In recent years there has been a positive trend towards treating or preventing illnesses with food rather than inorganic chemicals. This is one trend that I can say I am very happy about indeed. Turmeric was one of the early additions to this natural medicine trend and it seemed to appear in everyone’s cupboards almost overnight. But what exactly is this wonder plant? Can it really do what it claims to do?
Turmeric comes from the ginger family and is loved in dishes because of its colour and its earthy flavour. It is recognized today as a medicine and it has been used as a folk medicine for centuries. These health benefits come from the curcuminoids it contains most importantly curcumin. Curcumin is also available in supplement form as turmeric is only 3% curcumin by weight. So should you take supplements or fresh? There are pros and cons to each. I for one would always go for fresh for preventative medicine. In the case of treating illness and if you feel supplements would be more beneficial you should speak to a professional before adding large doses to your diet. The fresh turmeric contains curcumin which is more bioavailable to the body and this can be increased by the consuming with fatty foods or black pepper.
This curcumin has the following benefits
- Fighting inflammation
Due to the antioxidants in turmeric, it can act as an anti-inflammatory as prevent people from relying solely on anti-inflammatory medications which may have negative side effects. Short-term inflammation fights against foreign bacteria in your body but if inflammation is low-level and long-term it is known to have a role in many chronic diseases including – Heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and many degenerative conditions.
- As an antioxidant
Turmeric reduces inflammation by increasing the number of antioxidants in your body which neutralizes free radicals. Curcumin also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
- Protects the heart in various ways
Turmeric can protect your heart against heart failure by its anti-thrombotic and anti-proliferative effects. Anti-thrombotic agents reduce the formation of blood clots or can treat dangerous blood clots. Anti-proliferative retard or stop the growth of malignant cells into surrounding tissues. Turmeric (curcumin) in combination with pepper (piperine) has been found to prevent blood pressure rising which can prevent major changes in the vascular walls. The combination of these effects means that curcumin can prevent strokes.
- Helpful for arthritis
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to be effective at preventing joint inflammation. It is not however been proven effective at treating arthritis once it has already started.
Contrary to popular believe neurons in the brain do multiply and divide after early childhood. BDNF is responsible for this process. BDNF is a hormone that functions in the brain. If the level of BDNF is decreased it can lead to depression or Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric can increase the levels of BDNF in the brain. This may delay or even reverse brain function or age-related decreases in brain function.
- Maybe helpful for fighting diabetes and cancer
Turmeric has been found to lower blood sugar. Which can be used in the absence of medications which serve the same purpose as it could lead to hypoglycaemia. Turmeric can also interact with blood-thinning medication which may increase bleeding risk. For this reason, if you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or told you are in risk of developing type 2 diabetes turmeric or a turmeric supplement may be a beneficial addition to your diet.
While we rave about the wonderful benefits of turmeric we must realise that although it is natural it is powerful and the show should be taken with care and consideration of your current health.
When should you avoid turmeric or reduce its consumption?
- If you are using medication for diabetes.
- If you are pregnant
- If you have gallbladder problems or tendency for kidney stones
- If you take blood clotting medications
- If you suffer from stomach acid