Have you ever tasted Asian food and experienced its warm bitter, taste? That is the taste of turmeric, a spice that originates from the turmeric plant. Turmeric is commonly used as a spice in curry. It also gives colour and flavour to mustards, butter, cheeses and curry powders. The roots of the turmeric plant are also used to produce medicine. The spice contains curcumin, which is a yellow coloured chemical that is used to colour cosmetics and foods.
Turmeric also has medical properties and is used to treat various ailments that include joint pains, arthritis, jaundice, loss of appetite, liver problems among others. Apart from that, it is also useful for the treatment of skin infections and inflammation to relieve pain, treatment of ringworms, swellings, sprains, eye infections and other external injuries.
Curcumin is the essential ingredient in turmeric that is responsible for treating swellings and inflammations. In the manufacturing industry, turmeric’s essential oil is used in perfumes and its resin is used for flavouring and colouring foods. Sometimes turmeric is usually confused with the Javanese turmeric root also known as the Cucurma zedoaria.
Turmeric is regarded, by many, as the most potent herb in the world that has a wide array of healing properties. Its healing properties are said to equal or even exceed those of other pharmaceutical products. Studies show that this herb has more benefits over our bodies and brains than many other pharmaceutical medications.
Here are some of the health benefits which can derived from turmeric:
- Contains compounds with medicinal properties.
Turmeric has been used in parts of Asia for thousands of years as a medicinal herb and spice. It is only recently that science has been able to confirm that it contains compounds with strong medicinal properties. The curcuminoids compounds which includes curcumin is a powerful antioxidant with highly effective anti-inflammatory capabilities. By being able to treat chronic inflammation, turmeric has proven very beneficial in preventing diseases such as heart disease and various conditions which are a related to chronic inflammation.
- Improves the body’s antioxidant capacity
Aging and many other diseases are a result of oxidative damage in the body. These are caused by free radicals which react with organic substances in the body. Here is where antioxidants come in handy. Curcumin is an antioxidant which protects the body against these free radicals and prevent oxidative damage. It is also able to enhance the activities of antioxidant enzymes in the body to fight against these free radicals.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
Heart disease is caused by a number of complicated processes. Curcumin is able to reverse these processes and reduce the risk of heart disease. This compound has the ability to improve the functioning of the blood vessel lining, and this is crucial in regulating blood pressure, blood clotting and various other functions. The blood vessel linings may cause heart disease when they function abnormally. Its positive medicinal effects are comparable to those of the popular drugs that manage heart ailments.
- Prevents cancer
Curcumin fights against cancerous cells, their growth and development. It has been found out that the compound is able to reduce the spread of cancer and is also able to kill cancerous cells. It does this by inhibiting and reducing the growth of cancerous cells and tumors. Recent studies show that curcumin has the ability of preventing the appearance and development of cancerous cells especially those that affect the digestive system.
- Prevents and treats Alzheimer disease
Alzheimer disease is known to cause dementia and is among the most common neurodegenerative diseases in the world. It has no known cure and, therefore, its prevention is of utmost importance. Since it is also associated with inflammation and oxidative damage, curcumin plays an active role in inhibiting its development. Alzheimer encourages the development of protein tangles in the body which can be cleared by curcumin.
- Management of arthritis
Arthritis is a disease that is associated with the inflammation of the joints. Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory that can help manage arthritis.
- Management of depression
Studies show that curcumin fares well in the treatment and management of depression. It has the same effectiveness as Prozac, a drug known for managing depression. It boosts brain transmitters and helps to improve memory loss and learning capabilities.
- Counters aging and age related diseases
The fact that curcumin helps prevent heart conditions and Alzheimer disease, means that it has a great impact on an individual’s life expectancy. This has made it a popular anti-aging supplement because it also acts as an antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory compound that treats age-related diseases.
When used as a spice, turmeric adds a lot of flavor to food that brings a warm, earthy and peppery taste. It is usually used on foods such as rice, apples, fruits and vegetables, green beans, cauliflower, legumes, lentils, and salad dressings among others. In North America, it is used in foods such as butter, cheese, and bread. In the rest of the world, turmeric spice is commonly added to dishes like potatoes, chicken, coconut, soups, relishes, and desserts.
