Health benefits and uses of turmeric

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health benefits of turmeric

I have developed a deep appreciation for the profound healing properties found in a multitude of herbs and spices.

Among these remarkable natural remedies, one particular spice stands out for its extraordinary therapeutic benefits and incredible culinary versatility – turmeric, also known as “Haridra” in the ancient language of Sanskrit.

This golden spice not only imparts a vibrant, golden color and flavor to dishes but also holds a significant medicinal legacy in treating and alleviating symptoms of various illnesses.

In this blog, I’ll discuss turmeric’s benefits, Ayurvedic properties, and healing applications, plus ways to add it to your recipes.

ayurvedic remedies

Understanding Turmeric

Turmeric, scientifically known as Curcuma longa, is a perennial flowering plant that belongs to the ginger family. Originating from India and Southeast Asia, this vibrant yellow spice has a rich history dating back over 4,000 years. Renowned as the “Golden Spice of India,” turmeric holds a significant place in Ayurvedic medicine.

One common misconception is that turmeric and curcumin are the same substance – however, they differ significantly. Curcumin is the most active compound found in turmeric, a bioactive element that contributes to the spice’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

While turmeric comprises a spectrum of compounds known as curcuminoids, curcumin is the most studied and has been associated with a host of potential health benefits. However, when using turmeric, you are getting the full array of curcuminoids, along with oils, vitamins, and minerals that are naturally present in the whole spice and contribute to its overall healing potential.

Curcumin constitutes only about 2-8% of turmeric, and while it’s available as a concentrated extract, a whole-food therapy suggest that the entire turmeric root offers a more balanced approach to healing.

Turmeric and Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, turmeric is highly esteemed for its holistic healing properties and its ability to balance the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. This versatile, tridoshic herb is not only a staple in traditional medicine but also widely recognized in culinary and wellness circles for its numerous health benefits.

Turmeric possesses a unique combination of rasa (taste), virya (energy), and vipaka (post-digestive effect) from an Ayurvedic perspective:

  • Rasa: Turmeric is predominantly bitter (tikta) and astringent (kashaya), with secondary pungent (katu) taste. These tastes help in purifying the blood, reducing inflammation, and clearing mucus from the body. This is a highly beneficial attribute for Pitta dosha.
  • Virya: Its energy is heating (ushna), which makes it valuable in balancing Kapha and Vata doshas that are cold in nature. This warming property aids in digestion, supports circulation, and helps in alleviating pain.
  • Vipaka: The post-digestive effect of turmeric is pungent, which means it can stimulate metabolism, promote the elimination of toxins, and enhance the digestive fire (agni) while balancing all three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, when used in moderation.

Together, these properties affirm turmeric’s status as a potent balancer of the doshas. It’s particularly efficient in managing conditions related to excess Vata and Kapha due to its warm energy and drying qualities, although care must be taken in cases of high Pitta to not exacerbate heat-related imbalances.

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Here are the top 10 evidence-based health benefits of turmeric and curcumin.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Curcumin is renowned for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, which have been studied for their potential health benefits. Chronic inflammation, a persistent immune response linked to numerous health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis, is where curcumin’s strength shines. By mitigating inflammation, turmeric may contribute to a holistic approach in preventing and managing these complex disorders, offering potential natural support for overall well-being.

Antioxidant Powerhouse

Turmeric boasts a wealth of antioxidants renowned for their ability to counteract oxidative stress. This stress, a significant factor in aging and the development of chronic illnesses, is effectively combated by the antioxidants found in turmeric. These potent compounds not only neutralize damaging free radicals but also bolster the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, promoting overall health and well-being.

Skin Health Enhancer

The therapeutic virtues of turmeric extend beyond internal health to include skincare benefits. Notably, when applied topically, turmeric’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties may aid in alleviating skin conditions such as acne. These properties help in suppressing the proliferation of pimple-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation, leading to clearer skin. Moreover, the antioxidative effect of turmeric can enhance the natural glow and resilience of the skin, making it a prized ingredient in numerous beauty and skincare regimens.

Supports Digestive Health

Turmeric stimulates bile production in the liver, which plays a vital role in digestion by breaking down fats. This process not only aids in digestion but also helps soothe common digestive problems like bloating and gas. Additionally, turmeric’s natural properties support the body’s detoxification process, making it a versatile ingredient in addressing various gastrointestinal issues.

Vata dosha nutritional guidelines

Pitta dosha nutritional guidelines

Kapha dosha nutritional guidelines

Neurological Support through Enhanced Neurotrophic Factors

One lesser-known yet significant benefit of turmeric is its potential impact on brain health. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been linked to the increase of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). As a protein that plays a crucial role in neuron survival and growth, BDNF also supports the creation of new connections in the brain. Higher BDNF levels are associated with improved cognitive functions and a lower risk of brain diseases. Thus, incorporating turmeric into one’s diet offers not only a boost in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects but may also be a beneficial strategy for maintaining and promoting brain health.

Antibiotic, Analgesic, and Antiseptic Properties

Turmeric is renowned not just for its flavorful contribution to cuisine, but also for its medicinal properties as an antibiotic, analgesic, and antiseptic. The curcumin found in turmeric can help ward off bacterial infections, bringing a natural, antibiotic aspect to its repertoire of benefits. As an analgesic, turmeric contributes to pain relief, valuable for those seeking alternatives to synthetic painkillers. Its antiseptic capabilities are crucial in preventing infections and promoting healing, especially in the care of wounds and burns. These attributes make turmeric a powerful ally for health and wellbeing.

