Taken from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, turmeric is a spice that’s long been used in traditional Indian cooking. These days, however, you can find it practically everywhere; in health supplements, in teas, and even blended into fancy lattes at coffee shops.
Turmeric has exploded in popularity largely because of its health benefits. Naturally anti-inflammatory, it’s reputed to alleviate a variety of health problems, including arthritis, fatigue, and even depression.
Want to try it for yourself? Read on to learn all about this unique yet powerful ingredient.
What Exactly is Turmeric?
Recognized by its characteristic golden color, turmeric is related to ginger. It grows naturally in India, parts of Asia, as well as Central America.
Turmeric’s reputation as a holistic healer is nothing new: Ayurveda has long touted its medicinal properties, traditionally prescribing it everything from digestive issues to colds to painful joints. Turmeric is also said to balance the body’s three doshas, or biological energies.
Turmeric and Modern Medicine
Turmeric’s healing abilities come from its active compound, curcumin, which has been studied extensively in laboratory settings. Though scientists have yet to determine exactly how circumin works within the body, experiments have shown it holds great promise for healing and preventing illnesses.
Research has found that curcumin can be effective in preventing the formation of amyloid-beta plaques, which are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Laboratory and clinical studies suggest that turmeric reduces inflammation, a major source of several health problems.
Due to its antioxidant properties, curcumin has shown to play a major role in preventing liver damage in rats.
One study conducted in 2004 found that participants with IBS noticed a reduction in abdominal discomfort when they took turmeric supplements.
A preliminary study of patients with knee osteoarthritis found that curcumin was as effective as ibuprofen in controlling pain symptoms (and all without the potentially damaging side effects of traditional pain relievers).
Animals studies have demonstrated that turmeric may prevent colon, stomach and skin cancer in rats exposed to carcinogens.
Other Benefits of Turmeric
Warding off inflammation and illness isn’t the only perk that turmeric has to offer. It also contains must-have nutrients like manganese, iron and potassium. And with as little as 29 calories per tbsp., it’s also low fat.
How to Use Turmeric
Turmeric is best consumed with ingredients that increase the body’s ability to absorb its nutrients. Cooking it with a soluble fat is one of the best ways to increase its efficacy: try it in a spicy curry or toss it with some sautéed vegetables using coconut oil or avocado oil.
Another ingredient that pairs well with turmeric is black pepper, which contains piperine. Piperine enhances the body’s absorption of curcumin by about 2,000%. If you find yourself scanning the shelves for turmeric supplements, always check the ingredients list to see if they contain piperine, as this means you’ll get the most of out your supplement. Turmeric also makes a delicious addition to beverages. Check out this recipe, which features a blend of coconut milk, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric to create a golden tonic that’s perfect before bedtime. Yum!