With its vibrant colour and fragrant scent, turmeric is one of the most enticing spices in the rack. Whether you use it to flavour curries, jazz up a scrambled egg dish or simply add a pop of colour to your plate, this member of the ginger family is incredibly versatile.
But did you know that turmeric is also loaded with health benefits? In fact, in India it’s been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Not much has changed since then, except for the fact that turmeric is now firmly on the radars of contemporary health gurus across the globe.
Here’s what’s to love about the herbaceous flowering perennial:
Reduce inflammation and combat arthritis
Curcumin, a plant-produced chemical, is one of the key active ingredients in turmeric. Not only does it give the root its distinctive bright yellow colour, but it’s also a known anti-inflammatory. This makes turmeric a powerful therapeutic when it comes to reducing the pain, inflammation and stiffness that accompanies rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. If you really want to concentrate your intake you can take curcumin as an herbal supplement.
Maintaining joint health
While turmeric can help alleviate conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, a recent study suggested that turmeric is more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing pain. So, even if you’re not currently experiencing joint pain you can still reap the benefits of turmeric. If you don’t love the flavour, simply blitz a teaspoon of turmeric into your morning berry/banana smoothie. Or, mix things up with this carrot, ginger and citrus ray of sunshine.
Boost the immune system
If you’re looking for a natural remedy to ward off colds, coughs and other everyday illnesses, turmeric could be your new secret weapon. The root drastically increases the body’s antioxidant capacity, which helps to arm the body against free radicals. The chemical structure of curcumin actively neutralises free radicals, as well as ramps up the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. With winter on its way, why not add a mug of golden tea to your daily breakfast routine? It’s creamy, indulgent and laced with immune boosting benefits. Don’t forget the black pepper, as it contains piperine, a natural element that boosts the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.
Improve brain function
As well as physiological benefits, turmeric is also loaded with cognitive parks. Curcumin has the capacity to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone that keeps the brain healthy. Without it, the brain becomes vulnerable to disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s disease. BDNF helps to ensure that brain neurons continue to divide and multiply, which can ultimately help to improve memory, fight off degenerative processes and even reverse certain types of brain diseases.
Lower the risk of heart disease
Heart disease is one of the world’s biggest killers. In New Zealand alone around 185,000 Kiwis currently live with heart disease, which causes a huge 33% of deaths. Now, new research suggests that turmeric could help to prevent and reverse many steps in the heart disease process. The presence of curcumin enhances the function of the endothelium, which lines the blood vessels and helps the body regulate blood pressure, as well as prevent clotting. One study indicates that curcumin is just as effective as exercise, while another hailed it as an alternative to Atorvastatin, a prescription drug used to lower blood cholesterol.
With so many benefits to offer, and so many creative ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet, why wait to add turmeric to your health inventory?
by Grace Denham
Grown Ups NZ