Boosts Immunity

Turmeric is also a natural antibiotic with potent antiviral and antibacterial properties. Its active compound, curcumin, has been studied for its immune-boosting benefits and potential to combat inflammation. Incorporating turmeric into your diet can be a great way to support your immune system and overall health.

Promotes Heart Health

Curcumin has demonstrated impressive benefits in enhancing the function of the endothelium – the delicate inner lining of blood vessels. This improvement is particularly significant for maintaining optimal heart health and promoting overall cardiovascular well-being.

Potential Cancer Prevention Properties

The anti-cancer potential of turmeric is anchored in its compound curcumin, which is thought to have anti-proliferative effects in various cancer cells. Research suggests that curcumin can influence cell signaling pathways, promoting apoptosis in cancerous cells while sparing normal cells. This selective cytotoxicity, combined with curcumin’s ability to inhibit angiogenesis—the process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels, often giving a tumor its nutrients to grow—positions turmeric as a substance of interest in cancer prevention and as an adjunct to conventional cancer treatments.

May Help Mitigate Alzheimer’s Disease

Curcumin has also shown promise in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may contribute to the reduction of amyloid plaques, which are hallmark indicators of Alzheimer’s pathology. Studies indicate that curcumin can help clear these plaques and potentially improve cognitive function. Suggesting a role for turmeric in supporting brain health and delaying or mitigating neurodegenerative diseases.

Mood Enhancement and Management of Depression

Investigations into the psychological effects of turmeric have uncovered that curcumin may help alleviate symptoms of depression. The compound is believed to boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). A type of growth hormone that functions in the brain. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to depression and other cognitive disorders. By increasing BDNF, curcumin could potentially reverse some of these effects, leading to improvements in mood and cognitive function. This makes turmeric an interesting area of study for its potential as a complementary treatment for mood disorders.

Incorporating Turmeric into Your Lifestyle

Incorporating turmeric into your daily regimen can be as simple as adding it to your meals. I love it in curries, soups, or even teas.

I use turmeric in the following ways:

  1. Peel and grate the fresh root and add it to my recipes.
  2. Mix turmeric powder with a bit of hot water and then add it to stews, soups, kitchari, etc.
  3. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of powdered turmeric to my morning cup of warm water with honey. I do this if feeling too Kapha (specially after a heavy meal the night before). Then, I follow with a moderate fast of a couple of hours before having breakfast.
  4. Turmeric can also be used topically in face masks. This is due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe skin conditions and enhance your natural glow. I love to mix it with soothing ingredients like rose water.
  5. Mixing it with aloe vera to pacify Pitta dosha and drinking this first thing in the morning.

You can also find turmeric supplements in capsule form or as an ingredient in other multivitamins and supplements. I personally prefer the root or powder as you can see, smell, and taste it. Thus making sure you consume it with all your senses for added healing potential.

A popular Ayurvedic tonic is my secret Bedtime Golden Milk Recipe. A warm beverage made with milk (or a dairy-free alternative) and turmeric to help you sleep like a baby. (Add this recipe to your daily Ayurvedic menus)

Enhancing the Absorption of Turmeric

It’s important to note that the absorption of curcumin is enhanced when taken with black pepper.

The reason turmeric should be taken with black pepper is due to the natural properties of black pepper that enhance the bioavailability of curcumin. Black pepper contains piperine, a compound that inhibits the metabolic breakdown of curcumin in the liver and intestines, allowing higher levels of curcumin to enter the bloodstream.

This symbiotic effect can significantly increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%. Without the presence of piperine, most of the curcumin passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. By simply adding a pinch of black pepper, you can vastly improve the efficacy of turmeric’s beneficial properties.

Frequently Asked Questions about Turmeric

Q: Can turmeric help with inflammation?

A: Yes, turmeric contains curcumin, a compound known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation associated with various conditions.

Q: How much turmeric should I take daily?

A: The recommended dosage of turmeric can vary, but for general health, a range of 500–2,000 mg of turmeric extract per day is frequently suggested. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Q: Are there any side effects of taking turmeric?

A: Turmeric is generally safe when taken in recommended doses. However, high doses or long-term use can cause digestive issues like gas, bloating, or an upset stomach. It’s best to start with smaller doses and increase gradually.

Q: Can I take turmeric if I’m on medication?

A: While turmeric is natural, it can interact with certain medications like blood thinners and diabetes medications. Always consult with a healthcare professional before adding turmeric to your routine if you’re on medication.

Q: Does cooking destroy the benefits of turmeric?

A: No, cooking does not destroy the benefits of turmeric. However, to maximize its benefits, it’s best used with black pepper and some fat to improve absorption.

Q: Is fresh turmeric better than powdered?

A: Both fresh and powdered turmeric have health benefits, but fresh turmeric may contain more active ingredients. However, powdered turmeric is more concentrated, has a longer shelf life, and is often more convenient to incorporate into the diet.

Q: Can children take turmeric supplements?

A: While turmeric in food is generally safe for children, supplements may not be suitable for young children unless supervised by a healthcare professional. It’s important to consider the dosage and potential need for such supplements in children.

  • Comment (3)
  • I love tumeric also. I am assuming that you would like curry then. If so, do you have a “Yellow Curry” recpie that you like and would reccommend?
    Thanks for all the great content in your newsletters as well as your site.

    Thomas

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Hi! I'm Monica

My life purpose is to help women achieve physical, mental, and emotional alignment, improve their digestion, balance their hormones, and feel more confident in their own skin.

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