If there were a golden child of the spice cabinet, turmeric would be it thanks to its proven health benefits.
Turmeric has become a buzz-worthy wellness trend over the past several years, but this yellow root has had a deep and rich history as a culinary traditional and healing medicinal herb for thousands of years.
Read on to learn the science behind turmeric’s healing properties, plus easy ways to boost your turmeric intake and reap the benefits of this treasured spice.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric (pronounced TER-muh-rik) is an edible root that belongs to the ginger family. In fact, fresh turmeric looks a lot like ginger but has a much deeper golden hue. It is native to Southeast Asia, particularly India, where it has been used for thousands of years as a culinary spice, a natural dye, and a medicinal herb.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a curry, you’ve likely eaten turmeric! This spice is an ingredient in many Indian dishes but is also commonly used in Thai, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Aside from the bright yellow color it gives food, you may also recognize turmeric by its warm and slightly bitter flavor. It adds an earthy depth to curries, rice, stews, and even smoothies.
> Turmeric and Healing Traditions
Beyond its culinary applications, turmeric has been used in traditional medical systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, turmeric is called jiang huang and is used to invigorate blood circulation and alleviate stagnation of qi (energy). This makes it particularly helpful for “stagnant” conditions like pain and swelling. Turmeric is also commonly used in herbal formulas and food remedies to address issues such as joint pain, menstrual irregularities, digestive discomfort, and liver imbalances. Its warm and aromatic nature is thought to promote energy movement and balance within the body.
Ayurveda (the ancient Indian traditional medical system) uses turmeric to balance all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) and promotes overall well-being. Known as Haridra in Sanskrit, turmeric has a bitter and pungent taste that is believed to have a warming effect on the body, which stimulates digestion and improves the absorption of nutrients.
Similar to TCM, Ayurvedic formulas use turmeric to support joint health, ease inflammation, promote healthy skin, aid in detoxification, and enhance liver function. It is also revered as a natural antioxidant that can help maintain a strong immune system.
> Curcumin: The Powerful Compound Behind Turmeric’s Healing Properties
While ancient medical systems have used centuries of experimentation and observation to understand turmeric’s powers, modern medicine offers a different perspective.
With the help of recent research, we’ve discovered why turmeric has such powerful effects on our health – it contains a highly anti-inflammatory, antioxidizing chemical compound called curcumin.
Curcumin is a natural polyphenol that gives turmeric its vibrant yellow color and boasts a remarkable range of health benefits. Most of its benefits stem from the fact that it is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that combats the oxidative stress and inflammation that causes disease. Studies show that curcumin has a positive impact on inflammation, joint health, brain function, heart health, and more.
What are the Benefits of Turmeric?
Turmeric, boosted by its active compound curcumin, offers a wide range of health benefits for nearly everyone. Let’s explore a few of these benefits to understand how using turmeric can help you and your family live well:
1) Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection. Inflammation is a key part of the healing process, but when it becomes chronic, it can contribute to various health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Turmeric’s compound curcumin works by targeting molecules in our bodies that are responsible for triggering inflammation. It inhibits the activity of these molecules, which helps reduce the ongoing production of inflammatory substances. When taken regularly, turmeric can lead to a decrease in overall inflammation and provide relief from symptoms associated with chronic inflammatory conditions.
2) Soothes Pain
Turmeric has natural analgesic properties, meaning it has the ability to help relieve pain and discomfort. But how does it work? When we experience pain, our body sends signals to our brain letting us know something is wrong. The curcumin in turmeric interferes with these pain signals to block the messages from reaching our brains. By doing so, turmeric helps reduce the sensation of pain and provides natural relief for issues like joint pain, muscle soreness, and migraines. Because pain is often triggered by excessive inflammation, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects also help stop pain from the root. Turmeric can be taken internally to relieve pain, or used as a topical analgesic for muscle and joint pain.
3) Improves Mental Focus
Need a brain boost? Turmeric has been found to enhance cognitive function, support brain health, and even help prevent cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s. Curcumin helps by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters that are important for memory, attention, and overall mental clarity. It also has antioxidant properties that help protect our brain cells from damage. By boosting these neurotransmitters and shielding our brain cells, turmeric supports our cognitive performance, helping us stay focused, remember things better, and think clearly.
