Turmeric, Curcumins & Health

Although you may have never heard of the herb turmeric (Curcuma longa), you’ve probably tried it. You may be surprised to learn that turmeric is what gives the mustard you slather on your hot dog or ham sandwich that bright yellow color. If you’ve ever eaten too many of those foods, the medicinal properties of turmeric might have even saved you from a nasty stomachache!

TIMEA member of the ginger family, turmeric is harvested from the fleshy, golden-orange root of Curcuma Longa. The roots are dried and ground to produce a fine golden powder.

Turmeric has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. In India, China, and Persia, the list of turmeric’s applications is quite long. The herb has been used as an antioxidant,anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and even as an anti-tumor agent. It’s been investigated to support cardiovascular health, promote healthy digestion, and treat wounds. It’s also used to treat conditions ranging from parasites, poor circulation, indigestion, infections, acne, and many more.

Through history, turmeric has been held in high regard around the world, but it’s only recently that it’s been receiving the same kind of attention here in the United States. Curcumin, the component of turmeric that gives the herb it’s distinctive bright color, is also what appears to be responsible for the herb’s medicinal effect. Investigators are finding that turmeric is showing great promise in treating many ailments that plague our nation. Medical journals, health publications, and news outlets are now reporting that curcumins how promise in treating many cancers, cardiovascular problems, some eye diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, gastrointestinal disorders, Cystic Fibrosis, muscle degeneration, and wounds. Turmeric is also useful in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. One UCLA study found that curcumins in turmeric reduced the number of amyloid plaques (knots in the brain related to Alzheimer’s) by half in rats.

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Turmeric is a principal ingredient in curry powder, a well-known staple of Indian dishes that’s easily found at groceries and markets. If you prefer to dine in, most health food stores offer a variety of foods that contain curries with turmeric. Many people also keep a shaker of turmeric near where they prepare their food. Because of turmeric’s sharp, pungent taste, turmeric curries often contain something sweet- usually raisins, carrots, sweet potatoes, or coconut milk.

Don’t like the taste of turmeric or want to consume more than you would in meals? You might consider turmeric supplementation. Turmeric has been found to be much more effective with the addition of Piperine. Piperine, the principal phytonutrient in black pepper, is said to boost your body’s absorption of turmeric by 2000%!

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If you prepare food with turmeric, remember to add black pepper. Afterwards, finish up with a cup of green tea. Researchers at the Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center found the combination of turmeric and green tea to enhance their respective cancer-fighting properties.

Turmeric in its raw state is around 5% curcuminoids, while supplements are often highly concentrated and can be as much as 95% curcuminoids. Curcumin supplements should always be taken with food; large doses can cause problems on an empty stomach. Pregnant woman, nursing mothers, and people with symptoms of gallstones are advised not to undergo turmeric supplementation. (The use of turmeric in those with gallstones is somewhat of a contentious issue. Because turmeric is used in other cultures to treat gallstones you might find a knowledgeable practitioner to advise you in it’s use.)

As you have read, turmeric could just as easily be placed in the medicine cabinet as it could the spice rack.

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