Turmeric is a bright yellow aromatic powder derived from the rhizome of a plant, which is a member of the ginger family. Turmeric has long been recognized for its medicinal properties and has gained the interest of both the medical and scientific world, apart from its culinary uses.
Turmeric powder and turmeric. Image Credit: COLOA Studio / Shutterstock
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice used for cooking but has gained immense popularity as one of the most powerful herb for fighting various diseases.
Turmeric can be found in India and other Southeast Asian countries. The dried root of the plant is ground to create the distinctive yellow turmeric powder.
There are numerous chemical compounds found in turmeric, named curcuminoids, wherein the active ingredient is curcumin. Curcumin is the ingredient that gives turmeric many of its vast health benefits.
Turmeric contains more than 100 chemical compounds that contribute to its healing abilities. Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a polyphenol, has been shown to target many cell pathway signaling molecules. At the same time, it manifests activity at the cellular level. Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Other curcuminoids include bisdemethoxycurcumin, and dimethoxycurcumin.
A Brief History
In the past, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine in South Asia and China for various conditions such as rheumatism, severe pain, fatigue, and breathing problems for over 4,000 years. Indian people believed that the root’s healing powers can cure many illnesses.
The best-known health benefit of turmeric is its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, giving it the power to alleviate swelling and pain in conditions such as arthritis. Inflammation is a very common cause of pain and discomfort. It can also contribute to the development of certain diseases. Turmeric usage reduces the risk of the side effects of taking prescription anti-inflammatory drugs.
The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against pathogens that can cause disease and infection. Turmeric has been shown to be one of the best foods to maintain, protect, and boost immunity, reducing the risk of falling ill. Turmeric has antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Turmeric can ease pain and is used as a pain reliever for arthritis pain. This has been studied in several trials, particularly for patients with arthritis.
Turmeric has antioxidant properties that help fight free radical damage and oxidative stress. Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind the development of numerous diseases and aging. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can help neutralize free radicals. Aside from that, curcumin can boost the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the body.
Improve Brain Function
Curcumin can improve and boost levels of the brain hormone brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth of new neurons and wards off many degenerative processes in the brain. Hence, turmeric has been used to attempt to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Lower Heart Disease Risk
Curcumin plays a major role in the prevention of heart disease. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can improve the function of the endothelium. Moreover, it lowers the level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or the “bad” cholesterol. This can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and even stroke.
Aids in Digestion
Turmeric also supports enzymatic reactions, muscle movement, acid production, and optimal absorption of nutrients in the gut.