Top Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is one of my favorite spices. I honestly think it makes pretty much any savory dish better, from carrot salad to egg-less omelettes and comforting soups (see recipe video below); a nice sprinkle of turmeric goes a long way. Turmeric powder (the form most of us are familiar with) is made from the dried root of the Curcuma longa plant. Turmeric contains important vitamins and minerals including manganese, iron, vitamin B6, potassium. It also carries a host of other health benefits.
Potential Health Benefits of Turmeric:
The phytochemical curcumin, the yellow or orange pigment in turmeric, is thought to be one of the main sources of turmeric’s medicinal properties; it is at the very least one of the most studied nutrients in turmeric. As with all beneficial foods, we recommend using turmeric in its whole spice form.
1. Fights inflammation
Turmeric’s essential oils and the phytochemical curcumin have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. “In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin,” reports whfoods.
And thankfully when you’re spicing up your curry with turmeric you don’t have to worry about ulcers, intestinal bleeding or any of the other side effects that the pharmaceutical drugs mentioned above may cause.
2. Helps relieve symptoms of depression
A study out of Baylor University Medical Center has demonstrated that curcumin may be nearly as powerful as Prozac for relieving symptoms of depression. Further studies are needed to confirm this study’s findings, but the initial reports are hopeful.
3. Provides relief from rheumatoid arthritis
Curcumin, along with being an excellent and safe anti-inflammatory, is also a powerful antioxidant. These two properties combine to create an excellent recipe for relief from joint discomfort. In studies comparing curcumin use with phenylbutazone (a common anti-inflammatory drug), curcumin produced comparable improvement in mobility, swelling and morning stiffness.
4. May play a role in preventing and killing cancer cells
Curcumin and turmeric as a whole food have been widely studied in relationship to cancer prevention and treatment. These studies have suggested that components in turmeric could possibly help prevent and treat everything from skin cancer to childhood leukemia.
Just some of what the research has suggested thus far (refers to studies/research done on curcumin unless otherwise noted):
- Inhibits the growth of skin cancer (melanoma)
- Protects colon cells from free radicals
- Helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells
- Enhances liver function, inhibiting the synthesis of certain proteins needed for tumor formation
- Has been linked to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer (Research looked at the frequent use of turmeric in one‘s diet.)
- Slows the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs, when breast cancer is already present
- Turns off genes associated with tumor growth
- Suppresses cancer cell proliferation and promotes apoptosis (cell self destruction) in cancerous cells
- Reduces the risk of developing childhood leukemia (Research looked at foods spiced with turmeric.)
- Inhibits the carcinogenic chemicals created by the burning of carbon-based fuels
- Inhibits radiation-induced chromosome damage
- Irreversibly inhibits the multiplication of leukemia cells (in a cell culture.)
5. Helps treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Research suggests that IBDs such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis may be treated with curcumin.
6. May help counter cystic fibrosis
Preliminary studies have shown that curcumin may have the ability to correct the genetic defects that are responsible for cystic fibrosis.
7. Aids the liver
Studies suggest that turmeric may improve liver function by increasing the liver’s ability to perform its detoxification duties.
8. Protects the heart
Research suggests that curcumin may help protect the cardiovascular system from disease. It does this by helping to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. This is important because oxidized cholesterol is part of what builds up in plaque that damages blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Turmeric is also a good source of vitamin B6, which is important for cardiovascular health.
9. Lowers cholesterol
Research has revealed that curcumin lowers cholesterol levels by telling the liver cells to create more receptors for LDL cholesterol. With these extra LDL-receptors, the liver cells can expedite the process of removing LDL-cholesterol from the body.
10. May help protect against Alzheimer‘s disease
A rising number of studies suggest that turmeric may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s (and possibly multiple sclerosis). This is done, in part, through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin can also cross the blood-brain barrier dissolving “amyloid dibrils” and inhibiting “amyloid-B aggregation,” both of which help prevent plaque from forming between cells (which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease).
“The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, boosts the activity of the immune system in Alzheimer’s patients, helping them to clear the amyloid beta plaques characteristic of the disease,” reports whfoods.
As you can see, there is plenty of information out there about the health benefits of enjoying turmeric and the phytochemicals it contains – so enjoy some in your stir fry tonight, your tea tomorrow or even your morning smoothie.