Turmeric – The Most Effective Nutritional Supplement?
Turmeric is a delicious and aromatic spice – that may actually be one of the most effective supplements that there is!
You can often find turmeric in many foods including curry dishes, soups, stir fry, rendang and sate padang. However, it also has a wide variety of uses in folk and traditional medicine in the eastern part of the world — and increasingly, the western. Turmeric’s active ingredient is curcumin, which is what gives the spice its bright yellow color.
In studies and anecdotally, circumin has been shown to help relieve, among other things, pain and inflammation. Interest in turmeric in the United States is growing because of the mounting evidence that the orange powder is helpful in treating pulmonary issues, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and certain types of cancer.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is part of the ginger family and is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant. It’s native to the southeastern region of India and thrives with a considerable amount of rainfall. The flowering plant grows to be approximately three feet tall and is covered with yellow or orange cylinder-shaped aromatic rhizomes. In liquid form, it is often used as a topical treatment for burns and sores. The liquid form is also commonly used to reduce fevers. It’s becoming very popular as a dietary supplement in the United States and is often taken in pill form. The spice is actually made from the root, which looks a great deal like ginger root when it’s uncut.
Turmeric is most commonly seen in it’s powdered form, which is generally a deep yellow-orange color. It has a mustard-like smell and tastes both peppery and earthy with a slightly bitter edge. India is the primary source of most of the world’s turmeric, but it’s grown in other rainy areas in southeast Asia as well. Health benefits can be gained from turmeric as a supplement in powder or liquid form and as an addition to food and drinks.
With that said, lets dive into some of the uses & benefits of turmeric, shall we?
Turmeric Uses And Benefits
Turmeric can be used in helping to relieve injuries, as a supplement, and in cooking. Here are just a few of those benefits and uses that turmeric provides…
Culinary Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric can be added to many vegetable or chicken based soups. These soups are simple and usually contain shiitake mushrooms, garlic, onion, carrots, and kale in addition to the turmeric. It’s a quick and easy way to add more turmeric to an individual’s diet because as much as can be tolerated may be added. These soups also store well in the refrigerator or freezer.
Yellow curry is usually either Thai or Indian style. Both varieties have their own distinctive taste, but since they both contain turmeric, there are health benefits in both. Thai yellow curry tends to be thinner and uses more coconut milk. Indian yellow curry is thicker because it contains plain yogurt, which gives it a more sweet/tangy flavor. Almost anything can be cooked into a curry, but one of the most common meat additions is chicken or seafood. There are also many vegetarian and vegan versions to choose from.
This is a spicy meat dish that is from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia. However, it’s now commonly eaten all over the country and in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the southern parts of the Philippines and Thailand. The dish is made with a paste of spices that includes ginger, galangai, turmeric leaves, garlic, lemon grass and chilies. The meat is carmelized in the paste and takes on a dark color, rather than the yellowish color that is commonly seen in most dishes that use any type of turmeric. Rendag is a time-consuming dish to make, and is often cooked for special occasions such as weddings or the birth of a child. People enjoy this dish for its unique and complex taste.
4. Turmeric tea or smoothie
Yes, it is possible to drink turmeric in a tea or a smoothie, and it tastes pretty good! This drink is made with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, fresh ginger, turmeric, water, honey and any type of milk substitute. Coconut or almond milk are good choices. The spices are simmered in water for about 10 minutes and strained, then milk and honey are added. It can be drunk hot as a tea or blended with ice for a smoothie.
5. Sate padang
This a dish from Padang, West Sumatra in Indonesia. It is made from diced beef with a spicy sauce made from turmeric, rice flour, ginger,coriander, galangal root, cumin, curry powder and salt. In some regions it’s also made with chicken and lamb. It is grilled on skewers and served topped with the sauce.
Turmeric As Medicine
1. Antiseptic and antibacterial properties
A paste made of turmeric is commonly used in eastern medicine to treat various skin conditions. In addition, it’s used to treat open wounds and does have antiseptic properties that ward off infection.
2. Liver detoxification
Curcumin, the substance that gives turmeric its bright yellow color is also a powerful phytochemical that stimulates production of bile by the gallbladder. In turn, the liver uses the extra bile to eliminate toxins and rejuvenate liver cells. Chinese medicine has used turmeric for centuries to treat liver and digestion issues.
3. Alzheimer’s disease
Duke University reviewed 50 studies about the benefits of turmeric on patient’s with Alzheimer’s disease and found that turmeric extracts contain numerous natural agents that help block the formation of beta-amyloid, which is the substance that creates the plaques that obstruct cerebral function.
Turmeric helps soothe inflammation by turning off the the NF-kappa B protein that, when it’s secreting in correct amounts, regulates the immune system. When the protein is over produced, it triggers the inflammation process. When combined with ginger, turmeric can also help reduce inflammation in the intestines.
5. Multiple sclerosis
There is no clear understanding about a cause or a cure for MS, but researchers do know it’s an auto-immune disease that causes the immune system to attack the protective myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers in the spine and brain. This, in turn, causes the patient issues with muscle weakness, balance stiffness, numbness and vision issues.
Early studies using mice are suggesting that curcumin may block the progression of MS. The mice were bred to develop an MS-like disease. The mice who were injected with curcumin showed little or no signs of MS. The mice that went without the injections went on to develop paralysis.
Turmeric is a common pain killer in Chinese medicine and has been used for this purpose for centuries. Curcumin acts as a powerful pain reliever, and it lacks all the nasty side effects that are seen in pharmaceuticals that are usually used to treat chronic pain in the west.
7. Weight management
Again, the fact that curcumin increases bile production is a plus. Only in this case, it helps to break down fat. Studies with mice have shown that turmeric is a fat suppressant. Just a teaspoon of turmeric before meals can aid digestion and help break down fats. It also helps fight insulin resistance and aids in controlling sugar levels, which combined with the weight loss, lowers the chances of developing diabetes.
Some research has shown that turmeric enhances nerve growth in the frontal cortex and hippocampal parts of the brain. It appears that it works best as a mood enhancer in pill form when combined with black pepper. It has even been shown in studies to be as effective as prozac.
Its that curcumin again! The anti-inflammatory properties are great for relieving the joint pain that comes with arthritis. In some cases, turmeric did a better job of alleviating arthritis pain than the NASAID drug Valtaren. In addition, turmeric doesn’t cause ulcers and heart problems that are common with prolonged NASAID use.
10. Flu prevention
A mixture of ginger, turmeric, and red pepper can help fight the flu. All the ingredients are powerful anti-oxidants and help the body’s immune system fight colds, flu and diseases. This mixture can be made as a tea and sweetened with honey or it can be taken in supplement form.
Turmeric is well known and often used in Chinese medicine. It has the ability to aid in digestion, raise the mood, detox the liver, soothe pain and reduce inflammation. It’s becoming more readily available in the United States in both root and supplement form. In fact, even club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are stocking it in their vitamin section. It is a useful and multi-purpose spice that tastes good and promotes better health. However, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid turmeric as should those who are prone to gallstones.
If you want to include more turmeric in your diet to get the best effects, you will want to use a turmeric supplement to get the maximum amount of circumin (the active ingredient that gives you most of the health benefits of turmeric). Just make sure that it includes bioperine / black pepper extract so that your body can absorb it properly, as circumin is not the easiest thing for our body to digest.
And of course, if you plan on trying a turmeric supplement, make sure to speak to your physician first.
Have you had success with turmeric supplementation? Did I miss anything in this article? Let me know!