History and Background of Turmeric
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a bright yellow plant closely related to ginger and is grown throughout India, additional parts of Asia, and Central America.
A highly effective nutritious superfood, turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin, which provides several health benefits. It serves as a potent anti-inflammatory, as well as a strong antioxidant.
If you’ve ever wondered where curry gets its dynamic color, look no further than ground turmeric. It is the major ingredient that gives curry powder its bright yellow color.
Turmeric itself adds warming flavor and color to stews, curries, sauces, and rice dishes. It can be added to teas and smoothies as well.
Often referred to as the golden spice or Indian saffron, turmeric comes in various forms, including fresh root, ground, powders, extracts, and various supplements.
A popular way to consume it, however, is by drinking it in a tea. Turmeric tea benefits are numerous, and you can easily make it yourself. Try the following recipe:
- Bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil.
- Add in 2 teaspoons of turmeric, either ground, powdered, or grated. Stir.
- Let the mixture simmer for up to 10 minutes.
- Strain tea into a separate container.
You can drink this as is or add honey or lemon juice for taste.
Another important point to note about turmeric is that its curcumin is not efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream but can be helped by adding black pepper. Piperine, found in black pepper, is a natural substance that can enhance the curcumin’s absorption rate by up to 2,000 percent.
The Origin of Turmeric
Turmeric has a long history, being used in ancient medicine dating back over 4,000 years.
The first traces of it were found in ancient pots in India. Still to this day, India is the largest producer of the plant and spice.
For centuries, India has used it in its ancient medical system known as Ayurvedic medicine. Originally used to treat breathing problems, Ayurvedic medicine has used it for pain, fatigue, and various health issues.
It is still being used today to treat and prevent illness in the East. It has also now become the focus of numerous medical studies and articles in the West.
Below are several health benefits identified during these studies, as well as a few side effects. Knowing these can help you determine if and how much you should consider adding to your own diet.
Turmeric Health Benefits
Several high-quality studies have been conducted and show that turmeric has a host of health benefits for the body and the brain itself.
Here are 7 of those top health benefits of this nutritious superfood.
1. Turmeric Contains a Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a potent anti-inflammatory. It helps the body maintain its healthy inflammation response and helps combat chronic inflammation.
While inflammation is an essential part of the body’s defense mechanism and plays an important role in damage repair in the body, it is only valuable in the short-term. Once it builds-up and becomes chronic, it can become a problem, attacking your body’s own tissues.
Today, particularly in the West, the typical diet has been cited as one of the causes of this chronic inflammation in the body. Studies continue to show that this inflammation can lead to several dangerous health conditions and diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
The curcumin in turmeric effectively brings down the inflammation level in the body, helping to avoid many of the health disorders associated with it.
2. Turmeric Provides Antioxidants and Boosts Immunity
Turmeric provides powerful antioxidant properties that combat excessive free radicals in the body. This, in turn, bolsters our immune systems.
Free radicals in the body can wreak havoc, leading to numerous diseases, including cancer. They are menacing molecules that the body produces when breaking down food. They also come from other factors, such as tobacco smoke and radiation.
Antioxidants, such as those found in this superfood, protect the body’s cells against the damages caused by these free radicals.
Although a balance of antioxidants and free radicals are most beneficial to the body, when there are higher levels of these free radicals, the body experiences oxidative stress. If prolonged, it could result in illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
3. Turmeric Promotes Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death across the globe. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in heart disease. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that can help prevent the inflammation that leads to heart disease and prevent heart attacks.
Studies have found that perhaps the top benefit of the curcumin in turmeric when it comes to the heart is that it improves the endothelial function, which is the lining of blood vessels. Dysfunction of the endothelial is a major cause of heart disease. This dysfunction affects blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, and other factors as well.
Overall, this superfood benefits the cardiovascular system. It may even help reverse the different steps leading up to heart disease.
4. Turmeric Prevents and Treats Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the number one neurodegenerative disorder in the world. It is also a leading cause of dementia.
Chronic inflammation and what is called oxidative damage play roles in the formation of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric can positively affect both with its powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Another factor leading to Alzheimer’s disease is a congregation of amyloid plaques, referred to as protein tangles. Studies are showing that curcumin can help clear away this plaque.
Recent studies are also showing that the curcumin in turmeric can cross what’s called the blood-brain barrier. This leads to various improvements in Alzheimer’s disease’s pathological process.
5. Turmeric Prevents and Treats Arthritis
The anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric effectively prevent and treat the various types of arthritis found in the body. Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by chronic inflammation and swelling in the joints.
In one particular study, turmeric, with its curcumin, came out as being more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug. It eases inflammation, joint pain, and stiffness as well as, if not better than, these drugs.
