A relative of ginger, turmeric is the spice that gives curries their vivid golden hue, and familiar yellow mustard its bright color. For thousands of years, people in India have considered turmeric a healing herb, which is one reason so many turmeric recipes come from that part of the world. And in fact there’s a lot of research that shows that turmeric does in fact have many beneficial effects on the body.
Adding some turmeric recipes to your repertoire can help your health in many different ways. By stimulating production of bile, turmeric helps the body digest fats. The spice, which is actually a rhizome that’s ground into a deep yellow-orange powder, also has liver-protective properties. Studies show that turmeric protects the stomach, as well, helping to prevent ulcers. Multiple studies show that curcumin—the compound in turmeric that gives the spice its flavor and intense hue—works as an anti-inflammatory agent, with the ability to help ease symptoms of arthritis.
And several studies now indicate that by lowering cholesterol and preventing blood clots, turmeric may also help prevent heart disease. These studies were done on lab animals, so further research will be needed to determine whether the same effects can be seen in humans. Animal lab studies also found that curcumin has anticancer activity, possibly due to its antioxidant power. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that turmeric reduces the inflammation caused by H. pylori, the ulcer-inducing bacterium that's also linked to colon and gastric cancers. That’s important because the inflammation is what’s thought to actually lead to the development of cancer.
The spice may also fight Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that elderly villagers in India appear to have the world’s lowest rate of the disease, and the speculation is that curcumin might play a role. When UCLA researchers gave curcumin to mice prone to accumulating Alzheimer’s signature amyloid plaques in their brains, the compound not only blocked the accumulation of plaques but also reduced inflammation, an effect of Alzheimer's disease on brain tissue. The curcumin-fed mice also performed better at memory tests than mice who didn't eat the substance.
Some tips on using turmeric: Pair it with black pepper, as many Indian-inspired recipes already do, and you’ll enhance curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times. This effect is due to a substance called piperine that’s found in black pepper. Since turmeric has a tangy flavor, using too much can make food taste bitter. A good rule of thumb is to use about ¼ to ½ teaspoon of turmeric to season beans, rice, or couscous. And try making your own homemade curry powder using turmeric and other classic spices; the spice aisle’s premade versions can be more expensive than the sum of their parts. Store your curry powder tightly sealed in a cool, dry place.
20 Health Benefits of TurmericThe active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Tumeric has been used for over 2500 years in India, where it was most likely first used as a dye.
The medicinal properties of this spice have been slowly revealing themselves over the centuries. Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that turmeric is a natural wonder, proving beneficial in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer's disease.
Here are 20 health benefits of turmeric:
1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
3. Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.
4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.
5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.
6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.
7. May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
8. May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
9. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.
10. Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.
11. Is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.
12. May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.
13. Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
14. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
15. Boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.
16. Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.
17. Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.
18. Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
19. Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.
20. May help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Turmeric can be taken in powder or pill form. It is available in pill form in most health food stores, usually in 250-500mg capsules.
Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it's fun to find new ways to use it in recipes. My favorite way to use it is to add a pinch of it to egg salad. It adds a nice flavor and gives the egg salad a rich yellow hue.
Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.