It is sold in capsule form, ground as a spice, and even in whole plant form. What is that yellow spice? I’m talking about turmeric. Maybe you have not heard of it, but it is the main spice in curry and is present in other Indian and Thai dishes. Here in the U.S., we do not have traditional dishes that incorporate turmeric. I bet you didn’t know though–it is one of the ingredients in mustard, and is used to color foods!
Ok ok, so you have probably eaten it before without knowing it. But who cares? It’s just a spice, right? Well, sort of. It is known as a medicinal herb, and a very powerful one.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric, also called curcumin (that is the part of turmeric that is active in the body), is a vastly studied herb, with over 6000 studies mentioning it. Hey, if there is one thing that sets us actual healthcare professionals apart from average bros providing nutrition advice, it is paying attention to research ;). Anyone can do a Google search, but professionals will look to literature and peer-reviewed databases to bring you the most accurate and up-to-date info. That being said, I did a little review via the Natural Medicines database to see what was up. Turmeric is cited in the literature as powerful in many ways.
Curcumin and other active constituents in turmeric have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. For this reason, it is used in conditions that are inflammatory such as arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and heart disease.
Turmeric and its bioactive compounds have been found to be powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals in the body (these are things that cause damage!).
This is one of the most fascinating effects for me, because I am always trying to get my brain working at top capacity! Turmeric has shown astounding activity in the brain, even to the point of protecting against Alzheimer’s disease.
Going along with the anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric has also been shown to be effective in reducing pain, particularly long-term pain.
The herb does have some feel-good effects, stemming from its ability to cause more serotonin in the body as a result of inhibiting serotonin uptake.
Turmeric has been shown to maintain skin elasticity, prevent the formation of wrinkles, and aid in wound healing. Although not documented in the database I reviewed, many claims of turmeric helping with acne were found on the web. Perhaps more research is needed in this area!
Ok, so how do I use turmeric?
That’s a great question! Personally I have taken it in capsule form before in the amount of 1440 mg per day. There are different amounts documented in research, ranging from 72 mg per day to 1440 mg per day, with very little adverse effects documented. Important: if you have gallstones or bile obstruction, do not use turmeric!
Currently I do not take turmeric in capsule form, but I do like to incorporate it into foods! I found a fairly large amount of it for cheap—like $2—at the local farmer’s market. Curries are always a tasty way to incorporate it, but honestly I have not brushed up on my curry skills recently.
More frequently I find myself mixing it in with a dish such as chicken, black beans, and broccoli, topped with a little Greek yogurt. You could also use it as a rub for chicken or beef along with some taco seasoning. Adding it to veggies while steaming them is a good idea, too!
Hopefully you don’t overlook this powerful herb, especially because you are now aware of its benefits and ways to incorporate it into your diet. Again, all information came from the Natural Medicines database, which is a professional database (requires a subscription or college login) compiled with real studies and research. I will also include this infographic I found from positivehealthwellness.com.
Stay healthy, Basics, and use turmeric! – Chelsea