Turmeric: usage, health benefits and side effects
In recent years much attention has been paid to turmeric and its useful properties. Turmeric is widely used in Asia (especially in India) and some regions of Africa. Today this spice has gone far beyond the gastronomic framework. Scientists have identified the many benefits of the chemical composition of turmeric and revealed its effects on the human body.
What is turmeric
Turmeric is a plant, the roots of which are used for making spice and powder. Once you see turmeric root, you will notice its similarity with ginger. In fact, the turmeric plant is a type of ginger. The composition of turmeric is rich and includes essential oil, terpenoids, dye curcumin (soluble in fats and alcohol, insoluble in water), vitamins B, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, E, C, K, iron, iodine, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium, copper, selenium, zinc, manganese.
Health benefits of turmeric
This antioxidant belongs to the family of curcuminoids – polyphenol compounds of bright yellow color. Turmeric (curcumin) has shown effectiveness in fighting infections, lowering cholesterol, solving digestive problems and inhibiting some forms of cancer. It was also possible that one of the health benefits of turmeric is the prevention of such serious diseases as Alzheimer’s disease and myocardial hypertrophy. All useful properties of curcumin have been reflected in the publication of the medical journal ‘Achievements in the field of experimental medicine and biology’ for 2007. But let’s have a closer look at the many healing aspects of turmeric benefits:
Turmeric for inflammation
Stanford University scientists have shown that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and can be useful in wound healing, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, eczema, and psoriasis. The same properties that make this popular Indian spice are also an attractive tool for the removal of painful symptoms in arthrosis. Due to its antibacterial properties, turmeric is widely used as an active ingredient of therapeutic creams and ointments against various bacterial infections and parasites. It is also widely used in cosmetology for preventing inflammatory issues in the skin.
Turmeric for digestion
Like many other spices, turmeric enhances the secretion of bile in the gallbladder, which in some cases can contribute to the normalization of digestion. Israeli doctors have proven the effectiveness of turmeric (curcumin) in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, including nausea, bloating, increased gas production, loss of appetite, discomfort in the stomach, etc. It is not surprising that turmeric root was included in the list of herbs approved for the treatment of digestive problems in Germany. The officially recommended dose is 1 tsp. 2-3 times a day.
Turmeric and cholesterol
American scientists suggest that curcumin reduces the concentration of “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream, prevents its accumulation on the walls of arteries and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, which are the main cause of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. If you have serious health conditions associated with high cholesterol, it is recommended that you try a turmeric drink. Jessica Koslow, the chef-owner of Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles, in her interview with The New York Times Magazine shared popular turmeric drinks recipes they offer their clients in the restaurant (Jan. 8, 2016). Even hot LA restaurants are in on the turmeric craze!
Turmeric for liver conditions
American professor Anping Chen from St. Louis has experimentally found out that curcumin helps in the prevention and treatment of liver fibrosis not associated with alcohol dependence. Chen leads a research team that studies the molecular mechanisms of fibrosis and looks for natural therapies. Non-alcoholic fibrosis is normally caused by obesity or type II diabetes. In patients, the level of leptin and sugar in the blood is too high. This, according to the American scientists, leads to increased production of collagen and fibrotic changes of the liver. It has been experimentally proven that curcumin inhibits the negative effect of leptin molecules and protects the liver from fibrosis.
Turmeric and cancer
Doctors from the Harvard Medical School hope that turmeric powder can be effective in fighting cancer. The results of preliminary studies have shown the effectiveness of this spice in the treatment of bone, pancreatic and prostate cancer. Experiments on mice confirmed that one of many turmeric benefits is blocking melanoma growth. In addition, this Indian spice helps the body resist the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.
Turmeric side effects
Even though turmeric is a natural product and can hardly be viewed as a harmful medication, it still has some contraindications. People with the following conditions should not use turmeric without doctor’s permission:
- various types of allergies;
- cholelithiasis and bile duct obstruction;
- stomach ulcer and duodenal ulcer;
- pregnancy (large doses are contraindicative);
- taking blood thinning medicines.
Only large doses of turmeric (curcumin) taken for a long time can cause health problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Curcumin prevents coagulation, that is why if you are taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or other medicines with blood thinning properties, consult your doctor before taking turmeric.
You may find many turmeric supplements on the market that vary in price and composition. It is recommended to purchase only organic turmeric supplements from reputable retailers. Since turmeric is very popular, there are a number of low-quality turmeric supplements produced under inappropriate circumstances. You can also find turmeric pills and some liquid turmeric extracts. The choice of supplement depends on your preferences and your doctor’s recommendations.
With that, if you add turmeric to the list of your spices and season your curry, stewed meat or fish, this golden turmeric powder won’t do any harm to you. Instead, it will make your dish delicious and you a little bit healthier.