This article is evidence-based, verified by Dr. Kiran Iqbal, MD, B.Sc
For thousands of years, turmeric has been a common culinary spice. It originated from India as an indigenous plant. Various Asian communities continue to use it as herbal medicine. Besides that, turmeric is often used in certain religious rituals, especially in India. Its yellow color has earned it a colloquial nickname in Asia, the golden spice.
How To Take Turmeric
In the modern world, turmeric has earned itself a place in many kitchens. It is one of the most versatile spices; you can find it in an experimental latte at your local coffee festival or in a curry that may or may not be too spicy for your palate. Most people use it as a marinade to add a beautiful yellow hue to the food. It is a natural and much healthier option as compared to artificial food coloring additives. So, if you are looking to add a yellow tinge to your favorite sausage roll, vegetable rice, curry, puree or even samosa, turmeric is the way to go.
Turmeric is not one of those spices that have to be cooked before eating. Some people even chew the raw rhizome to resolve acidity issues. However, this may seem rather unorthodox for many people. Conventionally, turmeric is dried and ground into a powder. The powder is then used as a spice in food items. Other than that, nutritionists have developed beverages that have turmeric in them. A good example is turmeric tea.
As opposed to other spices such as ginger, turmeric does not have a striking taste. Its flavor is rather subtle. It is mostly noticeable only when used as a marinade in white meat such as chicken and fish. It tones down the acidic flavor in food.
It is not only adored for its taste and aesthetic value; it also has numerous health benefits. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, responsible for its several desirable medical benefits. In this article, we will have a look at some of the benefits you are likely to reap from turmeric as a dietary constituent.
Let’s dive in.
Disclaimer: Although turmeric and other herbal supplements cannot replace medical treatment from qualified professionals, emerging research is very intriguing and its extracts could be applied in the future.
It Can Help With Cancer
Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases, even in these modern times. Turmeric is rich in curcumin; a natural chemical constituent that has cancer-fighting properties. Scientific research has shown that this chemical stunts the growth of tumors and cancer cells (Source). It was found particularly useful in fighting colon cancer (Source). In addition to that, it also helps counter the side effects of chemotherapy (Source).
It’s Good For Your Heart
Cardiac conditions are fairly common these days. Because of sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy dietary habits and consumption of harmful fats, many people die prematurely or live sickly lives. Turmeric may be just what you need to add in to keep your circulatory system’s function in check.
Curcumin is also found to be useful in preventing clogging and blockage of blood vessels. It greatly reduces the amount of fat that is deposited in the arteries. It also reduces the risk of formation of blood clots in vessels. These effects lower the risk of developing heart conditions such as atherosclerosis (Source) and high blood pressure (Source) and eventually a heart attack.
Turmeric Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural mechanism to isolate infected and damaged cells, kill them, and safely replace them with new functional cells. It is therefore beneficial to the body when it takes place at a regulated level. However, if inflammation is prolonged to a chronic level, it becomes harmful because it results in damage to other healthy tissues. Chronic inflammation could also be as a result of allergic reactions taking place in the body, sometimes to even harmless environmental antigens.
Scientific research has shown that curcumin in turmeric has great anti-inflammatory properties (Source). Curcumin stimulates the production of compounds that inhibit inflammatory enzymes. It also reduces the production of prostaglandins (Source), the chemicals associated with the sensation of pain in the inflamed body tissue.
You can read more about why chronic inflammation is bad here (related article).
Turmeric Is An Antioxidant
Anti-oxidants are compounds that prevent extensive damage to the cells especially by free radicals. These radicals are produced in the body either as metabolic wastes or they find their way in when the body is exposed to respiratory toxins such as smoke. So how exactly does turmeric help in this case? Besides Curcumin (Source), turmeric contains significant amounts of flavonoids and ascorbic acid which prevents oxidation reactions in cells.
Anti-oxidant properties of turmeric are particularly beneficial for the liver. This is because the liver is an organ concerned with the metabolism and safe removal of toxins thus producing the highest number of free radicals. Turmeric can help dispose of these free radicals. Adding it to your daily diet can be protective against the long term liver damage that certain drugs can induce.
Flavonoids and ascorbic acid act as preferential reactants. They get oxidized on behalf of normal components of the body. This is because they have a high affinity for oxygen. Once the elements are oxidized, the free radicals break down into harmless ions that can easily be excreted.
Turmeric Can Improve Your Mood
Scientific research has shown that turmeric is a stress reliever. Taking turmeric regularly provides the body with curcumin which inhibits the production and secretion of excess stress hormones. This can help with your anxiety and stress. Curcumin is also important for the production of serotonin and noradrenaline, the neurotransmitters that promote a lighter mood. It can also help fight symptoms of depression (Source) such as insomnia.
Turmeric Promotes Good Bone And Joint Health
Do you experience pain in your joints? Are you suffering from arthritis? If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then turmeric could be beneficial for you. Curcumin in turmeric is a great pain reliever (Source). According to one study(source), the use of turmeric was as effective for pain relief as that of ibuprofen in case of knee arthritis. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it also reduces swelling at the joints; which is common in people who suffer from arthritis.
It Helps With Digestion
Turmeric can help relieve stomach aches. Consuming a mixture of water and turmeric is effective for minor stomach pains and discomforts. Turmeric also has antibacterial properties killing the bacteria that may be causing your stomach issues.
due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, turmeric aids in food digestion as well. Not only it adds flavor to your curry, but also health benefits. If you are experiencing indigestion, turmeric can be your go-to option.
In addition to that, turmeric can help with irritable bowel syndrome (Source). It is currently being investigated as a potential treatment for IBS. However, the results in this 2018 meta-analysis are not statistically significant and more studies are required to demonstrate a reliable improvement. However, since turmeric is generally safe to consume, there is no harm in adding it to a holistic wellness routine.
Putting It All Together
There is a lot of misleading talk about the extensive side effects of turmeric. Most of which are supported by poor evidence. Some nutritional blogs claim that it slows down digestion. However, this is not true. It does the exact opposite: it facilitates digestion. The only plausible side effect is an allergic reaction to it which is unlikely as not many cases have been reported.
However, like every other thing in life, you should maintain moderation while indulging in its use. If you are taking certain medications, you should consult your doctor to avoid any interactions. One such medication is warfarin which is a blood-thinning drug. Turmeric also has blood-thinning properties so their combined use can make you bleed more easily.
All in all, turmeric has a significant effect on your health. There are still many more health benefits that have not been covered in this article. One of them is its ability to cope with common cold symptoms. It is more than just a spice or dye. This is why you should make a point of including it in your regular diet for a healthier and happier you.