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What is Turmeric and why should I be eating it?

Turmeric is an Indian perennial herb, of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Of the 3 bioactive compounds found in Turmeric, curcumin is the most potent and active compound. Curcumin’s main role is to act as an anti-inflammatory by suppressing various molecules known to play major roles in inflammation. In addition to Turmeric’s main use as a natural anti-inflammatory compound, Turmeric also increases the antioxidant capacity of the body, helps to control cholesterol levels and maintain optimal heart health, enhances cognitive health, and boosts thyroid function. Turmeric toxicity is very rare. 

Turmeric is an Indian perennial herb, of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.  The distinct bright yellow powder obtained from the rhizome of the plant, was first used as fabric dye, before being used as a popular spice and source of colouring and flavouring in cooking. More recently, and similar to the practice of traditional Indian medicine, Turmeric is now used for its vast medicinal properties. 

Curcumin is one of the three curcuminoids present in Turmeric, along with demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcmin. Of the 3 bioactive compounds found in Turmeric, curcumin is the most potent and active compound – providing the greatest beneficial properties, while also giving Turmeric its vibrant, bright yellow colour. Curcumin gives Turmeric its anti inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Although Turmeric has many medicinal purposes, its main use is as an anti-inflammatory. Medicinally, Turmeric has been used to reduce inflammation, by applying it topically to the skin, ingesting it orally, or by inhalation. Turmeric’s main mechanism of action works by inhibiting the role of inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a molecule that plays a role in inflammation.

Research has concluded that Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, enhances one’s immune system response, and provides long-term improvements in both pain and inflammation. Turmeric acts an effective and safe anti-inflammatory medication, particularly when treating autoimmune diseases. 

In addition to Turmeric’s main use as natural anti-inflammatory compound, Turmeric also:

  1. Greatly increases the antioxidant capacity of the body – Curcumin has the power to neutralize free radicals, while stimulating antioxidant promoting enzymes within the body.
  2. Helps to control cholesterol levels and maintain optimal heart health – Curcumin improves the function of the endothelium – the tissue that forms a lining, protecting various organs – particularly the heart, and blood & lymphatic vessels.
  3. Enhances cognitive health (specifically relating to aging and dementia) – Curcumin dramatically increases levels of BDNF, a hormone in the brain that promotes the growth and development of new neutrons, helping the body to fight numerous degenerative processes in the brain.
  4. Boosts thyroid function – Turmeric is a rich source of various vitamins and minerals (iron, copper, fibre, potassium, Vitamin B6) which enables and helps  to maintain adequate thyroid function.  

Turmeric toxicity is very rare. The approximate UL for Turmeric is 3,000 milligrams (mg), daily. Typically, excess Turmeric consumption does not cause significant side effects, although some individuals experience diarrhea, stomach pain, dizziness, or nausea. Typical doses of Turmeric range from 500-1500 mg/ day.  In order for Turmeric’s desired beneficial effects to be noticed, 500 mg should be consumed per day. Curcumin is fat soluble – for optimal absorption, take Turmeric powder or supplements with a fatty meal. In addition, Curcumin is best absorbed with black pepper. I like adding Turmeric to my smoothies, oatmeal, and stir- fry veg!

Happy Wednesday!

Anna x

 

References:

Aggarwal, B., Yuan, W., Li, S. and Gupta, S. (2013). Turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 57(9), pp.1529-1542.

Grzanna, R., Lindmark, L. and Frondoza, C. (2005). Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Journal of Medicinal Food, 8(2), pp.125-132.

Kocaadam, B. and Şanlier, N. (2015). Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(13), pp.2889-2895.

Ricciotti, E. and FitzGerald, G. (2011). Prostaglandins and Inflammation. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 31(5), pp.986-1000.

 

 

 

 

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