It is best used as a preventive measure to maintain healthy joints to remain mobile and pain-free. Thus, the best time to consume consistent doses of it is before the arthritis symptoms occur.
However, with that being said, additional studies have shown that it can help treat diagnosed osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, as well.
One way to add this superfood to your diet and help with the swelling and inflammation of arthritis is to drink turmeric tea
6. Turmeric Eases Depression
In certain studies, turmeric has been found to ease depression and be as effective as prescribed antidepressant medications.
Depression itself is linked to a reduction in levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as well as a shrinking hippocampus in the brain (where learning and memory take place).
Turmeric is credited with boosting that brain builder protein, BDNF, which can lead to a reversal of both.
It also provides boosts to both serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters in the brain, which make us feel happy.
While it helps prevent depression, additional benefits have been found for treating those already diagnosed with depression.
7. Turmeric Maintains Blood Sugar Levels
With its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can help steady blood sugar levels and keep them there. Therefore, it can prove useful in preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes.
In both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, this superfood has long been used to treat diabetes. Studies show that the curcumin in it can help stabilize glucose levels in the blood and help with diabetes-related complications.
However, it’s important to note that turmeric’s side effects include the fact that it leads to a decrease in blood sugar for people with diabetes, which may make it too low for their particular condition. Those with diabetes need to be aware of this and be cautious about how much they use.
Studies continue to find additional health benefits of turmeric. Among these are:
- fighting off viruses, such as flu and herpes (the numerous turmeric tea benefits are especially reaped here)
- easing PMS symptoms
- supporting healthy cholesterol
- improving Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- relieving headaches
- aiding digestion
- preventing cancer
- clearing acne
- alleviating stress
All-in-all, it is the overall anti-inflammatory properties and the antioxidant properties that lead to many of the health benefits mentioned here.
Turmeric Side Effects and Detriments
If you decide to add more of this nutritious superfood to your diet, outside of occasionally cooking with it, the recommended daily dosage is between 500-2,000 mg.
If taken in higher doses, however, turmeric can cause an upset stomach. This is because it stimulates the production of more gastric acid in the stomach. Larger doses can also lead to diarrhea and dizziness.
Although this superfood’s side effects and detriments are rather rare, there are a few important ones you should be aware of, including these top four.
1. Turmeric May Harm Pregnant Women
Turmeric can have adverse effects on pregnant women by stimulating the uterus. It may also cause a menstrual period.
While curry is often promoted to stimulate labor, this is not something you want early on in a pregnancy.
Pregnant women should also avoid turmeric because of its blood-thinning effects.
2. Turmeric Slows Blood Clotting
Turmeric is considered a natural blood thinner, thus slowing the body’s blood clotting efforts.
Avoid turmeric tea and other forms of the superfood at least two weeks before any surgery.
Also, be careful of drug interactions with other blood-thinning medications, including warfarin, Plavix, ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.
Anyone with bleeding disorders needs to steer clear of it as well.
3. Turmeric May Worsen Gallbladder Problems
If you have a bile duct obstruction or gallstones, it is recommended you avoid turmeric.
Regular consumption of it has been found to cause the gallbladder to contract, making current gallbladder problems worsen.
4. Turmeric May Inhibit Iron Absorption
Those who have an iron deficiency, such as anemia, are recommended not to consume excess turmeric amounts. Studies have shown that it may decrease the ability of the body to absorb iron.
Additional negative health issues may include allergies to turmeric and adverse reactions to other prescriptions. Be sure to review all medications’ effects and discuss them with your health care provider if uncertain whether they will react negatively with what you are currently taking.
There is no doubt about it. Turmeric has the trifecta of great taste, beautiful color, and outstanding health benefits.
When it comes to health, turmeric’s secret lies in its super ingredient, curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Studies show that turmeric is a highly effective superfood charged with health benefits, including preventing and treating heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and depression.
Ongoing studies show even more promise in the way of health benefits, such as fighting viral infections, aiding digestion, and preventing cancer.
Fortunately for us, this superfood comes in several forms, including fresh root, grounded, powder, and even supplements, to make adding it to our bodies even easier and on a more consistent basis.
Turmeric tea benefits are numerous and often cited as remedies for viral infections and beneficial to other conditions.
An important thing to remember is that adding black pepper or piperine aids in the body’s absorption ability by up to 2,000 percent.
As with all spices and supplements, some need to steer clear of large quantities of turmeric, including pregnant women, those who take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, as well as those with gallbladder problems iron deficiencies.
Taken in moderation, either in cooking, supplements, or such aids as turmeric tea, this superfood can help you maintain good health, as well as recharge it.