Fact: Not every health problem needs costly medical attention
From common kitchen spices to everyday veggies and fruits, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of common plants that provide all sorts of important medicinal and health benefits that may surprise you.
One often overlooked way to improve your health with organically grown food is using spices and herbs. Most herbs and spices have potent medicinal properties – this is the main reason they have been used for thousands of years to promote healing.
One such spice is turmeric, the ginger-like herb that is very common in Indian cuisine. Turmeric contains ‘curcumin’, a plant compound that exhibits more than 150 potentially medicinal properties, including acting as an anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent.
4 Astonishing Turmeric Health Benefits
What is Turmeric?
Known as the ‘golden spice of life’, Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an orange-yellow rhizome of the Ginger family. It is widely cultivated in India for its medicinal properties. Turmeric is usually sold in most grocery stores in yellow-orange powder form, or in specialty markets as a whole root. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years as a potent detoxification herb.
The turmeric plant is a tall herb, about 60 to 90cm high, with short stems and large, oblong leaves. The flower of turmeric blooms on a spike. The flower is yellow-white in color.
Turmeric can be recognized by its unique tuberous root and large, long leaves that stick upward from the thick stems. The parts of this plant that are used are the tubers and rhizome. The rhizome is the underground stem and the roots. The flesh of turmeric rhizome is hard and orange-yellow in color.
History of Turmeric Use
The earliest record about turmeric use can be seen in Atharvaveda, a sacred text of Hinduism 6000 years ago, in which turmeric is used as a remedy for jaundice and leprosy. Turmeric is known as one of the oldest spices used in India since ages – the reason why it is thought that this spice belongs to India and has been referred as ‘Indian saffron’. Turmeric has been heavily used in many Hindu rituals and ceremonies, as it is associated with fertility, prosperity and purity.
Initially, the plant was cultivated as a dye and for beautification purposes until it was eventually used as medicine. From India, turmeric reached China (700 AD), then to East Africa (800 AD) and later on to West Africa (1200 AD) until it became popular all over the world.
Why is Turmeric Use Beneficial to Your Health?
Turmeric Health Benefit #1: Helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels
Alternative medicine systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, value turmeric for the plant’s innate medicinal benefits. Researchers have expressed their interest in the blood sugar-lowering action of turmeric and one of its unique components – curcumin.
Studies have found that ‘curcumin’, the key compound found in turmeric, demonstrated some anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects in the lab. In addition, several animal studies revealed that curcumin might even delay the development of diabetes in animals by improving the role of pancreatic beta cells – the cells that produce insulin, and reducing insulin resistance.
Prediabetes is a state in which the amount of sugar in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be categorized as diabetes. If you are diagnosed with Prediabetes, also referred to as impaired fasting glucose, you’re more likely to develop heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke.
Promising research in Thailand revealed dramatic evidence that supports curcumin’s ability to halt diabetes. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 237 prediabetic patients, all qualified by the American Diabetic Association’s criteria for Prediabetes.
At the end of the nine-month trial, 16% of the participants who received a placebo developed diabetes. Among those who received the curcumin supplement, no cases of diabetes were reported. In addition, the study found that the curcumin-supplemented group had decreased their insulin resistance and significantly improved their pancreatic beta cell function.
Many research supports turmeric and curcumin’s action against oxidative damage and inflammation – the two culprits behind the development of most chronic diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes.
In the case of diabetes mellitus, turmeric’s active component curcumin helps normalize triglyceride and insulin levels while revving up antioxidant defenses.
Keeping insulin and triglyceride levels low reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndromes such as diabetes. Research at Columbia University Medical Center revealed that treating diabetic mice with turmeric reduced their blood sugar levels and oxidative stress.
Such research only proves how simple dietary changes can have a tremendous impact on health.
Turmeric Health Benefit #2: Helps in Weight/Fat Loss
Revered in India as ‘holy powder’, this marigold-colored spice has been used for centuries to treat infections, wounds, and other health problems. Now, we can add weight loss to its long list of health benefits. Recent research has found that lab rats that were given curcumin experienced a significant reduction of fat tissue formation as well as the blood vessels feeding it.
