Ginger-like and yellow, turmeric is a root crop often used in Asian dishes such as curry and satay. Many believe turmeric to be native to India and Indonesia, where it has been used for thousands of years.
In India, the Ayurvedic medicinal system used turmeric to cure different diseases. The Chinese have also been using turmeric as medicine as early as 1,000 years ago.
Despite its long history in Asian culture and medicine, turmeric was only recognized in the Western world during the late 20th century. Ever since, different companies have strived to harness the medicinal wonders of turmeric. There are three main types of turmeric available on the market:
Fresh turmeric root looks very much like ginger, with yellow turmeric root and white turmeric root as two of the more common varieties. Fresh turmeric often tastes earthy and somewhat bitter.
On the other hand, turmeric powders are simply turmeric ground into a powdery texture. It is the type that is more common in the US.
There are two types of turmeric powder: madras turmeric and alleppey turmeric. Madras turmeric is yellow and milder in taste, while alleppey turmeric is orange in color and has a deeper flavor.
Turmeric is also available in many health supplements. Here are six health benefits of turmeric.
Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
Inflammation may be caused by various things, such as infection, tissue death, and immune reactions. When the body suffers inflammation, the immune system responds to fight it.
Acute inflammation is the body’s initial reaction to external stimuli such as bacteria and viruses, or simply bumping against something hard. The affected body part will begin swelling and heating up, and it will hurt and become red. This type of inflammation lasts for a short time only.
However, various parts of the immune system may act up at the same time, causing chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation takes a long time to go away. It is usually the leftover symptoms from an acute inflammation caused by immune processes that occurred all at the same time.
Some common diseases caused by chronic inflammation include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, fights inflammation by essentially “disabling” some immune responses and blocking certain chemicals produced by the body. Aside from chronic inflammation, turmeric is also known to alleviate joint pains, muscle sprains, and other injuries.
You can rub turmeric on inflamed areas by turning it into a paste. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of ground turmeric with any essential oil (extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, or clove oil), then apply it to the affected areas. Massage it in, then cover with a hot water bottle or a heating pad. Leave it on for 30 minutes before washing the area with cool water.
Helps Manage Cholesterol Levels and Heart Disease
Bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, is a chemical that causes blockages in arteries. People ingest this kind of cholesterol from fatty foods. LDL cholesterol does not dissolve in the blood. Proteins carry LDL cholesterols and move them around the body.
LDL cholesterol combines with other substances and turns into plaques that stick to the walls of the arteries. Because of this, blood cannot flow freely to organs, including the heart. High cholesterol levels may cause angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Studies have also shown that turmeric protects arteries and prevents them from hardening due to plaque build-up caused by high cholesterol levels. Antioxidant properties of turmeric also work to lower the amount of lipids in the blood. All of this helps to slow down heart disease and improve cardiovascular health.
A common way of preparing turmeric is by brewing it as tea. Just mix half a teaspoon of fresh or ground turmeric into two cups of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. You can also add honey or lemon for taste.
Can Help Slow Down Brain Disease and Improve Mood
Age-related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often degenerative in nature. This means that cells in a certain organ die faster than normal and do not regenerate.
Curcumin in turmeric counters this by promoting growth factors such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. This agent helps cells in the brain to grow and develop.
Turmeric can also help improve mood in people who suffer from depression. A study conducted in January 2017 compared the effects of the plant on patients who took turmeric capsules and patients who were given a combination of turmeric capsules and placebo pills.
The research revealed that patients who took only turmeric capsules experienced significant improvement in their mood.
According to this study, eating two spoons of turmeric every day can improve brain health significantly among patients with Alzheimer’s disease. To improve the body’s absorption of turmeric and curcumin, include black pepper and good fats like coconut oil in your diet.
Can Improve the Appearance of Your Skin
Antioxidants are substances that prevent the oxidation of other different substances, especially free radicals. Free radicals cause tissue damage often associated with aging.
Turmeric is very rich in antioxidants. It can help brighten skin and alleviate inflammation. It also speeds up regeneration of the skin, so wounds heal faster. Beauty experts even claim that turmeric can help manage acne, rosacea (the reddening of the face), wrinkles, and fine lines.
Other skin issues that turmeric can help improve include:
- Acne scarring
To use turmeric to improve skin health, you can make a DIY face mask at home. Grab a teaspoon of raw honey and heat it up for 15 seconds.
Afterwards, add turmeric and some milk. Apply this to your face using a spoon. You may also use your fingers to do this. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes until it hardens, then rinse your face with warm water.
Great for Weight Loss
Curcumin has been found to lessen the accumulation of fat in the body. It does this by browning white adipose tissues.
White adipose tissues are where the body stores much of its energy. The amount of white adipose tissues in the body is largely dependent on hormones, eating habits, and exercise. Browning white adipose tissues releases fat and prevents the body from accumulating fat.
Besides preventing fat accumulation, turmeric also improves metabolism. Experts believe that oral intake of the root crop allows the gastrointestinal system to work better.
Coupled with dietary changes, turmeric intake can greatly accelerate weight loss. One popular way of using turmeric to lose weight is by drinking this tonic.
It is a simple mixture of turmeric, lemon, honey, and a pinch of cinnamon. Take two cups of the tonic in the morning for seven days. Stop for two weeks, then repeat the process.
You may also take the tonic three times a week as part of your regular diet.
May Help Prevent—and Even Treat—Cancer
Cancer is a disease wherein cells turn against the body. Rogue cells attack organs and other cells, and unlike normal cells, cancer cells do not stop dividing.
Inflammation is a common problem in a lot of cases of cancer. Because of this, experts studied the effects of turmeric as a supplement to cancer treatments. Different studies have shown that curcumin in turmeric can even improve the efficacy of chemotherapy.
This is because turmeric limits certain enzymes that may cause inflammation and lead to cancer. It also induces a gene that suppresses tumors. Studies have also shown that consumption of turmeric stops cancer from spreading to other organs and from growing more cancer cells.
Other Ways to Prepare Turmeric
It is good to include turmeric in your daily diet to make sure that you reap its numerous benefits.
You can use fresh turmeric to whip up some golden paste. Just peel 12 inches of fresh root and chop it into fine bits. Add water and mix using a blender.
After reaching a paste-like consistency, transfer the mixture into a saucepan and heat. When the paste is thick enough, remove from heat and add vegetable oil and freshly ground pepper.
You can either take teaspoons of golden paste every day or mix it into your favorite recipes.
Another extremely popular preparation of turmeric is the golden milk. A popular drink in Asia, the golden milk is simply hot milk mixed with golden paste. It’s a fun and easy way to have more turmeric in your diet, and a good nightcap, too.
Important Things to Remember When Using Turmeric
Although high dosages of turmeric are safe to humans, some studies show that too much turmeric may cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
People with ulcers are also advised to take turmeric in moderation as it may cause heartburn. Women who are pregnant should not take turmeric as it may cause miscarriage.
Using turmeric on the skin normally results in a yellowish stain which will go away in a couple of hours. You may test your skin for turmeric allergy by applying a small amount on your arm and observing this for 24 to 48 hours.