Editor’s note: [The intention of this article is to introduce the reader to turmeric in relation to health benefits and is in no way a replacement to medical advice. If you have medical questions, please contact your health care professional.]
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family that grows in tropical climates where there is a lot of rainfall, according to eHow. It is chopped annually and its rhizomes exhibit a mustardy yellow when grounded into a powder, which is used in curries. It originates from Asia and there it was used as a curry spice and as a dye for clothing, according to Cancer.org, long before scientists began their research on the spice’s health benefits. Although it does not look like it is a potent powder, turmeric can bring life-changing results.
The Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric on its own has many health benefits which have been scientifically tested and proven. Gregory Cole, who holds a doctorate in physiology and is a professor of medicine and neurology at UCLA, conducted numerous studies on the benefits of turmeric. These studies included how turmeric may “prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers” due to its anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Brian Research Institute at UCLA, or BRI, website.
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Studies done on lab mice at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center “have shown that the spice blocks growth of a skin cancer—melanoma—and inhibits the spread of breast cancer into the lungs,” according to the BRI website.
“A 2004 study with mice published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggested that curcumin might be of help for Alzheimer’s patients,” as stated on the BRI website. “Turmeric is also being studied for its ability to help treat Alzheimer’s disease. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s among adults in India aged 70 to 79 is among the world’s lowest. It is 4.4 times less than the rate in the United States.”
When combined with piperine a natural reaction occurs which gives turmeric cancer-fighting qualities.
Turmeric has been shown to reduce the spread of some cancers, including “prostate, breast, skin and lung [cancers,]” Shannon Sunde, certified health coach and registered yoga teacher, said. It has been proven to isolate cancerous cells and stop them from spreading to other parts of the body. It decreases the pace in which cancerous cells grow, according to Sunde.
Turmeric is most recognized for preventing conditions such as “arthritis, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, osteoarthritis, liver disease, diabetes, allergies and even depression,” Sunde said. Turmeric has longer-lasting effects if consumed in powder form, but has a more “rapid, dramatic effect” when taken as a supplement.
Not only does turmeric help with serious health conditions, but it also has the ability to kill bad bacteria that is found in meats. According to Sunde, “it can reduce the carcinogenic compounds by up to 40 percent that are formed when meats are barbecued, boiled or fried, therefore those compounds would never even make it into our bodies.”
How Much Turmeric can be Consumed?
“Adults can eat anywhere [between] 1.5 and 3 grams of cut, dried or powdered turmeric to gain the health benefits,” Sunde said. “However, if you are taking the standardized powder as a supplement, also called curcumin, you can take up to 600 mg three times per day. It may also come in a tincture or a liquid extract and I recommend asking your health care provider for dosage, which can vary widely depending on the condition you are working with.”
“It has been found recently that absorption is enhanced by the presence of piperine, a constituent of black pepper,” Sunde said.
For some individuals there may be side effects in consuming turmeric such as irritation in the stomach lining which can lead to pain, cramping, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. “Women that are pregnant or breast feeding should avoid the supplements, but eating the root seems to be fine,” Sunde said.
The stated side effects of Turmeric on the WebMD website coincide with Sunde’s statements. “Turmeric usually does not cause significant side effects; however, some people can experience stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea.”
Cooking with Turmeric
The most common way to consume turmeric is to cook with it, as it can be incorporated in several different foods such as mustard, tea or milk, according to the Turmeric Health Benefits website. The spice is also available in capsule form. Being made into a paste, the spice can be applied directly onto the skin to help sprains, blisters, insect bites, and even helps get rid of acne as it has pain-fighting properties.
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For individuals who tend to stay away from curries or spicy food, they can still enjoy turmeric’s benefits by slowly incorporating it into their favorite foods. For instance, some people put a dash in their rice, as it does not change the taste all that much, but it certainly will change its color. If you make mustard at home put a pinch of turmeric in it and you will not even notice.
A little bit of this powder goes a long way and it reaps many, many benefits that will help long term. Still, against using the powder all together? There are supplements you can take; you won’t even taste the turmeric. Remember that when cooking with turmeric you should also incorporate it with black pepper to get the best health benefits.
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