Who doesn’t love the flavors and aromas that turmeric imbues our lives with? But we can also thank this delicious spice for some powerful therapeutic properties. Find out what this yellow jewel can do for you.
If you’ve eaten curry, you’ve likely consumed turmeric. Not only does this spice lend its flavor and yellow color to delicious curry dishes; it’s also played an important role in ancient medical practices like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
Curcumin, found in supplement form at your natural health store, is the active ingredient of the turmeric plant. Over the last few decades, the extract curcumin has been the subject of wide-ranging scientific research for its medicinal properties.
The color of health may be yellow
Prized for its yellow hue and medicinal properties for, reportedly, 4,000 years, turmeric’s unique qualities are found in its curcuminoid components. Extracted from the turmeric (Curcumin longa L.) plant, curcumin research has uncovered plenty of reason to turn (to) yellow.
Burns and scalds
While you’re in the kitchen cooking up a batch of your favorite curry, you may have occasion to remember that the curcumin in that turmeric you’ve just added to the pan is also useful in a gel to help heal minor burns and scalds.
The effectiveness of curcumin gel on the skin is, according to the author of a recent study, related to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Research subjects who were treated with a topical curcumin gel after suffering minor burns had less pain and inflammation and improved healing with less than expected scarring—even no scarring in some cases.
People who suffer from joint pain and swelling from arthritis, either from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, may be able to find some relief with curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation. And it may help them get around much more easily.
Clinical studies have shown a positive effect of curcumin on reducing pain and improving physical function and quality of life for osteoarthritis patients through its anti-inflammatory and cartilage-protective qualities. Preliminary evidence suggests that curcumin may also have the same effect for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
In countries where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100 mg to 200 mg a day over long periods of time, there are low rates of certain types of cancer. Curcumin seems to have a powerful effect on cancer cells. In some cases curcumin has shown the ability to step in and reduce the ability of cancer cells to transform, grow, and spread to other parts of the body.
The promising results in laboratory studies have inspired researchers all over the world to continue the search for the exact mechanism by which curcumin could help prevent and even offer therapeutic benefits for certain types of cancer. Researchers, in a recent review of years of curcumin studies, suggest that future studies should take a more holistic approach to account for turmeric’s chemically diverse constituents that may synergistically contribute to its potential benefits.
There is currently no known cure for ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. One of the goals of treatment is to prevent relapses of its symptoms and promote remission. This is something that curcumin seems to be able to help with.
A Cochrane Database systematic review of studies into curcumin’s effectiveness for maintenance of remission in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) in 2014 concluded that curcumin may be a safe and effective adjunctive therapy for maintenance of remission in “quiescent” UC.
Just as you want a clean, well-maintained oil filter on your car, you want to count on your liver to break down and eliminate harmful substances from the body. When fatty toxins hit a “poorly maintained” liver, they’re not eliminated properly and cause harm. The good news is that curcumin could be your liver’s new best friend.
Animal research in 2011 that showed BCM-95 curcumin reduced liver inflammation and neutralized the risk for fatty liver disease that can come from obesity. Curcumin has also been shown to strengthen the intestinal wall to prevent bacteria from passing out of the intestines and reaching the liver.
Elderly villagers in India, where turmeric is a dietary staple, have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the world; and researchers have been keen to determine if curcumin may play a role in this. They were intrigued because of curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Though plenty of studies have focused on exploring this possibility, so far there’s no concrete evidence that curcumin is effective in combatting or preventing Alzheimer’s disease. The research continues, though, since laboratory studies have shown some intriguing and promising possibilities.
Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the smooth muscle cells of the uterus. A leading cause of hysterectomies, fibroids often lead to pain and unwanted bleeding. However, many health care practitioners agree that sometimes a hysterectomy can be avoided by exploring diet and lifestyle changes. The symptom of pain associated with fibroids is often due to widespread inflammation in the uterus. Curcumin can be particularly helpful in combatting pain due to fibroids.
In 2011, Japanese researchers found that when taken daily, 2,000 mg of curcumin can provide potent anti-inflammatory benefits.
How to consume curcumin
Turmeric is most commonly found as a dried spice, but it’s also available at natural health stores as capsules or tablets, and also in ointments, energy drinks, soaps, and cosmetics, where it’s often labelled under the name curcumin.
The amount of turmeric in a recipe will be much less than in a pill, but whichever form you use, always buy a high quality, preferably organic, version, since some powders have been shown to contain fillers such as cassava, barley, or wheat, even when the only listed ingredient is turmeric.
The trick to getting the most out of turmeric is to combine it with a fat (such as oil) and piperine, a compound found in black pepper, which can enhance curcumin absorption by up to 2,000 percent.
Do you have a taste for turmeric?
Make Golden Milk. No time to stand in line for your soy vanilla latte? Go one better for your health with a warm cup of this ancient Ayurvedic beverage.
Snack on Turmeric Roasted Chickpeas. This crunchy snack is rich in protein to keep you feeling fuller, longer. It combines turmeric with black pepper and coconut oil to optimize curcumin absorption.