The Top 6 Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric
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A spice unique for its gold color and strong flavor is turmeric. Turmeric is an incredibly well-researched spice that has a history of healing powers.
In fact, it's considered a "functional food", which indicates that it has positive effects on health that exceeds basic nutrition. However, this spice is more than just something you can eat and drink.
Turmeric has been used as a teeth whitener, face mask, and more. In this article, you'll explore many of the amazing health benefits and uses of turmeric.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the Curcuma longa plant. (1) This plant predominately grows in places like India and Southeast Asia. The spice actually comes from the dried root of the plant and is in the same family as ginger.
While its unique for its flavor and color, there is much more to this interesting spice. What makes it stand out from others is the compound curcumin.
The Curcumin Compound
The reason why turmeric is so powerful is because of the curcuminoids it contains. (2) Curcumin has profound anti-inflammatory properties, which is said to make it compatible with anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen.
It is also a powerful antioxidant and has the ability to protect our healthy cells. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, curcumin lowers cholesterol levels, which could aid in treating some of the world's top public health problems.
Are Curcumin and Turmeric The Same?
If you search for curcumin or turmeric, you will likely see that the terms are used interchangeably. However, they are somewhat different and here is why.
Curcumin is a chemical compound found in turmeric and only makes up for approximately 3% of its weight. (3) Turmeric is a flowering plant, which can be ground into the turmeric powder we know of today.
History of Turmeric
Turmeric has been used medicinally for over 4,500 years and also has strong religious ties in the Indian culture. Historians found pots in New Delhi that contained residue from turmeric that dates back to 2500 BC. (4) By 500 BC, turmeric became a part of Ayurveda medicine, which is an ancient system of Indian healing.
They would inhale the fumes of the spice to alleviate congestion and drink turmeric juice to heal bruises and wounds. (5)
Several years later in 1747, turmeric was featured in the cook book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. (6) Commercial curry powder started being produced and its benefits began circulating the United States.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmerics has very strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components, which is what makes it so beneficial to our health. The spice is also considered safe and has few known side effects.
There are over 11,000 peer reviewed articles on the benefits of turmeric, so it's only right that we explore a few of them. (7)
Prevents Blood Clots
Blood clots are formed through the process of platelet aggregation, which is where blood platelets pool in one area and eventually clot.
Studies have shown that turmeric greatly reduces the risk of clot formation because of an internal process known as eicosanoid biosynthesis. (8) The curcumin found in turmeric has the ability to inhibit platelet aggregation and keep blood flowing.
Prevents Alzheimer's and Other Brain Diseases
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin is claimed to be a possible treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. In rats, the curcumin reverses amyloid pathology and neurotoxicity, which is what ultimately progresses the disease.
In addition, turmeric is said to increase levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a growth hormone that functions in the brain. (9)
Several brain disorders are linked to decreased levels of this hormone and turmeric could potentially reverse this. It's possible that turmeric can improve our memory and also make us smarter, but human controlled trials are needed to confirm this.
Enhances Skin Health
Turmeric has been known throughout history to heal bruises and wounds, but it is also a go-to for acne and psoriasis sufferers.
It has the ability to calm the pores, which decreases acne, and makes the skin naturally glow. A study was done on over 800 participants and the turmeric paste was claimed to cure 97% of the cases within 3-15 days. (10)
Treats and Prevents Cancer
One of the top research topics regarding turmeric is if it has the ability to reverse certain cancers. Studies have shown that curcumin does have cancer-fighting effects.
In one study, 44 men with lesions on the colon were given 4 grams of curcumin per day for thirty days and it reduced the numbers of lesions by 40%. (13) This strongly suggests that turmeric can prevent cancer to some degree.
The future may include turmeric working alongside traditional cancer treatment one day. However, for now, more human trials will have to be completed before we can say for sure.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is included as one of the top ten public health problems in the world. The disease killed over 17 million people around the world in 2015 and is considered the number one cause of death globally. (14)
Therefore, it grants some peace of mind knowing that turmeric may be able to prevent or reverse heart disease.
The curcumin found in turmeric helps improve the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. (15) Research has shown that damage to the endothelium is a major driver of heart disease.
When it's not working appropriately, it can impact its ability to regulate blood pressure and clot blood.
Studies also show that turmeric can lower LDL and bad cholesterol levels. One particular study on rabbits included one group that received a high dose of curcumin, another group that received a small dosage of curcumin, and the last group didn't receive any.
The results of the study demonstrated that the lower doses of curcumin lowered the overall cholesterol and LDL levels of the rabbits. (16) If it can do the same for humans, then we would see reduced effects of cardiovascular issues.
Beneficial To Arthritis Patients
A number of studies have shown that turmeric may be more beneficial than arthritis drugs for disease sufferers. Because curcumin is anti-inflammatory in nature, it reduces the inflammation of the joints in arthritic patients.
In fact, a study done on patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed that it was more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug. (17) Turmeric offers a number of benefits without the annoying side effects.
Some anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of leaky gut complications and heart disease.
Side Effects of Turmeric
Although turmeric is identified as safe by the National Institutes of Health, there are some situations where people should take precaution.
Slows blood clotting: While this a benefit we named on the list earlier, individuals taking anticoagulant and/or antiplatelet drugs should consult with a doctor first.
Lowers blood sugar: Individuals that take diabetes medications should not also consume turmeric. It may cause ones blood sugar to drop significantly.
Pregnancy: Turmeric stimulates the uterus and promotes a menstrual cycle, so it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Acid Reflux: Individuals taking antacids should avoid turmeric as it could lead to further gastrointestinal complications.
How To Use Turmeric
Using Turmeric For Your Skin
There are a number of different ways to use turmeric for your skin. It can make for an incredible face mask when mixed with unsweetened yogurt and honey. (18)
One could also create a poultice, which have been used for bites, burns, infections, and splinters. (19) When mixed with just honey, it can make a cooling acne gel.
Lastly, it can help those who suffer from conditions that include constant itching when mixed with aloe vera. (20) Eczema sufferers have found it to be very beneficial in cutting the itch and pain.
Using Turmeric In Your Food
This spice is a go-to when you're looking to boost the flavor of your dishes. Add turmeric to soups, meats, veggies, and more for the flavor and its benefits.
If you're trying to soothe a sore throat, drink turmeric mixed with honey, but be fair warned that it doesn't taste great. If you're looking to get a morning boost, then consider adding turmeric to your smoothie.
A good mix includes coconut milk, frozen pineapple, lemon juice, orange juice, ginger root, and black pepper. (21)
Consider Turmeric For Your Health
An earthy-toned spice that's packed with healing powers is turmeric. Having been used for centuries, turmeric is a safe bet for most and is easy to implement in your current routine. Don't miss out on the healing properties of this well-researched and centuries old spice.
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