When it comes to health food trends, turmeric is right up there, with turmeric lattes and “golden mylk” everywhere you turn (yes, even Starbucks has caught on, it was only a matter of time). This might be because unlike many other foods and herbs, turmeric’s health benefits are extremely well studied (it’s the most researched herb to date in fact!), with more than 10,000 scientific research papers to its name. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which you’ve probably seen in supplement form, and is what’s responsible for turmeric’s orange/yellow pigment.
What is it?
Originally native to India, turmeric comes from the rhizome (aka the stem of a plant that growths underground) of the Curcuma longa plant cultivated in subtropical and tropical regions of the world. It is an ancient root from the same family as ginger, that’s consumed for its healing medicinal properties and is used as a traditional Indian spice for food coloring, as a flu remedy and as the main ingredient in curry powder.
What are the benefits?
By now, you probably know that turmeric has powerful ant-inflammatory properties. This is because the active ingredient curcumin, has been shown to target multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway by inhibiting molecules that travel into our cells and turn on genes related to inflammation. Turmeric also has antioxidant properties, as curcumin has a chemical structure that neutralizes free radicals which helps our bodies increase their capacity to fight them. These two benefits make turmeric a great alternative treatment for skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, along with scar and wound healing. It also helps improve brain function by increasing the levels of a type of growth hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which fights and reduces the risk of degenerative brain processes and boosts the development of new neurons. And last but not least, it is a liver protectant. As you may know, your liver is your second largest organ (the largest being your skin) and is responsible for cleaning out toxins. Extensive studies have shown turmeric to help the liver clear out these toxins and more efficiently reduce oxidative stress.
How to use it?
You can consume turmeric in a variety of forms — you can grate the root, use as a powder or paste, and if you’re consuming it for its therapeutic properties, capsule form is your best bet. A new brand we love is Well Told Health who offer a 100% natural and clean supplement made only from organic turmeric (they believe that consuming food in its whole form — so straight turmeric over extracted curcumin — is the most beneficial way to consume supplements). If you want to go the food route, you can add turmeric to smoothies, make a turmeric latte, soup, etc. One tip we have is to combine it with black pepper and/or coconut oil to help with absorption. Please note: turmeric should be avoided by anyone who is taking anticoagulants or has biliary tract obstruction since it acts as a blood thinner and stimulates the secretion of bile.
Book: Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M. Haas and Buck Levin