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7 Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric, The Wonder Spice

Sure, you know how delicious turmeric tastes, but there’s a lot more to the story for this humble spice. It’s a history that dates back thousands of years, and the amazing benefits of turmeric can have powerful implications for your health.

 

 

 

What Is Turmeric?

 

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which is in the ginger family. This perennial plant, native to Southern Asia, has a deep orange color and a tough, brown skin.

 

Turmeric is one of the most popular spices in the world. If you’re a fan of Asian or Middle Eastern cuisine, you’re already quite familiar with its warm, peppery flavor. Turmeric is also the main spice in curry powder, as well as the ingredient that gives some mustards their bright yellow color. You can even use it to make drinks !

 

Turmeric is warm and peppery, used as the main ingredient in curry powder and certain mustards.

But turmeric can do much more than just kick up the flavor of foods and beverages. It’s been a mainstay in Ayurveda (a medicine system with roots in ancient India) for thousands of years. We can find written references of this all the way back to 250 BC, when Sursuta’s Ayurvedic Compendium recommended making a turmeric-based ointment to relieve the effects of poisoned food .

 

Modern scientific research has put this ancient wisdom to the test, confirming turmeric’s place as a culinary and nutrition powerhouse.

 

TURMERIC HEALTH BENEFITS

 

Turmeric contains a host of chemical components, but the most important are a group of compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin, in particular, is one of the most extensively researched plant compounds around. A search on the PubMed database turns up more than 9,300 results and counting. That’s even more than other famous herbs and spices like cinnamon, garlic, and ginseng.

 

All of this research has uncovered some impressive health benefits of turmeric…

 

DECREASES INFLAMMATION

Inflamed muscles and joints cause most of the pain we carry around every day. Left unchecked, chronic inflammation could lead to a laundry list of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s.

 

Curcumin has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, which eases swelling, aches, and pain. Researchers found that curcumin is capable of interacting with a variety of molecules involved in inflammation. By down-regulating activity of various enzymes, cytokines, and proteins, curcumin mitigates the inflammatory response.

 

Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, can can ease swelling and pain as effectively as aspirin.

Some studies have even found that curcumin was just as effective as anti-inflammatory pain pills, like aspirin and ibuprofen, at suppressing the inflammatory response. Give this turmeric-based morning elixir a try if you’re curious!

 

ANTIOXIDANT EFFECTS

Oxidative stress occurs when reactive types of oxygen (free radicals) overwhelm your body’s natural antioxidant defenses. This imbalance – and the resulting damage – has been linked from everything to premature aging, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cencer. 

 

Thanks to its molecular structure, curcumin (a natural phenolic compound) can scavenge some of these free radicals and create an antioxidant effect. Curcumin certainly neutralizes free radicals. But it doesn’t stop there. It also strengthens the body’s natural antioxidant capabilities by increasing glutathione levels.

 

STRENGTHENS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

An interesting study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology describes how curcumin acts as a “potent immunomodulatory agent” and can enhance antibody respone . The researchers concluded further research was warranted to consider curcumin as a potential treatment for immune disorders.

 

Turmeric also has antimicrobial properties. Various studies found that:

 

It inhibited growth of histamine-producing bacteria, like Bacillus cereus and Proteus mirabilis.

It inhibited growth of V. parahaemolyticus, a foodborne pathogen.

It possessed good antifungal activity against Trichophyton longifusus

IMPROVES HEART HEALTH

With an estimated 610,000 deaths per year in just the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

 

Curcumin can help keep your heart healthy and strong. Multiple animal studies found that this phenolic compound helps maintain endothelium (the interior lining of your blood vessels) function. This is important because endothelial dysfunction is a major contributor to heart disease.

 

Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties also help because chronic inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to heart disease.

 

REDUCES SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

Curcumin could also help boost your mood. Multiple mice studies found that it increased serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. It also inhibited monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes, a common mechanism of prescription antidepressants.

 

Although there have only been a few human studies, one was very promising. A 2014 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research divided 60 volunteers with major depressive disorder into two groups. One group was given Prozac, and the other was given curcumin. The curcumin group was just as successful in managing their symptoms as the prescription pill group.

 

Does your mood need a boost? Turmeric has been shown to help reduce depression.

Scientists aren’t completely sure how this mechanism works, though many suspect it involves curcumin’s positive effect on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (called “BDNF”) levels. BDNF is a protein that supports existing neurons and encourages new neurons and synapses to form. It’s important for learning, memory, and higher thinking.

 

POTENTIALLY PROTECTS AGAINST CANCER

Decades of research have explored the potential of curcumin to prevent – or even help treat – different types of cancer. A massive review of numerous studies found that curcumin can:

 

Suppress the proliferation of tumor cells

Down-regulate certain transcription factors (proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences)

Down-regulate growth factor receptors

Inhibit the activity of key kinases (enzymes that regulate cell function)

In other words, curcumin can attack cancer cells on multiple fronts. In some cases, it may help prevent cancer cells from even forming. In others, it can slow the rate at which blood vessels form in tumors and how quickly cancer cells spread, as well as effectively kill some cancer cells.

 

We desperately need more research to completely understand curcumin’s anti-cancer potential for humans. But the results of limited human data and animal studies have been very promising so far.

 

 

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Sure, you know how delicious turmeric tastes, but there’s a lot more to the story for this humble spice. It’s a history that dates back thousands of years, and the amazing benefits of turmeric can have powerful implications for your health.