For fat tissues to grow and expand, there needs to be new blood vessels (this process is called angiogenesis). The active compound curcumin attaches to the fat cells, encouraging them to contract and shrink by suppressing the new blood vessels needed to form fat tissue. Consumption of fatty foods alone doesn’t make you fat, but a combination of fat cells that grow and expand do. Curcumin helps inhibit the formation of fat tissues, which in turn, makes it difficult to gain weight.
Another beneficial effect of turmeric is that it increases your metabolism due to its thermogenic effect. Simply put, when there’s metabolic activity, heat is produced, and such heat can speed up cellular action. This thermic effect can even burn 350 calories a day!
Turmeric Health Benefit #3: Promotes Healthy Detoxification
Giving your body liver-supporting herbs is a good way to detoxify your liver. Turmeric is a powerful spice with a liver-cleansing health effect.
In recent animal study done to determine the effect of turmeric on the liver, it was been found that two significant liver detox enzymes increased following the administration of turmeric as compared to the control. In this study, results show that turmeric may enhance the body’s detoxification systems aside from its antioxidant properties.
Curcumin, the active component of turmeric that gives the compound its yellow tinge, has an interesting detox effect in the body. It helps recycle glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by our body as well as stimulate Phase II liver detox. This effect can be very beneficial in preventing specific types of cancer.
Turmeric Health Benefit #4: Natural Remedy for Inflammation
The volatile oil of turmeric, which is primarily sesquiterpene, has been found to have significant anti-inflammatory effect. Even more powerful than the volatile oil is the yellow compound of turmeric, curcumin, which is revealed to be comparable to the potent drugs phenylbutazone and hydrocortisone. Unlike these drugs, which may have toxic effects, curcumin causes no toxicity.
For instance, curcumin has been studied in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In an animal study, a rat was given an inflammatory agent that induced colitis. Prior to that, the rat maintained a curcumin-rich diet for five days. And the result?
Interestingly, the rat that received curcumin not only lost weight but also improved their intestinal cell function. All the symptoms and signs of colitis were reduced as well.
The powerful antioxidant effect of curcumin has been shown to be beneficial for arthritis. Curcumin can help neutralize free radicals, the harmful chemical that circulates throughout the body, causing a great deal of damage to healthy cells. Free radicals are responsible for the inflammation of joints and their eventual damage. Today, more and more people with arthritis find relief after using this spice on a regular basis.
How Can You Use Turmeric?
There are plenty of ways to use turmeric.
Turmeric powder is best mixed with food that has some fat content, such as milk. The fats in foods are useful for making the active component curcumin available for use by the body. Curcumin is fat-soluble so it easily dissolves in coconut milk or cow’s milk, especially when warm. Turmeric has a very unusual, dominating taste when taken in its raw form, so it helps to take it with milk, water or food.
Marinate your meat to cut down carcinogens. Researchers from Kansas State University found out that adding turmeric to meat can reduce the levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by up to 40 percent. HCAs form on chicken and meat when cooked over high heat, like in grilling. Consumption of HCAs is linked to higher rates of cancer.
- Stir 2 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp turmeric powder into 1/2 cup water.
- Brush over steaks, and marinate overnight in refrigerator.
To further enhance turmeric’s detoxification effect, combine Brassica vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, kale) and turmeric when cooking. Brassica vegetables are also known to support liver detox and contain loads of antioxidants.
Another way to use turmeric is by making turmeric tea. Brew the tea to help alleviate joint pains. To make a turmeric tea:
- Simply add ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder to a cup of hot water.
- Stir and allow it to steep for 2 minutes.
- Add a pinch of ground black pepper.
- You can add honey and lemon juice to enhance the taste and the potential health benefits of turmeric.
Choosing the Best Turmeric Powder
One of the best benefits of turmeric is that it is relatively low in calories, but rich in essential nutrients. Since it is nutrient-dense, it enhances your overall well-being with antioxidants more powerful than fruits and vegetables.
However, not all turmeric are made equal. It is so important to be selective. If the spice or herb is already processed and not organically grown, you could be missing out on its most potent active components.
Have you used turmeric powder? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts, experiences and suggestions with us.