Turmeric: A Superfood which may help fight Inflammation
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) (/ˈtɜːrmərɪk/)
There’s a lot of talk these days about the benefits of the “superfood” turmeric, which is actually an herbal root long-used in Ayurvedic medicine and all types of Indian and Middle Eastern curry-based cooking. It is a seasonal flowering plant, native to India, and is primarily known for its vibrant, mustard-yellow root and warm peppery flavor. Turmeric was originally used as a dye – and anyone who has ever used it knows its potent color (so wear gloves and don’t use your favorite wooden board when cutting!).
Turmeric later became popular in traditional medicine due to its perceived healing properties. In India--where it’s a staple in the kitchen--everyone (from new mothers to grandmothers to traditional medicine practitioners) liberally uses it for a wide range of healing purposes, including:
- to support a healthy inflammatory response
- to treat infections (it has antimicrobial and antifungal properties)
- to nourish healthy joints and reduce arthritis symptoms
- to relieve occasional nasal and throat congestion
- to maintain healthy flora in the digestive system
- to support blood flow and the cardiovascular system
Like ginger, the root is peeled, cut and grated to add its characteristic spicy essence to curries, teas, and even nut milk. However, unlike ginger, using turmeric in large quantities and over long periods of time, may not even be health and may even have negative side-effects. Turmeric, with its attractive color, organic properties and curative reputation, is definitely a spice that is trending –but is it really effective and safe to use?
To date, there have been few formal, clinical trials which have come to positive conclusions on its actual effects. Turmeric, and its main ingredient curcumin, has been associated with aiding with:
- heartburn (dyspepsia), bypass surgery
- joint pain,
- stomach pain,
- Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite
- hemorrhage, jaundice, liver problems,
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),
- gallbladder disorders, high cholesterol,
- a skin condition called lichen planus,
- skin inflammation from radiation treatment
Yellow light for Turmeric
The American Arthritis Foundation warns that “high doses of turmeric can act as a blood thinner and may cause stomach upset.” So, if you take blood thinners, are about to have surgery, are pregnant or have gallbladder disease, you should never consume without checking with your doctor.
For most people, it is generally safe to use turmeric as an additive to food and drinks. Add it to any curry dish for an added zing of yellow, or to pumpkin or tomato soups and other dishes where the color won’t drastically change. Turmeric is fat-soluble, so it’s best taken with fat-containing ingredients. And should always be consumed with a bit of “warming” spice like black pepper or ginger.
It has been shown to increase a person’s antioxidant and immunity capacity and may even help fight free-radical damage. This is especially beneficial for the immune system and brain function. Turmeric might also be supportive in building up the body’s natural defense system by boosting the body’s ability to fight germs and infection.
Drinking a Golden Milk (basically dairy-free milk, turmeric, ginger, pepper and honey) not only has a warm mustard color, it can warm your insides with healing Ayurveda goodness. Add a teaspoon to your favorite salad dressing, green juice or smoothie for an antioxidant boost.
Although there is little scientific data to support therapeutic claims, traditional medicine practitioners, people who boast organic, “green living,” and fans of Ayurveda maintain that it is beneficial to a healthy lifestyle. There are even some medical professionals who support using it in combination with other therapies to prevent (not cure!) some ailments. Whatever camp you might fall in, golden turmeric can certainly add spice to your life--Namaste!