Turmeric is a rhizome that grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright orange color and is used in lots of foods. Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries. You can find dried powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store. Sometimes they carry the fresh rhizome too (it looks like ginger root, but smaller).
Turmeric contains an amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound called curcumin. The amount of this bioactive compound is around 3-7% by weight of turmeric. Curcumin has been studied like crazy for its health benefits. Many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100x more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is way more concentrated than ground turmeric).
Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound. It fights inflammation at the molecular level. Some studies even show it can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).
Curcumin is an antioxidant compound. It can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our biomolecules. Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes.
These two functions of reducing inflammation and oxidation have amazing health benefits. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in so many conditions, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, and arthritis pain.
Curcumin has other amazing functions, too:
● It boosts our levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (like a natural growth hormone for your brain) which is great for brain health
● Improves endothelial function (the inner lining of our blood vessels) which is great for heart health
● Reduces growth of cancer cells by reducing angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis ( the spread of cancer), and even contributes to the death of cancer cells.
Do you think these make turmeric deserve the miracle spice title?
How to get the most out of your turmeric:
Curcumin is not easily absorbed by your gut. For one thing, it’s fat soluble. So, as with fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), you can increase absorption by eating it with a fatty meal.
The second trick to get the most out of your turmeric is eating it with pepper. Interestingly, a compound in black pepper (piperine) enhances absorption of curcumin, by a whopping 2,000%!
If you want the health benefits of curcumin, you need to get a larger dose of than just eating some turmeric; this is where supplements come in, but always check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Before you take a curcumin supplement, take caution if you:
● Are pregnant
● Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners
● Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
● Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid
Always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement.
Turmeric is a delicious spice and its active ingredient, curcumin, is a great health-booster.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which are great to bust chronic inflammation. It also has other amazing health benefits, like brain- and heart-boosting properties, and even cancer-fighting properties.
Curcumin supplements can be great for your health, but they’re not for everyone. Speak with your practitioner before taking it.
I want to know: What’s your favorite turmeric recipe?
Want to boost your anti-inflammatory response? Check out my recipe for Golden Milk!
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.