessive blood loss during and after surgery. Curcumin can cause an upset stomach, especially in those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). All of the above is only the case when taking medicinal doses of turmeric.