This Incredible Spice Is A Potent Medicine
Turmeric has found itself in the spotlight in recent years for its legion of health benefits; certainly, this not without reason. While many spices possess potent health-promoting properties, turmeric is particularly useful and powerful when it comes to supporting health and fending off disease. Science continues to affirm that this age-old spice can be very beneficial for good health, something our ancestors knew thousands of years ago.
The History of Turmeric
Turmeric, like other spices, has been around for millennia and has been used since antiquity as a medicinal remedy. As long ago as 4,500 years, turmeric has been a part of Indian culture and cuisine and was woven into Ayurvedic medicine tradition, which is a type of holistic medicine developed by ancient peoples in that region of southern Asia. It was believed that turmeric had the ability to increase energy, improve digestion, relieve gas, rid the body of parasites, relieve pain due to arthritis and help eliminate gallstones. Turmeric was also used in religious practices. Importantly, turmeric was also used to produce vivid, yellow dyes for clothing.
Turmeric spread eastward from South Asia to China and west to western Africa throughout the middle ages. Turmeric became an important part of cuisine in middle eastern and African cultures as it spread through those regions; simultaneously, it was also used medicinally.
By the 18th century, turmeric would be brought as far west as Jamaica. Today, turmeric is cultivated worldwide in tropical regions and is widely available year round.
Turmeric and Culinary Traditions
Turmeric has a strong flavor and yellow hue. It is largely what lends India curry its flavor and appearance. It is used both in savory and sweet dishes in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is thought that in rural areas of India, people consume between 200-1000mg per day of turmeric in some form.
Turmeric’s use in cuisine today is widespread. However, today turmeric is used as much for its color as it is for its flavor. Color extracted from turmeric is used in a wide variety of processed foods––everything from cake icing to cereal to dairy products.
Production of Turmeric
The scientific name for turmeric is Curcuma longa. The part of turmeric used as a spice is actually a rhizome, which is a root that is similar in appearance to ginger. Turmeric is cultivated worldwide in tropical regions and requires significant rainfall. Despite its worldwide cultivation, as much as 80% of the world’s supply of turmeric is cultivated in India. Indian turmeric contains high amounts of the active component, curcumin––the component thought to confer so much of turmeric’s health benefits. For this reason, India turmeric is considered the superior strain of turmeric.
What is in Turmeric?
Turmeric has over 100 compounds that have been isolated, but among those, curcumin is the active component that is thought to lend turmeric its legion of health benefits. There are a few different curcuminoids found in turmeric, including curcumin demethoxycurcumin, 5’ -methoxycurcumin, and dihydrocurcumin. These components are all anti-oxidants. Curcuminoids make up between 5-6.6% of the turmeric root in its natural state.
Curcuminoids are not the only beneficial components inherent in turmeric, however. It is also a good source of potassium, manganese, and iron. Turmeric is also high in beneficial fatty acids, which are also thought to be partly responsible for its benefits.
What Are The Health Benefits of Turmeric?
Turmeric has been used as a medicinal herb since antiquity, but in recent years, science has begun to affirm many of these claims. Simply put, turmeric has been proven to promote health and help prevent disease.
Turmeric Is Anti-Inflammatory
One quality of turmeric that makes it particularly beneficial is that it is highly anti-inflammatory. Chronic, low-level inflammation, of course, is thought to be a key factor in a wide range of diseases. This means that turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory properties quite possibly make it beneficial against many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune and many others.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, however, also make it highly beneficial against pain, as well. Turmeric has been studied for its use against pain, such as pain from arthritis. Often, it has been shown to be as effective as certain prescription anti-inflammatory medicines and works in similar ways to these without the list of side effects.
Turmeric Has Anti-Cancer Benefits
Turmeric’s anti-cancer benefits extend to both cancer prevention and as a possible treatment for cancer. Supplemental turmeric has been shown to prevent cancer from forming in the first place, making it a powerful disease-prevention tool. This is likely due to its antioxidant properties. Turmeric might be especially protective against cancers in the gastrointestinal tract, such as colon cancer––one of the most prevalent cancers in America.
Turmeric has also been shown in the lab to kill cancer cells, but its use towards this end is still being studies in the body. It is, however, known to halt angiogenesis, which is the formation of blood vessels that would feed cancer tumors.
Turmeric Has Benefits for The Heart
Turmeric is known to be beneficial for multiple factors complicit in heart disease. Turmeric is thought to support endothelial cell function; endothelial cells are the cells lining blood vessels and are responsible for regulating blood pressure, clotting factors, and other functions. Turmeric is also thought to possibly help promote healthy cholesterol levels, but this requires more study.
Likely, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are among the most beneficial properties as it relates to heart health. These might help prevent cholesterol from oxidizing into plaques that clog arteries and lead to heart disease. Turmeric’s antioxidant properties are likely also beneficial in this regard.
Turmeric Protects Against Brain Diseases
Alzheimer’s is one of the most common forms of brain diseases that lead to dementia, but people in India have one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease. For some time, the high consumption of turmeric has been thought to play a role. Turmeric can penetrate the blood/brain barrier, and it is thought that its anti-inflammatory properties might work to prevent the development of the plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
There are few effective treatments available for Alzheimer’s and no cure, and much research is still needed in regards to turmeric being used as a treatment, but it’s role as a preventative agent might be particularly useful.
Curcumin From Turmeric Might Have Benefits For Depression
Curcumin has been studied for its use as an anti-depressant and has shown promise therein. In one controlled trial, curcumin was studied against a well-known anti-depressant drug. It was concluded that curcumin performed as well as the leading medication. However, it is important to note that those who took both the medication and curcumin experienced the best results.
Turmeric Is Anti-Fungal
Turmeric possesses anti-fungal properties similar to garlic, ginger, and other spices. This makes turmeric beneficial for the Kaufmann Diet in particular. In some studies, curcumin was as effective as some anti-fungal drugs.
How Can I Incorporate Turmeric Into My Kaufmann Diet?
Ultimately, the health benefits of turmeric are profound enough that everyone should likely consider using turmeric on a regular basis. Fortunately, turmeric affordable, widely available and is easy to add into your Kaufmann Diet. Certainly, given its potent anti-fungal properties, it is highly encouraged for those following the Kaufmann Diet.
Usually, you can buy turmeric in the spice aisle, and this is an easy way to add it into your regimen. Look for organic varieties when possible. Turmeric is often available in its rhizome, or root form, too. Usually, you can find it next to the raw ginger root in your produce section.
Much of turmeric’s disease-fighting ability is attributed to the active component known as curcumin. While turmeric is a good source of curcumin, concentrated curcumin supplements might be one of the best ways to get therapeutic doses of curcumin. Curcumin, too, can also be difficult for the body to absorb, which is why extracts like piperine (a black pepper extract) are added; these can enhance absorption, allowing your body to glean the full benefit of curcumin. These supplements are available at most health food stores.
Supplemental curcumin might be beneficial for those wanting to glean the maximum potency of turmeric’s anti-fungal properties. These supplements can usually be incorporated safely into your regimen.** Remember that it is important to rotate your anti-fungals for maximum efficacy against yeasts and fungi.
**For people on certain medications or with certain conditions, adding turmeric or curcumin into your regimen is something you should likely consult your doctor about first. Anytime you begin a new exercise regimen, supplement regimen, or diet, it is always recommended to ask your licensed healthcare provider first.
(1) Prasad, Sahdeo. “Turmeric, the Golden Spice.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970,www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/.