The scientific name for turmeric is curcuma longa, and actually belongs to the ginger family of root herbs. It is native to the sub-Himalayan region and is now widely grown in many tropical and sub-tropical regions as an important commercial crop. It has been used since antiquity in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for its well-known anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-cancer properties.

turmeric root

Curcumin, a poly-phenolic compound, is the principal pigment that imparts the deep orange colour to the turmeric root. Many scientific studies suggest that curcumin may have anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-ischemic and anti-oxidant properties.

Turmeric is a very rich source of many essential vitamins (vitamin B6, C, E) and minerals (iron, potassium, manganese, zinc, copper, magnesium and calcium). Just a few grams of turmeric per day in the form of powder, crushed root or fresh root can provide sufficient nutrients to offer protection against cancers, infectious diseases, high blood pressure and strokes, and many other key health benefits listed below.

Turmeric is an essential spice in Indian cooking. It is used as a powder to flavour daals and curries, and as a paste to marinate fish, chicken and meat. It is ground together with other spices, curry leaves, and chili peppers to make “curry powder”.

When you are preparing turmeric paste to be used in tea, keep in mind that black pepper enhances absorption of curcumin by 2000%; so make sure to add black pepper to your turmeric tea or milk.

Turmeric has been used for centuries in Indian and Chinese cultures as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. As such it is know to treat a wide variety of conditions including hemorrhage, flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Here is a short list of possible benefits of using turmeric in your diet:

1. Heals Wounds: Turmeric is a natural antiseptic

Turmeric is an antibacterial agent and can be used as an effective disinfectant. If you have a cut or burn, you can sprinkle turmeric powder on the affected area to speed up the healing process. Turmeric also helps repair damaged skin and may be used to treat psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.

2. Possible Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curcumin may provide an inexpensive and effective treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. In a study, mice that were given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were safeguarded after curcumin was added to their diet. They not only lost much less weight than the control animals, but when researchers checked their intestinal cell function, all the signs typical of colitis were much reduced. It’s not sure exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects; researchers think its benefits are the result of not only antioxidant activity, but also inhibition of a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B. More info…

3. With Immunity Booster Turmeric Can Help Prevent (And Perhaps Even Treat) Cancer

Scientists have been studying curcumin as a beneficial herb in cancer treatment. It can affect cancer growth and its spread at the molecular level. Studies have shown that it can decrease angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (spread of cancer), as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells. Multiple studies have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumours in test animals.

Although the use of high-dose curcumin (especially served with an absorption enhancer like pepper) to help treat cancer in humans has not been tested properly, there is some evidence that it may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system. More info…

4. May be Useful in Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

There may be good news on the horizon, because curcumin has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier. It is known that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. As we know, curcumin has beneficial effects on both. But one key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of protein tangles called Amyloid plaques. Studies show that curcumin can help clear these plaques. Whether curcumin can really slow down or even reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease needs to be studied in more depth. The bottom line is, curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease. More info…

5. Studies Show Benefits Against Depression

In a controlled experiment, 60 patients were randomized into three groups. One group took prozac, another group took a gram of curcumin and the third group took both prozac and curcumin. After 6 weeks, curcumin had led to improvements that were similar to prozac. The group that took both prozac and curcumin fared best. More info…

6. Reduces Cholesterol Level

Research has proven that simply using turmeric as a food seasoning can reduce serum cholesterol levels. It is a known fact that high cholesterol can lead to other serious health problems. Maintaining a proper cholesterol level can prevent many cardiovascular diseases. More info…

7. A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory

Turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental studies. Even more powerful than its oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. In many studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to be similar to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the medications, which are associated with significant side-effects curcumin produces no toxicity. We can attest to this from personal experience. Parkash had aggravating knee pains (particularly at night) for a long time. Ever since we got onto a daily regiment of drinking turmeric milk/tea, her symptoms have disappeared! Another friend’s nasty knee pains have also disappeared since he introduced turmeric tea into his diet.

8. Relieves Arthritis

The anti-inflammatory properties in turmeric are great for treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, turmeric’s antioxidant property destroys free radicals in the body that damage body cells. It has been found that those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis that consume turmeric on a regular basis experience much relief from the moderate to mild joint pains as well as joint inflammation. More info…

9. Turmeric can tame heartburn and an upset stomach.

In a small 1989 study, supplements made from the turmeric plant were found to be more effective at curbing heartburn and indigestion symptoms than a placebo, possibly because of the plant’s known powers to fight inflammation.

10. A compound in turmeric may ward off heart attacks.

Curcumin, the compound in turmeric responsible for that bright hue, is behind a whole host of health benefits attributed to the spice. A 2012 study especially examined one perk of curcumin: the ability of the extract to prevent heart attacks among bypass patients. The study tracked 121 patients who had bypass surgery between 2009 and 2011. Three days before surgery through five days after, half of the patients took curcumin capsules, while the other half took placebo pills. During their post-bypass hospital stays, more people in the placebo group experienced a heart attack (30 percent) compared with those in the curcumin group (13 percent), Reuters reported. While not a substitute for medication, the researchers pointed out, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may contribute to as much as a 65 percent lower chance of heart attack among bypass patients. More info…

A few words of caution: Like with anything else we put into our bodies, we need to do research for ourselves. Certain supplements, including those made from turmeric, can interact with other medications. For example, turmeric may slow blood clotting, so anyone taking drugs with the same effect, should be cautious about adding turmeric to their diet. And of course, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any major dietary changes in your life. Since turmeric is included in Ayurvedic formulas for birth control, women trying to become pregnant should limit their consumption of the herb, and it should be avoided entirely while pregnant.