If you have ever eaten South and Southeast Asian food, it is likely you will recognize the taste, color and smell of turmeric. Turmeric is a bright yellow spice derived from the root of the turmeric plant. It is related to the ginger family, so both roots have a characteristic tangy bitterness to them. Outside of Asian Cuisine, it is used as a natural colorant for foods like mustard, butter and cheese.
For centuries, turmeric has been used, not only for cooking, but also as a medicine for a wide range of ailments. These include everything from arthritis and heartburn to irritable bowel syndrome and high cholesterol. It was traditionally consumed, or applied directly to the skin for pain, swelling, bruising, and other skin conditions.
While the medicinal effect of turmeric on all of these ailments is not yet clinically proven, there are a series of scientific studies that demonstrate the beneficial effects of the yellow spice on many conditions.
What Is It About Turmeric?
The most studied element in turmeric is the chemical curcumin. Curcumin is a substance that helps to reduce inflammation by “calming down” immune system over-reaction. This is due, in part, to its antioxidant properties, much stronger than both vitamin C and E. These anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are believe to be the main factors that carry over to other benefits, described in following:
- Eases Symptoms of Arthritis
It seems that the traditional use of turmeric to alleviate bone pain is not far off. Numerous studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of turmeric and its star chemical, curcumin on reducing pain and inflammation associated with different types of arthritis. These include significant improvement in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and crystal-induced arthritis by inhibiting collagenase and stomelsysin, both assays of inflammatory arthritis.
- Boosts Mood and Brain Function
When we are lacking energy, feeling fuzzy, and feeling generally cranky, it may be due to pro-inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, that our body produces to fight infections.
A growing body of literature has found that curcumin can help reduce the symptoms of stress, boost mood, and alleviate anxiety by counteracting substances like cytokines in our body. While the ability for our body to absorb curcumin to take advantage of its benefits is limited, there is significant research being carried out on how to make turmeric and curcumin easier to absorb so that we can feel greater mood-boosting effects with lower doses.
- Reduces Depression
Recent studies have demonstrated that depression is, in fact, an inflammatory disease. It is associated with a chronic, though low-grade inflammatory response from cells. The risk for developing depression is associated with a range of psychosocial stressors like poor diet, lack of physical activity, vitamin D deficiency, and others. Initial evidence has demonstrated partial support for the antidepressant effects of curcumin in people with major depressive disorder after 4-8 weeks after treatment.
Of course, this is not a replacement for prescriptions, but you may be able to discuss the possibility of complementing treatment with your specialty physician.
Preliminary laboratory studies suggest that the curcumin in turmeric may also treat other illnesses, such as upset stomach, scabies, diabetes, HIV, uveitis, and viral infections. However, because these studies have been conducted in very controlled environments, it is too early to determine how and if turmeric is effective in treating these other illnesses.
How to Use Turmeric
Eating foods that are spiced with turmeric is likely not enough for you to see and feel its beneficial effects. Curcumin is about only 3% of the total weight of natural turmeric you can use for cooking. After discussing the possibility of supplementing with turmeric with your physician, you can choose supplements that deliver between 300-500mg of turmeric curcumin per dose. In fact, in small studies that administered up to 8000 mg of curcumin, there was no toxicity detected.
In supplement form, it comes in a capsule, but it can also be consumed pure in smoothies and other foods, if you don’t mind the taste of concentrated turmeric.
If you choose to take a turmeric supplement, there is no standard dosage. It is important to discuss supplementing your diet with turmeric with your doctor, as it may interact with certain medications and other supplements like ginko, ginseng, and garlic.
Potent Organics Turmeric Curcumin, With BioPerine® (Standardized To 95% Curcuminoids), shop now on Amazon for only $14.22.
Keep in mind that if you are pregnant or nursing, you should not be taking turmeric supplements, though amounts found in food are not considered to be problematic. You should also avoid taking high doses of turmeric if you have gallbladder or bleeding problems, diabetes, GERD, hormone-sensitive conditions, infertility in men, and iron deficiency.
Bonus! Interesting Facts About Turmeric
Below are some interesting facts about turmeric that will make you love this spice even more than you did before.
- Turmeric is known as golden spice of India.
- The turmeric plants were cultivated by the Harappan civilization beginning in about 3000 B.C.
- 90% of the world’s Turmeric is produced in India.
- Sangli in India is the largest and most important trading center for turmeric in Asia also in the world.
- Turmeric has wide range of use in canned beverages, ice-cream, yoghurts, yellow cakes, biscuits, sweets, cake icings, baked products, dairy products, cheese popcorn-coloring, cereals, sauces, gelatins, cosmetics, medicinal, ayurvedic medicines etc.
- During Indian weddings, turmeric paste is applied over the bride and groom’s face and arms.
- A turmeric-based paste is used to beautify and enrich skin complexion, in some cultures.
- Turmeric tea is a popular tea of choice in Okinawa, Japan.
Turmeric is a wonder spice, in many ways. It is used widely in the food and pharmaceutical industry, but it also does wonders when consumed pure. Scientific evidence has shown that its active chemical, curcumin, helps to reduce inflammation, and many inflammatory illnesses. Turmeric can also help to boost your mood and brain function and contribute to alleviate depression. And of course, we can’t forget that turmeric allows us to experience a world of joy in food.