4) Aids Digestive Health
As both a culinary and medicinal herb, turmeric is well-equipped to help with a range of digestive disorders. Studies show that turmeric can ease digestive discomfort, bloating, and indigestion – often because curcumin stimulates the production of bile. Bile is a substance made by our liver that helps break down fats and aids in their digestion.
Turmeric also promotes a balanced gut microbiome, which helps us process food better and ensures our digestive system runs smoothly.
5) Improves Heart Health
With heart disease still America’s leading cause of death, it’s never a bad idea to work more heart-healthy foods and supplements into your wellness routine. Curcumin helps reduce inflammation in our body and combats oxidative stress, safeguarding our hearts from potential damage. Additionally, turmeric may help lower cholesterol levels by reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver. It also has the potential to regulate blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range. And if that weren’t enough, turmeric also helps make our hearts more resilient and prevents the formation of blood clots that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
6) Boosts Immune System
Turmeric is often an ingredient in immune support supplements – and even immunity-boosting soups. This is because curcumin has immune-modulating effects, meaning it can help regulate and balance our immune response. It supports the proper functioning of our immune system, ensuring it responds appropriately to threats while avoiding overactive or underactive responses. Curcumin may also enhance our body’s ability to fight off infections by activating certain immune cells and boosting their activity. By promoting a healthy immune response, turmeric empowers our body’s natural defense mechanisms, helping us stay resilient against certain illnesses.
7) Improves Skin Health
Want to slow the signs of aging? Reduce breakouts and blemishes? Eliminate redness and promote skin health? Turmeric can do it all. Cucumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a powerful herb for maintaining healthy skin – both inside and out. Turmeric supplements and topical applications can help reduce acne, soothe skin irritations and inflammatory skin conditions, and provide a natural glow. Turmeric is also well-known to promote wound healing, which can help minimize the appearance of facial acne scars or body scars.
8) Lowers Blood Sugar
If you struggle with insulin resistance, turmeric can help. Turmeric has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. The curcumin in turmeric helps the body respond to insulin better so that less insulin is needed to effectively process and store sugar from our foods. Over time, this promotes stable blood sugar levels and can help you manage conditions like diabetes, hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia better.
9) Supports Weight Management
Whether you want to lose 5 pounds or 50, turmeric can help you reach your goals faster. Turmeric acts as a natural catalyst for weight loss, helping our body efficiently use energy and maintain a balanced metabolism. Studies also show that curcumin helps support weight management by increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. Combined with diet, exercise, and an effective weight loss plan, adding turmeric to your diet could help you look and feel fitter.
10) May Protect Against Cancer
One of the most exciting potential uses of turmeric is in cancer prevention and support. Curcumin has been found to hinder the growth of certain types of cancer cells, which can help in preventing the development and progression of cancer. It acts by interfering with various pathways involved in cancer cell growth and promoting cell death in cancer cells. While this research is promising, more studies are needed to fully understand how we can use turmeric in cancer prevention and treatment.
How to Use Turmeric to Boost Your Health
The key to getting the most out of turmeric (or any medicinal herb) is knowing how to use it properly.
You’ll find turmeric in various forms, from fresh turmeric root to ground turmeric powder to turmeric or curcumin supplements. You can add ground turmeric powder to your cooking, such as curries, stir-fries, or roasted vegetables. If you can find fresh turmeric root at your local grocer (look in international or Asian shops), try grating or finely chop it to add a vibrant and more fresh flavor to your dishes. Turmeric supplements are also available in capsules or liquid form.
> When to Take Turmeric
There is no specific time of day that is best for cooking with turmeric or taking supplements. You can incorporate it into any meal or take it as a supplement whenever it is convenient for you. That said, if you have a condition such as arthritis or chronic pain that is worse at certain times of day, consider taking turmeric a few hours before to help reduce your symptoms.
While timing doesn’t matter so much, what you take turmeric with does. Pairing turmeric with black pepper and some sort of healthy fat will help you reap more benefits. That’s because the piperine compounds in black pepper can increase curcumin absorption up to 2000%! This combination is particularly helpful for inflammatory conditions, digestive upset, and general antioxidant effects.
> How Much Turmeric to Take Per Day
As with all herbs and supplements, the ideal dosage of turmeric varies depending on your health condition, age, and overall health condition. But as a general guideline, 500-1000 milligrams of turmeric powder per day is safe for most people. If you are taking turmeric supplements, it’s essential to follow the recommended dosage provided by the manufacturer or consult with an AlignLife functional nutritionist for personalized advice.
