Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant in the ginger family that is native to South Asia. It has an impressively long history of medical use. In fact, its use in Eastern countries dates back over 4,000 years. Fortunately, its healing properties (and deliciousness in curry) are finally gaining the attention they deserve here in the West. Currently, there are over 10,000 peer reviewed scientific articles that have been published about the many benefits of this potent plant. So what exactly is it that makes turmeric so special?
Fact #1 Curcumin gives turmeric its anti-inflammatory properties.
The active substance in turmeric is called curcumin. One of its most powerful aspects is its ability to control inflammation, which is believed to be a factor in most, if not all, chronic diseases including cancer, arthritis and chronic pain. One journal, Oncogene, even published a study that compared several different anti-inflammatory compounds. The results demonstrated that curcumin was one the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world, while the common painkillers aspirin and ibuprofen were among the least effective. Best of all, curcumin reduces inflammation naturally, so there are no toxic side effects, such as ulcer formation.
Fact #2 Turmeric supports liver detoxification.
Every day your body is exposed to dietary and environmental toxins. These chemical substances are often associated with inflammation and even cancer. Fortunately, turmeric aids in detoxifying your body. Studies show that curcumin aids the liver as it removes toxins to purify your body. It also alleviates some of the effects of dangerous carcinogens.
Fact #3 Turmeric can reduce depression symptoms.
Studies have even shown that turmeric reduces depression symptoms. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research reported that in one trial, turmeric alleviated depression symptoms as well as Prozac! Another plus in the study was that all of the patients tolerated turmeric well, with no serious side effects.
Fact #4 Turmeric can help with blood sugar levels.
In one randomized, placebo-controlled study, pre-diabetics (people with high blood sugar) were given either a curcumin extract or a placebo for nine months. The result of the study? None of the people who were given curcumin developed Type 2 diabetes, while 16% of the placebo group did. In addition, other studies have shown that curcumin is extremely effective at activating the enzyme AMPK. This is significant because scientists believe that learning how to activate the AMPK enzyme could mean discovering effective ways to reduce insulin resistance and even reverse diabetes.
Fact #5 Turmeric can clean out your arteries.
Turmeric has been proven to prevent the buildup of "bad" cholesterol and plaque in your arteries, giving you better chances of avoiding blocked arteries, heart attacks and strokes. In addition, turmeric has been found to reduce the chance of heart failure and may even prevent abnormal heart rhythms.
How to Add Turmeric to Your Diet
These are just a few of the dozens of amazing health benefits turmeric has been proven to offer. So how can you incorporate this powerful plant into your diet? Turmeric can be found in powder form in the spice aisle at just about any grocery store. It can also be bought in root form and grated, just like you would with ginger. So season away! Try turmeric in soups, teas and smoothies. Sprinkle it on roasted veggies or potatoes or eggs. There are plenty of ways to use turmeric, so get creative.
You can also purchase a turmeric supplement if you want a more potent dose of curcumin. Call my office to find out more about the high quality turmeric supplements we recommend and offer to our clients.
Potential Side Effects
As with all natural remedies, herbs and supplements, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor or naturopath before adding turmeric to your daily regimen. Excessive doses of turmeric have been reported to cause nausea, diarrhea and increased risk of bleeding, so you'll want to make sure you are taking the proper dose. Feel free to get in touch with me with any questions you may have about taking a turmeric supplement.
Food as Medicine
The book Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects had this to say in a chapter about turmeric, "Although many synthetic drugs are produced through combinatorial chemistry, plant-based drugs are more suitable, at least in biochemical terms, for human use." There is much truth to that statement. While synthetic drugs do have beneficial effects, they often come with a variety of undesirable side-effects that can significantly impact quality of life. Clearly, turmeric has been proven to alleviate a number of medical issues naturally, with no harmful side effects. Let's let plants, natural foods be our medicine whenever possible.