If you’ve ever eaten in an Indian restaurant, which typically offers among the tastiest of buffet lines, you have likely partaken of a botanical known for conveying numerous potential health benefits that have been observed for thousands of years. The key ingredient in Indian fare is turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family and has been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine dating back centuries.
“Turmeric is auspicious and one of the most important herbs,” says Anupama Kizhakkeveettil, a National Ayurvedic Medical Association board member, quoted at nytimes.com. “We use it for so many different conditions; it’s a time-tested herb. Unfortunately, our science doesn’t fit into complete randomized controlled trials. That is alternative medicine’s biggest challenge.”
What turmeric, and its primary compound curcumin, has going for it are mountains of anecdotal evidence. Millions of people and countless healthcare providers have extolled the health benefits of this herb, also commonly used in Asian cuisine, per webmd.com. It is also known for its yellowish color and warm, bitter taste that has been likened to mustard and pepper.
Its reported benefits have ranged from alleviating pain and inflammation while also working against seasonal allergies, depression, high cholesterol, various cognitive functions, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Where Does Turmeric/Curcumin Come From?
As you might have guessed, turmeric is a perennial herb that is native to India, per organicfacts.net, and is sourced from the plant’s rhizome. Nutritionally, turmeric is loaded, sporting an abundance of protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron, dietary fiber, sodium, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. All that, and you get just 24 calories in a one-tablespoon serving of turmeric powder.
Enhancing Turmeric’s Absorption
As much as turmeric is a delight for epicureans and a boon to your health, it is not easily absorbed by your gastrointestinal system. In Indian cooking, per nytimes.com, turmeric typically is cooked in fat, like oil, and that can help enhance its absorption. To help boost its absorption otherwise, some supplement manufacturers combine it with piperine, a chemical contained in black pepper, a means by which curcumin’s bioavailability is enhanced.
10 of Turmeric/Curcumin’s Health Benefits
Turmeric, and more specifically its main ingredient of curcumin, have been shown through research and widespread use that they can provide numerous health benefits. Keep in mind, though, that more is not necessarily better, which is why users are wise to discuss its use with their physician. Per nytimes.com, up to two grams of turmeric a day is considered safe. Following are 10 of the herb’s potential health benefits:
- Seasonal allergies. The curcumin found in turmeric has shown success in easing the symptoms of hay fever, which typically include sneezing, itching, runny nose, and congestion, per webmd.com.
- Boost immunity. Curcumin isn’t the only substance contained in turmeric that can boost your health; another is lipopolysaccharide, which contains antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal elements that form a trifecta in bolstering your immune system, per top10homeremedies.com.
- Skin care. Consistent (and safe) turmeric ingestion can stunt the growth of bacteria that causes pimples and also help clear the skin of scars left behind by acne, per organicfacts.net.
- Depression. Per webmd.com, ample research has shown that curcumin can alleviate the symptoms of depression in people who are already taking an antidepressant.
- Heart health. Curcumin can work in tandem with vitamin B6 to bolster your heart health, with the B vitamin chipping in by thwarting the production of homocysteine, which can harm cell walls, per organicfacts.net.
- Arthritis. Per top10homeremedies.com, the anti-inflammatory characteristics of turmeric make it an effective counter to the pain induced by both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Diabetes. Per organicfacts.net, turmeric has been shown to have a positive influence on insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia.
- Manage weight. By enhancing the flow of bile in the gastrointestinal system, turmeric is effectively aiding in the breakdown of dietary fat, per top10homeremedies.com.
- Enhance digestion. Turmeric’s compounds help activate the production of bile via the gallbladder, thus improving digestion and alleviating bloating and gas, per top10homeremedies.com. The herb also has shown a propensity to treat several forms of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis.
- Liver health. A 2018 study cited at organicfacts.net pointed out that turmeric’s antioxidant properties can diminish liver damage and also help in the treatment of liver conditions such as cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.