So many of us take our spices for granted. Why would you think twice about them anyway, unless you are a professional chef or a manufacturer of spices? There are a number of reasons. One is that your spices can make a world of difference to the flavor of your food. But more importantly because the answer to a host of health problems lies right in your kitchen – on your spice rack. Incredible but true. We can see a great example of the health benefits of spices by taking a closer look at turmeric health benefits. This one spice does more for your body than a month’s supply of supplements or medication. And research is beginning to show that turmeric may prevent or even possibly cure several major diseases, something that modern medicine has not yet been able to do. But before we make an in-depth study into turmeric health benefits, let’s take a brief look at what turmeric is and what some of its predominant uses are.
What Exactly Is Turmeric?
When you think of turmeric, what comes to mind is a yellow powder. A few folks who have done a little more research may connect turmeric to a yellow root of some sort. Both these ideas would be right.
Turmeric is related to the ginger family. The turmeric plant is known as Curcuma longa L., and like ginger, the part of the plant that we derive turmeric from is actually the rhizome of the Curcuma longa L.. The rhizome is an underground stem that grows horizontally; the roots and above-ground stems of the plant grow from little nodes of the rhizome. Again like ginger, turmeric is considered a super-food because of all the amazing health benefits you can get from it. But its taste – bitter and pungent – is nothing like ginger.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. An active ingredient is the component in food which will cause a reaction in the body when you eat it. Most of the turmeric health benefits experienced by people are the direct result of curcumin. Turmeric is also quite high in iron, carotene, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and thiamine.
The yellow spice has long been an integral part of Asian cuisine not just as a spice but as a food coloring as well. In fact, turmeric is used to add color to cheese, butter, mustard, jellies, and beverages. Turmeric features prominently in Indian and Thai curries, and in several Indonesian and Indian dishes. No surprise there since turmeric grows primarily in India. Turmeric is known as the poor man’s saffron since it is much cheaper than saffron but offers the same kind of food coloring.
To make turmeric powder, the root is boiled for many hours, then dried and put through a grinding process until it is the fine powder you see in stores. Turmeric is mainly used in this form by the average person. Turmeric may also be used fresh, plus it is available as oil, a tincture, and in capsule form.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Alternative medicinal systems such as Ayurveda and naturopathy have long known of the health benefits of turmeric. In India, turmeric has been widely favored for its medicinal properties for over 2500 years. The modern world is still uncovering the health benefits of turmeric that ancient cultures already knew of. Here are some of the turmeric health benefits that you can reap by adding this spice to your diet on a regular basis.
Detoxifies the Body
This turmeric health benefit was discovered by Ayurvedic doctors thousands of years ago. Taking turmeric daily in small doses is supposed to be good for overall health as it cleans out your system and keeps your organs in top form.
Acts as a Digestive Aid
Ayurveda has long used turmeric to ease digestive problems. One of the turmeric health benefits is that it stimulates the production of bile which in turn helps to break down the food you have eaten, especially fatty foods so this may help you lose weight as well. Turmeric can also help if you have an irritable bowel or problems with flatulence. Recent research has brought to light the fact that turmeric may be more effective at treating Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis than pharmaceutical drugs. You can even get rid of intestinal worms with turmeric. And here’s the best part – you do not have to take turmeric in very large quantities to gain these turmeric health benefits. The small quantities that you would use as ingredients in your food are more than enough.
Great for Cuts and Wounds
One of the turmeric health benefits is that it is a natural antiseptic. It is also a very effective antibacterial agent. So if you have a minor cut or get burned, reach for turmeric instead of iodine. The turmeric will disinfect the wound and prevent the injured area from getting infected. You may notice that your wound heals faster if you use turmeric as compared to iodine or just leaving the wound untreated.
Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
Turmeric can help to prevent arthritis and reduce arthritic pain. Although no one is quite sure how turmeric helps with inflammation, it is believed that it lowers histamine levels thus reducing inflammation. Another theory is that turmeric may encourage the adrenal glands to produce higher levels of a hormone that can ease inflammation. Whatever the reasons, patients of arthritis or those suffering from inflammation due to other disorders have reported a marked improvement after taking turmeric. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can also help to reduce the intensity of asthma related symptoms and other respiratory problems.
Good For Skin
Turmeric is great for your skin not only when ingested but also when applied as a paste directly on to the skin. It helps to shrink pores, dries up pimples, absorbs excess oil, and gives your skin a glow. Turmeric is suitable for normal, dry and oily skin. However, very fair people should take care to not leave the turmeric on their skin for too long as it can leave a yellow tint that does not easily wash away.
