Known as the Golden Spice of India for its bright yellow color, turmeric is a common ingredient in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Turmeric adds a mildly spicy and earthy flavor to dishes like curry, masala and tandoori and gives them their yellow tinge. However, apart from being a staple in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, turmeric has also been used for centuries to treat various health conditions.
While turmeric is mainly grown and used in Southeast Asia, organic herbs and spices suppliers have spread the use of turmeric around the world. Here are some of the health benefits of this herb:
Curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory chemical compound in turmeric, is effective in reducing inflammation in the body. Turmeric helps ease arthritic and joint pain and also promotes flexibility.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-oxidant that protects the body from free radicals, pollutants and other environmental stressors. This strengthens the body’s immune system, helping it fight against aging and sickness.
As a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, turmeric can be beneficial to skin care. It can help heal wounds more quickly by increasing tissue and collagen regeneration. Turmeric also has been associated with the treatment of skin conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo and scleroderma.
Protects the Heart and Liver
Turmeric enhances the function of the blood vessels lining the heart or the endothelium. By reducing inflammation and oxidation, the endothelium is able regulate blood clotting and pressure which may help in reducing the risk of heart disease.
The anti-oxidative effect of turmeric protects the liver from toxins, which can be beneficial to people with diabetes or those who are taking strong medication for other ailments.
Turmeric is rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative compounds. The combination of these nutrients helps in producing the enzymes, acids and excretions needed by the organs in the digestive system to function properly. An optimized digestive system ensures that food is properly digested while increasing metabolism.
Turmeric also aids in managing the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and nausea. Including turmeric in one’s diet also promotes the growth of friendly gut bacteria.
Improves Brain Function
Cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, are associated with decreased levels of a growth hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Turmeric is being studied for its potential to improve cognitive health by increasing and supporting brain levels of BDNF. Turmeric may also boost the serotonin and dopamine levels, which is helpful for treating people with depression.
Reduces Cancer Risk
Turmeric may also help slow down the growth of cancer cells, especially when taken with fruits and vegetables that are appropriate for certain cancer types. Turmeric’s anti-oxidative properties supports the body’s immunity to free radicals that can cause cancer cells to grow and metastasize.
While some people may not be accustomed to the aroma and flavor of turmeric, incorporating it into one’s diet may be an alternative to taking it in its crushed, powdered form. Aside from using turmeric as a food spice or seasoning, it may also be blended with smoothies, teas, dips or dressings and even as popcorn topping.