Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin - Science with Spice

Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin - Science with Spice

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For thousands of years, turmeric has been a common culinary spice. It originated from India as an indigenous plant. Various Asian communities also used it as herbal medicine. Besides that, turmeric was used for religious purposes. Its yellow colour has earned it a colloquial nickname in Asia, the golden spice.  

How To Take Turmeric

In the modern world, turmeric has earned itself a place in many kitchens. It is one of the most versatile spices; you can find it in an experimental latte at your local coffee festival or in a curry that may or may not be too spicy for your palate. Most people use it as a marinade to add a yellow colour to food. It is more effective and a healthier option as compared to artificial food colouring additives. So if you are looking to add a yellow tinge to your favourite sausage roll, vegetable rice, curry, puree or even samosa, turmeric is the way to go. 
 
Turmeric is not one of those spices that have to be cooked before eating. Some people actually chew the raw rhizome to solve acidity issues. However, this may seem rather unorthodox for many people. Conventionally, turmeric is dried and ground into a powder. The powder is then used as a spice in food. Besides that, in recent times, nutritionists have developed beverages that have turmeric in them. A good example is turmeric tea. 

As opposed to other spices such as ginger, turmeric does not have a striking taste. Its flavour is rather subtle. It is mostly noticeable mostly when used as a marinade in white meat such as chicken an fish fillet. It tones down the level of acidic flavour in food. 

It is not just adored for the taste and aesthetic value, it also has numerous health benefits. In this article, we will have a look at some of the benefits you are likely to reap from turmeric as a dietary constituent.

Let's dive in.

Disclaimer: Although turmeric and other herbal supplements cannot replace medical treatment from qualified professionals, emerging research is very intriguing and its extracts could be applied in the future.

It Can Help With Cancer 

Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases in modern times. Turmeric is rich in curcumin; a natural chemical constituent that has cancer-fighting properties. Scientific research has shown that the chemical stunts the growth of other tumours and cancer cells (Source). It was found particularly useful in fighting colon cancer (Source). In addition to that, it also reduces the toxic effects on the body during chemotherapy (Source).

It's Good For Your Heart 

Cardiac conditions are a common phenomenon. In the wake of sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets high inflammation and harmful fats, many people die prematurely and live more sickly lives. Turmeric may be just what you need to add in to keep your circulatory system's health in check.  

Curcumin in turmeric has proved to be useful in preventing clogging and blockage of arteries and other blood vessels. It greatly reduces the amount of fat that is deposited in the arteries. It also reduces the risk of internal blood clots in vessels. This reduces the risk of developing cardiac illnesses such as atherosclerosis (Source) and high blood pressure (Source).

Turmeric Reduces Inflammation 

Inflammation is the body's own natural mechanism to isolate infected or damaged cells and antigens to allow healing and formation of new cells to take place. It is therefore beneficial to the body when it takes place in regulated levels. However, if inflammation is prolonged to a chronic level, it becomes harmful because it results in damage to other healthy tissues. Chronic inflammation could also be as a result of allergic reactions taking place in the body. This happens when the body's immunity is trying to counteract against foreign antigens.

You can read more about why chronic inflammation is bad here (related article).

Scientific research has shown that curcumin in turmeric has great anti-inflammatory properties (Source). Curcumin stimulates the production of enzymes that inhibit inflammatory enzymes. It also reduces the production of prostaglandin (Source) chemicals that result in pain on the inflamed body tissue. 

Turmeric Is An Antioxidant 

Anti-oxidants are substances that prevent extensive damage to the cells especially by free radicals dissolved in the blood and other toxins. These radicals are produced in the body as metabolic wastes or sometimes find their way in when your body is exposed to respiratory toxins such as smoke. So how exactly does turmeric help in this case? Besides Curcumin (Source), turmeric contains a significant amount of flavonoid and ascorbic acid which prevent oxidation reactions in body fluids and cells. 

These elements act as preferential reactants. They get oxidized on behalf of blood and cell ions. This is because they have a high affinity for oxygen. Once the elements are oxidized, the free radicals break down into harmless ions that can easily be excreted. Through this mechanism, your body can avoid excess damage that can naturally occur.

Turmeric Can Improve Your Mood

This may sound ambiguous to you. However, scientific research has shown that turmeric is a stress reliever. Taking turmeric on a regular basis provides the body with curcumin which inhibits the production and secretion of excess stress hormones. This can help with your anxiety and stress. Curcumin is also important for the production of serotonin and noradrenaline, which are hormones that enhance a lighter mood. It also fights other symptoms of depression (Source) such as insomnia. 

Turmeric Promotes Good Bone And Joint Health 

Do you experience pain in your joints? Are you suffering from arthritis? If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then turmeric could be added to your diet. Curcumin in turmeric is a great pain reliever (Source). Research has proven that it is a great relaxant, especially for joints and ligaments. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it reduces swelling at the joints; which is common in people who suffer from arthritis. 

It Helps With Digestion

Turmeric can be a pain reliever when one is experiencing stomach aches. Taking a mixture of water and turmeric will most probably help you get rid of minor stomach pains and discomforts. Turmeric also has antibacterial properties which will aid in fighting micro bacteria that could be causing your stomach issues. It will also help you get rid of gas in case of bloating (Source).  

Turmeric also helps in food digestion. It has substances that stimulate the release of digestive enzymes that hasten the digestive process. If you are experiencing indigestion, turmeric should be your go-to option.

In addition to that, turmeric could help with irritable bowel syndrome (Source). The results in this 2018 meta-analysis were not statistically significant and more studies are required to demonstrate a reliable improvement. However, since turmeric is generally safe to consume, there is no harm in adding it into a holistic wellness routine.

Putting It All Together

There is a lot of misleading talk about extensive side effects of turmeric. Some nutritional blogs claim that it slows down digestion. However, this is not true. It does the exact opposite: it actually facilitates digestion. The only plausible side effects I know of would only surface if you are allergic to any of the chemical components of turmeric. It could cause dizziness in some cases. This is still highly unlikely. 

All in all, turmeric has a significant impact on your health. There are many other health benefits that I have not covered in this article. One of them is its ability to help with common cold symptoms. It is more than just a spice or dye. This is why you should make a point of including it in your regular diet for a healthier and happier you.

Important note: Turmeric is best absorbed with a black pepper extract, piperine, so make sure you get the right one

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