There’s a bright orange, natural food making lots of headlines lately. In fact, some experts say it’s as strong as any medicine you might find in a pill, bottle, or even injection – especially when it comes to helping relieve inflammatory health issues.
It might even be one of the great secrets to promoting better health all around. But, what is it?
Native to Southern Asia, this herbaceous plant within the ginger family can often be found in your favorite curry dishes. Technically, it’s a rhizome (the underground stem of a plant). And once it’s pulled from the earth, it’s cleaned up, dried out, and ground into a powder. Then, it’s most often used as a spice – the flavor is a bit like saffron, but with a slightly bitter edge.
Now, turmeric’s also a long-time staple of Ayurvedic medicine – one of the world’s oldest medicinal practices. This practice got its start in India over 3,000 years ago. It also involves the help of many different herbs, spices, and an alternative diet.
The healing power in turmeric is attributed to its high curcumin content.
Curcumin is the polyphenol – or naturally produced chemical – responsible for turmeric’s bright hue. It has strong antioxidant properties, and it may help to reduce joint swelling and stiffness.1
Turmeric’s medicinal capabilities don’t stop there.
Believe it or not, inflammation serves an important purpose in the body. It supports your body’s fight against cells that may invade from outside and cause damage – like bacteria and viruses. But, it can also help to repair the damage they cause.
Now, it’s true that short-term inflammation is a tool used by your immune system to help your body. When you injure yourself, your immune system sends an internal first-aid team of proteins to the site of the injury to heal it. That’s why you notice swelling and redness. You might also feel warmth in the area of the injury. And you could potentially feel pain, or experience restricted movement, near the site of the wound.
That’s all good. It means your body is doing all it can to get the right nutrients and hormones to heal your wound.
If, however, the inflammation becomes longer lasting or chronic, it can cause lasting damage – especially when the inflammation begins to prevent regular bodily function. Chronic inflammation can be the result of things like stress, smoking, a bad diet, or obesity, so do your best to keep those things in check.
Research shows curcumin is so strong, however, it can often be effective in fighting those issues that involve long-term swelling and inflammation at the molecular level.2
Everything in the world – everything you can see, feel, smell, or taste – is made up of molecules. And molecules consist of atoms. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. But, sometimes, an atom is missing one of its electrons. An atom with only one electron is what’s known as a free radical.
Free radicals are known to cause harm to your skin because they try to steal extra electrons from the atoms in your skin. That’s what causes damage to your skin and can make you look like you’re aging faster than you really are.
But, antioxidants are really helpful when it comes to fighting against the visual signs of aging. Curcumin is a great source of antioxidants.3 Not only that, curcumin also helps hike up your body’s antioxidant enzyme production.4
So really, curcumin hits free radicals from two-angles – blocking them immediately, and then encouraging the body to help itself fight against them.
Finally, it’s possible that curcumin can play a role in helping to improve your memory – and even make you sharper.5
You see, there’s a protein in your spinal cord and brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein keeps your nerve cells healthy and helps to maintain them as they grow.
Now, your neurons are the cells in your brain that communicate thought and information through electrical signals. And the BDNF protein can also help to monitor how information is transferred between those neurons in your brain. It can even assist transmission between a neuron and a muscle cell, which is of great importance when it comes to learning and memory.
Many health issues involving the brain and memory have been associated with low levels of BDNF. But, in a few regions of your brain, curcumin might actually help to increase brain levels of BDNF to allow for better, sharper brain function.6
These are just a few reasons to add turmeric to your diet. As mentioned above, it’s often found in curry and traditional Southeast Asian dishes. But, here are some great recipes that might help you beef up your turmeric intake at home.
And please, don’t hesitate to write in your comments below and share recipes of your own.
HEALTHY HOT CHOCOLATE
It’s not just the turmeric in this hot chocolate that makes it healthy. The cinnamon could boost your metabolism, and the manuka honey could help with heartburn.
What to get:
- 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder(no sugar added, you’ll sweeten it yourself)
- 2 ½ teaspoons manuka honey
- 1 cup whole milk
What to do:
- Combine turmeric, cinnamon, honey, cocoa powder, and milk in a saucepan.
- Simmer over medium heat.
- Stir regularly.
- Serve warm.
CITRUS CHICKEN W/TURMERIC
What to get:
- 1/2 cup of turmeric
- 4 tablespoons ginger
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- Juice of 4 limes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 skinless chicken thighs
- 2/3 cup water
What to do:
- Combine turmeric, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, and lime juice in a mixing bowl.
- Add chicken to spice and citrus juice mixture.
- Add coconut oil to a large skillet on medium heat.
- Remove chicken from spice and citrus mixture and place in skillet.
- Once golden and crisp, turn chicken over.
- If need be, add water and let simmer until chicken is tender.
So, whether you’re looking to improve you stay younger longer, fight inflammation, or better your mind – reach for turmeric. It’ll help you feel great and even enhance the flavors of your favorite dishes. Bon appetit!
1. N C. Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016.
2. Sood SNagpal M. Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview. 2016.
3. AR M. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016.
4. Biswas SK e. Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of fr… – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016.
5. A Potential Role of the Curry Spice Curcumin in Alzheimer’s Disea…: Ingenta Connect. Ingentaconnectcom. 2016.
6. Xu Y, Ku B, Tie L et al. Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB. Brain Research. 2006;1122(1):56-64. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.09.009.