The Medicine in your Kitchen – 5 benefits of the healing power of Turmeric
Turmeric is fast turning into one of the most popular supplements of this decade. More and more evidence-based research now demonstrates the benefits of this important herb.
In Indian and South East Asian cultures, turmeric has always been used as more than just a spice for food. It is an important Traditional Medicine in its own right. It was believed to help digestion, relieve pain & inflammation, and was used both topically and internally.
Cultures that consume a lot of turmeric (for example India and the island of Okinawa in Japan) seem to experience lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in their older populations compared with European, American and Australian cultures. There are of course many factors that may account for this, such as significant differences in diet quality, exercise and other lifestyle habits, however the importance of Turmeric in these cultures has drawn the attention of scientists. A lot of research has been has been and is currently being done into the potent medicinal powers of turmeric.
Research has shown turmeric may indeed help with many conditions including inflammatory illnesses, cognitive health and even depression.
There are many ways you can consume this humble spice, whether you add it to cooking, brew it up as tea, add it to a smoothie, or take it as a concentrated supplement for its medicinal benefits.
One of the active ingredients in turmeric is called curcumin. It is this substance that may account for many of turmeric’s benefits. Unfortunately curcumin is quite hard for the body to absorb without consuming a large volume of turmeric powder. Many capsules have gotten around this by using a concentrated amount of curcumin combined with other nutrients that enhance the curcumin absorption such as phospholipids. This can increase the curcumin absorption by up to 100 times.
If you are wanting to experience some of the stronger benefits of turmeric it may be best to take it in a capsule or tablet form with high absorption. If you just want to use extra turmeric in your diet to help ward off chronic disease, a simple strategy is to consume a pinch of black pepper with your turmeric powder as this can also help with the absorption of the curcumin.
Below is a summary of some of the amazing benefits of this golden herb:
1. INFLAMMATION AND PAIN RELIEF
Components in turmeric have been found to help with a variety of inflammatory illnesses such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions. Turmeric is high in potent anti-oxidants that may account for some of its beneficial effects as increased oxidation is associated with many inflammatory conditions. Not only that, curcumin from turmeric has directly been found to reduce activity of the COX-2 and 5-LOX enzymes in the body. These enzyme pathways are involved in the inflammation response in the body and are the direct target of many pain relieving anti-inflammatory drugs. However, unlike many anti-inflammatory drugs, turmeric does not seem to cause the damaging effects on the stomach lining that many pharmaceutical drugs do.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects have a direct benefit for pain relief in both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. But not only that, compounds in turmeric may even partially help prevent further breakdown and damage to cartilage in the joint thereby reducing the progression of diseases such as osteoarthritis. This means turmeric provides a dual action in both relieving the symptoms of these diseases and possibly even preventing further damage occurring.
What many people do not realise is that depression is now also classified as a disease associated with chronic inflammation, especially in the brain. It is now known that many anti-depressants work not just by effecting serotonin levels, but by reducing inflammation in the brain as well. With this in mind researchers have begun investigating whether turmeric has some anti-depressant effects. It is too early to say convincingly, however a mini-meta analysis of 6 clinical trials did seem to show benefits for depression with high doses of curcumin from turmeric. A word of warning – the effect was small and it is not recommend that anyone take themselves off of anti-depressants without speaking to their doctor first. That said, turmeric extract is safe to take in conjunction with anti-depressant medication and may be a useful supplement if you are suffering from depression.
4. ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that causes a person to lose their memory and much of their cognitive function. It is traumatic for the person suffering and devastating to the families who care for them. Whilst drug therapies show the most promise in treating this disease, researchers have begun looking at safe options to help prevent this terrible illness. Turmeric has been found in animal and in-vitro studies to reduce build up of plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Excess oxidation and inflammation are also risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and it is known that turmeric helps reduce both of these factors as well. Trials are still underway in humans to determine whether turmeric will work as a preventative strategy, however given its safety, many people who are concerned about their risk for these illnesses have already begun consuming more of this herb.
5. LIVER HEALTH
Turmeric has been found in some studies to lower levels of raised liver enzymes. It is believed to do this in part by lowering inflammatory damage in the liver, and by raising the liver’s potent anti-oxidant, glutathione. Raised liver enzymes are a medical concern and must be addressed with your health practitioner, however if you want to keep your liver healthy it makes sense to add some turmeric into your diet at the very least. I have a friend from Okinawa who says the Okinawan Islanders, famous for their health and longevity, consume turmeric to ward off hangovers. No research has confirmed this (and I tried it, it didn’t work!) but it is interesting that studies have been done to show that turmeric may help the liver, and this is exactly what it was being traditionally used for.
HOW TO USE TURMERIC
You can either choose to use Turmeric in a supplemental form or as a food. For advice regarding supplements, please feel free to come in and chat to our qualified staff about which product may be best for you. We also carry turmeric in powdered form, liquid form and as a paste to add to curries, soups and stir fries. Turmeric is also excellent mixed with Chai as a tea and dash of honey.
A delicious way to enjoy turmeric is to use it to make Golden Lattes. Mix half a teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch each of black pepper, clove and dried ginger in a mug. Add a dash of hot water and mix into a paste. Fill the rest of the mug with warmed milk of your choice or more hot water and stir. You can add a dash of honey for sweetness. We now stock Turmeric Golden Latte blends in store if you would like an easy way to make one.
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