Protects The Heart
One of the turmeric health benefits is that it prevents clots from forming in the blood. This facilitates effective circulation, which in turn reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke. Turmeric also has high levels of vitamin B6, which prevents homocysteine levels from getting too high. When homocysteine levels get too high, it damages blood vessels and allows plaque to build up in the arteries, both of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Turmeric can also reduce cholesterol – another risk factor for heart problems.
Also Protects The Liver
Both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine have recommended turmeric therapy for a damaged liver or jaundice. Contemporary research has proven that turmeric does indeed protect the liver from certain toxins. Whether or not it can reverse liver damage is not known.
May Cure Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a rare but fatal disease where the lungs get covered in a thick layer of mucous which leads to infections that are potentially life-threatening. The mucous can also harm the pancreas, thus preventing the organ from aiding in the digestive process. Cystic fibrosis is actually a genetic mutation. One of the health benefits of turmeric is that it corrects the problem with the genes and practically reverses this health problem.
You probably already know how important antioxidants are. For those who don’t, antioxidants are compounds in food that help to fight disease by destroying free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that become unstable and wreak havoc as they travel through the body. Free radicals are what cause cancer, and also premature aging. However, if free radicals are kept in check with the right foods, you can quite literally reverse the aging process and protect your cells from damage. Advertisers of tea and coffee are trying to entice buyers by claiming that their products have antioxidants. But you’d have to drink a LOT of tea and coffee to reap the benefits of the antioxidants in them. Turmeric is one of those super-foods that have potent levels of antioxidants. Even small but regular doses of the spice can do wonders.
May Cure Major Diseases
The most promising breakthrough in turmeric health benefits is its ability to prevent cancer. This is a very recent discovery and a very encouraging one. Turmeric has proven effective against prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, blood cancer, and colon cancer. And for those who already have cancer, turmeric can still help. This super-food can actually stop the cancer from growing and spreading into other organs or parts of the body. Like ginger and garlic, turmeric causes cancer cells to commit suicide. Hopefully, the future of cancer treatment will see more of such natural remedies and less of the ludicrously expensive and poisonous chemotherapy and radiation treatments that are the norm today.
Apart from cancer, another disease that can be fought with turmeric is Alzheimer’s. Here again the research is relatively new. But it is though that turmeric can slow down the deterioration of the brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients by removing the buildup of amyloyd plaque in the brain. The hope is that taking turmeric can prevent the plaque buildup from occurring in the first place, thus perhaps preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Take Advantage of Turmeric Health Benefits
If you have never added turmeric to your food before you might find it daunting to do so now. But be assured that the effort will be worth it. After all, the health benefits of this wondrous spice can protect you from cancer and Alzheimer’s. What’s a little trouble in the kitchen compared to that? Here are a few simple ways in which you can start gaining the health benefits of turmeric.
- Obviously, the best way to get some turmeric into your diet is to include the spice as an ingredient in your regular meals. This is not as difficult as you might think. There are several thousands of recipes that have turmeric powder as a vital ingredient. So get experimental in the kitchen until you find a few dishes that use turmeric and which you and your family like the taste of. Indian dals are easy to make and most recipes call for the use of turmeric. The same goes for Indian curries, although these are for the slightly more advanced chefs.
- But if you do not want to include turmeric in your main meal, there are many options for side dishes. For example, you can sprinkle some turmeric over deviled eggs or perhaps stir fry some veggies with a dash of turmeric. You can also get turmeric health benefits by adding this spice to your salads.
- You can derive turmeric health benefits by making a tea out of the spice. Simply boil about four cups of water with a spoonful of turmeric for about ten to fifteen minutes. Strain and drink. The flavor of this tea is bitter and spicy, so add some ginger to balance out the flavor and some honey to sweeten. There are also turmeric tea bags available if you do not want to take the trouble to make your tea from scratch.
- You can even make a very tasty glass of turmeric milk to drink every day. Simple add half a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of warm milk – skimmed or whole. Add honey or sugar to sweeten.
- You may just not have the time to get the turmeric you need from your diet. Or maybe you just cannot get used to the taste. Does this mean that you will have to sacrifice the obvious turmeric health benefits? Not at all. There are now turmeric capsules available. If you do not find it at a store near you, you can even make your own turmeric capsules. Simply buy the capsule shells from any health food store and fill them up with turmeric.