> Medications and Turmeric
Turmeric may interact with certain medications, especially those that have blood-thinning properties or affect blood sugar levels. If you are taking anticoagulant medications like warfarin or antiplatelet drugs, consult with your healthcare provider before adding turmeric into your routine. Additionally, individuals with gallbladder issues or who are on medications that affect the gallbladder should also exercise caution when using turmeric.
> Using Turmeric in Pregnancy
While turmeric is generally considered safe when used in moderate amounts in cooking, it’s important to exercise caution during pregnancy as high doses of turmeric or turmeric supplements may stimulate the uterus. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, cooking with small amounts of turmeric is fine. But if you want to supplement with turmeric, speak with your obstetrician or gynecologist first.
How to Get More Turmeric in Your Diet
Ready to enjoy these and other health benefits of turmeric? The good news is that turmeric is extremely versatile and easy to incorporate into your daily wellness routine. Here are a few ideas to get you started!
1) Add turmeric to the recipes you love.
Both dried turmeric powder and fresh turmeric root add delicious depth to countless recipes. Add it to your curries, soups, stews, stir-fries, and even baked goods to infuse them with a rich golden hue and a warm, earthy flavor. You can also use it to season roasted vegetables.
Turmeric pairs well with other spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and ginger, so don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen. And don’t forget to add some black pepper to boost absorption!
2) Try a traditional turmeric recipe.
Would you rather attempt a tried-and-true turmeric recipe? There are many different Indian and Asian recipes that will help you get more turmeric into your diet while exploring the traditional flavors of these cuisines.
3) Brighten up your morning eggs.
Give your scrambled eggs or omelets a golden hue and a nutrition boost by sprinkling in a pinch of turmeric powder before cooking. Along with the beautiful color, you’ll also be adding a touch of flavor and the potential health benefits of turmeric. If you follow a vegan or plant-based diet, you can create a tofu egg scramble that looks just like the real thing using turmeric.
4) Make turmeric ginger tea.
Turmeric ginger tea is the perfect remedy to soothe an upset stomach, ward off a cold or flu, and promote healthy digestion and immunity. Prepare this turmeric tea by combining turmeric powder or freshly grated turmeric, freshly grated ginger, and hot water. Steep the ingredients together for a few minutes, strain, and enjoy. You can add a squeeze of lemon or a touch of honey for extra flavor.
5) Treat yourself to a golden milk latte.
A nourishing golden milk latte is easy to whip up and boasts many more health benefits than a sugary coffee shop latte. Simply combine turmeric powder with warm milk (dairy or plant-based), a dash of black pepper, and a touch of natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.
6) Add turmeric to smoothies.
Just one teaspoon of turmeric powder added to your favorite smoothie recipe gives you an easy extra health boost. Turmeric pairs well with fruits like pineapple, mango, or banana (as in our Tropical Turmeric Smoothie), and green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale (try this Turmeric Green Smoothie). The vibrant color and subtle flavor of turmeric will complement the other ingredients, creating a delicious and nutritious smoothie.
7) Take Aceva Mobility daily.
Cooking with turmeric is easy – but you may want to get the benefits of turmeric without having to add it to every meal. That’s where a high-quality turmeric supplement comes in.
AlignLife chiropractors and nutritionists recommend Aceva Mobility, a natural anti-inflammatory supplement that supports joint health, digestive health, and overall well-being. It contains a powerful blend of turmeric and other anti-inflammatory herbal extracts, such as BioPerine® which enhances capsaicin bioavailability for faster effects and longer-lasting benefits.
Turmeric: Worth its Weight in Gold
Turmeric is truly a remarkable herbal remedy with a wide array of proven benefits for our health and well-being. From its earthy flavor to its potent compounds like curcumin, turmeric has been celebrated for centuries in culinary and traditional medicine practices and is still treasured today.
Whether you’re adding it to your cooking, sipping turmeric tea, or incorporating it into your smoothies, there are numerous ways to enjoy the benefits of this golden spice. Just remember to start with smaller amounts and gradually increase as per your taste preferences. If you have any underlying health conditions, are taking medications, or are pregnant, it’s always wise to consult with your AlignLife practitioner or another healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet or using turmeric supplements.
Curious about other ways you can reduce pain, lose weight, or simply feel better? Schedule a visit with your local AlignLife to start a wellness plan that’s built just for you.