7 Science-backed health benefits of turmeric (recipe included)
02/05/2022 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
7 Science-backed health benefits of turmeric (recipe included)

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a pungent, golden spice that gives certain curries their color. It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice for culinary purposes and as a natural remedy for various ailments. Turmeric has also been used in traditional medicine in countries like Japan, Malaysia and Pakistan.

But what gives turmeric its beneficial properties in the first place? The answer is curcumin. This powerful compound is what gives turmeric its golden color, and it is known for its antioxidant properties.

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Read on to learn more about turmeric and curcumin and their health benefits.

Health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric contains naturally occurring phytochemicals called curcuminoids. The most notable and widely studied of these phytochemicals is curcumin, and it is primarily responsible for the benefits linked to turmeric. These include:

1. Reduces inflammation

One of turmeric’s main claims to fame is that it helps ease inflammation. The bulk of turmeric’s inflammation-fighting powers can be attributed to curcumin. In fact, in the right dose, curcumin may be a more effective anti-inflammatory treatment than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and aspirin.

Because chronic inflammation contributes to chronic diseases, curcumin may help treat certain inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis and arthritis, according to a past review.

2. Protects against free radical damage

Antioxidants protect our bodies from damage caused by highly reactive molecules called free radicals. Though naturally generated by our bodies, free radicals can cause oxidative stress at very high levels, which can damage healthy cells and their components. This can put you at risk for chronic diseases.

Turmeric, being rich in antioxidants, may help protect healthy cells from free radical damage. In fact, a review published in the journal Foods found that curcumin can scavenge free radicals and control enzymes that neutralize free radicals. Curcumin can also prevent certain enzymes from creating free radicals.

3. Boosts brain health

Brain cells (neurons) can multiply in certain parts of the brain. One of the main drivers of this process is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a gene involved in making a protein responsible for promoting the life of neurons.

BDNF also plays a role in memory and learning. Given the importance of BDNF, many brain disorders have been linked to low levels of BDNF, such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. In animal studies, curcumin has been shown to increase BDNF levels. As such, curcumin may help delay the onset of certain brain diseases.

4. Lowers heart disease risk

Curcumin in turmeric can keep the heart healthy by improving the function of endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels, including those that carry oxygen and nutrients away from the heart to the body’s tissues. Endothelial cells also play a key role in regulating blood pressure. This is why endothelial dysfunction, or the impaired functioning of endothelial cells, is associated with an increased risk for heart disease.

As such, curcumin can help protect against endothelial dysfunction and the health problems associated with it, such as heart disease.

5. May help prevent cancer

Since chronic inflammation is linked to tumor growth, anti-inflammatory compounds like curcumin may play a role in the treatment and prevention of certain cancers, including cancers of the colon, pancreas and breasts.

In animal studies, curcumin has been shown to help slow the spread of tumor cells and keep tumors from forming in the first place. Curcumin may do this in several ways, including disrupting the formation of cancerous cells at various stages in the cell cycle and causing cancerous cells to die or self-destruct.

6. Relieves arthritis pain

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can be a safe and effective remedy for those with osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition marked by joint pain and stiffness. That’s according to a recent review of the clinical use of curcumin for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

7. May help delay aging

Currently, it remains unclear whether curcumin directly influences longevity. But thanks to its ability to lower inflammation, protect cells from free radicals and potentially delay brain degeneration, curcumin may be an effective anti-aging supplement.

Recipe for golden milk

This recipe includes black pepper, which contains piperine. This compound enhances curcumin absorption by up to 2,000 percent.

Ingredients for 1 serving:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened milk
  • 1 teaspoon of raw honey (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • A pinch of ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until fragrant.
  3. Strain the mixture into a mug. Top with cinnamon. Serve and enjoy.

Golden milk can be refrigerated for up to five days. Reheat it before drinking or enjoy it cold. You can also add other spices, such as cardamom and vanilla, for a more flavorful beverage.

Turmeric has been linked to several health benefits, thanks to beneficial compounds like curcumin. Enjoy those benefits when you incorporate turmeric into your daily routine.

Sources:

Healthline.com 1

Healthline.com 2

Nature.com

EMBOPress.org

MDPI.com

PubMed.NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov 1

PubMed.NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov 2

PubMed.NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov 3

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