Turmeric is a yellow spice which has been used throughout Asia and is a staple ingredient in Ayurvedic lifestyles. But it receives attention for more than its aromatic spice and use in food.
Curcumin, the main active ingredient in Turmeric root, is responsible for the array of health benefits that are associated with this ingredient.
Benefits of Turmeric
The medicinal properties of turmeric / curcumin have been known in Asian tradition for thousands of years as having anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
Research indicates areas where turmeric is shown to have positive impact, with the two most important functions as being:
Other benefits have included helping reduce pain, improve weight loss and enhance memory / cognitive functioning [source].
But these ancillary benefits are likely benefits of reducing inflammation and oxidisation; two conditions which can cause health issues.
How is Turmeric used
In India, turmeric is used in curries and as a spice for foods. In Japan, it is served in tea. In Thailand, it is used in cosmetics, and in the Western hemisphere (USA / UK) it is used in mustard, in capsules, powders and cosmetics [source].
In all regions, people understand the health benefits of turmeric and are applying in many ways to take advantage of its healing properties.
However, turmeric has a poor biological availability percentage. Which means, your body pretty much takes it in and sends it out without extracting the benefits of this spice.
Turmeric’s low bioavailability is due to its poor absorption rate, as well as rapid digestion to excretion.
It is therefore vital to add activators to your turmeric intake in order to extract the qualities of this ingredient. Piperine (Black Pepper) is one such activator and can increase bioavailability of curcumin by 2000% [source].
Benefit 1: Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory
Turmeric is a well-researched anti-inflammatory, commonly used to fight inflammation in your body.
Some studies have suggested that Curcumin, maybe more effective than over-the-counter inflammation medicines. These include Ibuprofen and aspirins [source]
But inflammation is not a bad thing. In fact, inflammation is a natural response of your body to fight bacteria’s which invade your body. It’s a defence mechanism we have built in.
Where inflammation becomes prolonged (or chronic) it can actually be harmful. That’s because the inflammation is attacking your body, not protecting it.
Inflammation is one of the signals in developing chronic diseases and infections, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, Epilepsy, Cancers, Asthma, Psoriasis and inflammation in the scalp can end up with hair loss.
Studies have found supplementation with curcumin has blocked inflammation [source].
A study by Susan Hewlings and Douglas Kalman, the authors note this ingredient can help manage exercise-induced inflammation which enhances recovery and performance in athletes [source].
It may even be as effective as some of the leading anti-inflammatory drugs on the market and because it’s a natural compound, won’t have all the adverse effects.
Benefit 2: Turmeric is a natural antioxidant
Oxidative stress is one of the leading causes of aging and other diseases.
Oxidative stress is implicated behind chronic diseases and is related closely to inflammation, as oxidative stress can ultimately lead to inflammation.
Free radicals are essentially unpaired Electrons in your body. As Electrons are usually in pairs, they move around independently seeking another Electron to pair with. This is where the damage to your cells takes place [source].
Whether through the food we eat or pollution in the air we breathe, and even through exercise which leads to oxidative stress – we accumulate more free radicals which result in damage to our body.
But much like inflammation, free radicals are important to our body. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to generate energy and sustain a normal immune system.
Curcumin is a natural antioxidant that can help neutralise free radicals and help boost the natural production of your own body’s antioxidants.
Ancillary benefit: may help with Arthritis
Arthritis is a disease associated with inflammation.
As curcumin helps block inflammatory cytokines, it may have beneficial effects in reducing arthritis pain and inflammation.
In studies with people who took 1g of turmeric per day, the participants saw improvements to their overall mobility and reduction in pain within a year.
Ancillary benefit: may have Cognitive benefits and protect against Alzheimer’s
Curcumin has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and could help fight neurodegenerative diseases.
Alzheimer’s is one such disease which is initiated by inflammation and oxidative damage. Curcumin can help reduce this inflammation and oxidation thereby preventing or slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Other benefit: may help stimulate hair growth
Where hair loss is a symptom of inflammation, turmeric may aid in reversing or limiting the effect by controlling the cause of the underlying inflammation.
How to use Turmeric
Turmeric can be used in several ways. If it is to be ingested internally, due to its poor bioavailability, it should be mixed with black pepper to help activate and ensure absorption.
Also known as a turmeric latte or mylk – mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder with ¼ teaspoon black pepper into a mug of hot water, or hot alternative milk (we prefer oat milk due to its creamier taste).
You may find the taste of turmeric unappealing. And we wouldn’t blame you!
There are plenty of supplements, in the form of digestible capsules which you can take.
Check to ensure they are mixed with piperine (Black Pepper) to enhance absorption.
Turmeric ought to be in your diet if not already. With its two most important benefits including controlling both inflammation and oxidative stress, there is a lot to be said of using this natural ingredient day to day.
You may wonder whether to use Turmeric or Curcumin. Curcumin is the extracted key composition of turmeric.
There are benefits to each.
But, we always err on the side of nature. Nature made the turmeric root, which has been used for centuries without extracting the curcumin.