Drinking turmeric tea is also healthy as it increases the lifespan of an individual. To get a higher concentration of curcumin from turmeric spice, one is advised to look for dried turmeric and not curry powder. Turmeric spice has a strong colour pigmentation which easily sticks on one’s hands.
The turmeric spice is a popular food source that has been recognized for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. However, despite all the hype, the turmeric spice has its downsides too. New scientific evidence show that curcumin, which is the most dominant compound in turmeric, has in fact limited health benefits. The biggest problem with this compound is that it is insoluble and not easy to absorb into the bloodstream. This has created doubts as to whether the spice can act as a standalone supplement. For easier absorption into the body system, turmeric spice is usually taken with black pepper.
This is a yellow powder that is made by grinding dry mature turmeric rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground stems which grow from the turmeric plant. Turmeric powder has been used for thousands of years in coloring and flavoring food. It has also been used for cosmetic products. This curry, which is used in virtually all curries in India, is said to have zero calories and cholesterol. Apart from being used for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, the turmeric powder is also used as a condiment in spiritual Indian ceremonies and in beauty products.
How Turmeric powder is used
Turmeric powder has many uses. Here are the most common uses of turmeric powder.
- It is used in virtually all gravy and curries in India. It adds a good flavor and appealing color to food.
- It is used to manufacture pesticides. When mixed with water, turmeric powder is able to terminate all insects including termites and ants.
- It is also used as a preservative. When added to paneer, turmeric powder is able to extend the shelf life of paneer for more than ten years.
- Turmeric is vastly used in Indian weddings and other ceremonies. In the haldi ceremony, Turmeric paste is smeared on the bride and groom to ward off evil spirits and to give their skins an attractive hue.
- Turmeric is also associated with symbols of fertility, prosperity, and purity.
- It is used in the hindu ritual of Abhishekam, where turmeric water is poured as an offering to the Gods inside the temples.
- Since turmeric has a yellow coloration, the color has been exalted in the Indian tradition and is considered to be sacred. Anything that has been dyed yellow using the turmeric is pure.
Turmeric side effects
Turmeric side effects are usually caused by the consumption of turmeric’s main ingredient – curcumin. It is, therefore, advisable to ingest turmeric, not as curcumin, but as a whole food by either taking turmeric capsules or turmeric paste recipe. These two whole foods contain turmeric powder which contains little amounts of curcumin. There are various side effects associated with the ingestion of turmeric. Here are some of them:
- Slow blood clotting
The consumption of turmeric slows the process of blood clotting and it is advisable to stop using turmeric two weeks before a surgery. This condition increases one’s risk of getting bruises and bleeding. It has the same effect as aspirin and ibuprofen on the blood because of its antiplatelet action.
- Risks pregnancy
It is not advisable to take turmeric in medical amounts during pregnancy because it has the effect of interfering with the menstrual flow as well as the stimulation of the uterus which can put the pregnancy at risk. It is best not to start using turmeric during pregnancy because it can cause health complications.
- Affects the gallbladder
Turmeric use might complicate gallbladder problems especially when one has a bile duct obstruction or kidney stones. It makes the gallbladder to contract and this causes a lot of pain.
- Decreases blood sugar
This is especially serious for people with diabetes.
The use of turmeric causes stomach problems to some individuals. It is especially serious when the individual has GERD because it makes the situation worse.
- Worsens hormone sensitive conditions
Sometimes curcumin acts like oestrogen and makes hormone sensitive conditions to become worse.
- Iron deficiency
It is advisable not to take large amounts of turmeric because it prevents iron from being absorbed by the body. People who are deficient in iron should, therefore, avoid taking high amounts of turmeric. It worsens the condition of iron deficient people and should be used with caution.
- Can cause Infertility
When taken by mouth, turmeric has the ability of reducing testosterone levels in men. It also affects sperm movements and this poses a threat to the fertility levels of the man who consumes it. It is, therefore, advisable to reduce turmeric consumption especially by men who are planning to have children. It is a powerful spermicide and kills sperms in the vagina.
In a nutshell, the turmeric can be regarded as a powerful spice, medicine, flavor, and color that offers a number of benefits to individuals and the society in general. It is an important plant that is highly regarded and has a privileged status in society due to its usefulness.