There is a popular new herb on the block called turmeric. In fact, many products already contain it. Lattes, milk, energy bars and of course, supplements. It has even found its way into chocolate. Turmeric hails from the ginger family and is has a brilliant color. And people have used it for centuries around the world as a medicine. Part of the reason that it is so popular right now, is that it works. To say that turmeric cures everything is a stretch, but there is almost no disease or ailment it doesn’t help. Sometimes as well as drugs, but without the side effects.
A Very Powerful Anti-Inflammatory
Turmeric’s most obvious and pronounced claim to fame is its anti-inflammatory properties.1 This is important as low-level inflammation causes two big problems for health. First, it is basically the cause of aging.2 Second, chronic disease and inflammation go together.3 Thus, turmeric can fight against both, which means better skin, reduction of asthma, IBS, arthritis and obesity.
Curcumin is the Active Ingredient in Turmeric
The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, actually does the figurative heavy lifting. Studies show that curcumin diminishes the inflammatory response significantly.4 Plus, it has strong antioxidant qualities.5 This means that it will neutralize free radicals, natural by-products of cellular activity, that cause oxidative stress. This is a fancy term for damage to tissue that is strongly associated with disease as well.6 In short, curcumin curbs inflammation and oxidative stress, two huge disease origins!
Turmeric Cures for the Brain and Heart
As if that wasn’t enough reason to add turmeric to your diet, it also helps your brain. It increases the amount of something called neurotrophic factor.7 This is a special molecule that shields the brain from decline and damage. It is sort of like growth factor, but for the brain. We already know that low levels of this ‘factor’ are associated with depression and Alzheimer’s disease.8,9 In one study, curcumin turned out to be as effective as Prozac.10
Since it is such a powerful anti-inflammatory, turmeric also protects the heart from free radical damage and inflammation.11 In addition, it improves the function of the cells that line veins and arteries.12 When these work better, blood is delivered better. But not only does it help the brain and the heart, curcumin fights diabetes, obesity and immune system disorders.13
A Natural Anti-Cancer
It turns out that curcumin also fights cancer.14 In fact, it can actually kill them and keep them from spreading. This is not to say that turmeric will always cure all cancers, but it sure can help or at least prevent it. In any case, the studies that show this use much higher doses than would normally be ingested.
Toxic Turmeric Cures
Turmeric also improves detoxification. It helps your body eliminate dangerous chemicals and even heavy metals.15 Toxic chemicals are introduced into your body through the food you eat and the air you breathe. There’s really no way around it. You just have to hope that you aren’t getting too much, or that your body is able to deal with it. But turmeric can neutralize these chemicals and rid them from the body more quickly.
Where to Get It
Turmeric is simply an herb and can be found in just about any grocery, vitamin or health store. In the grocery store you will find it in the produce section or as a seasoning. Many products contain turmeric too. But keep in mind that many include tiny, almost irrelevant amounts of turmeric. They are just trying to make their product more marketable by being able to say it has turmeric.
Turmeric Cures Best With Black Pepper and Fat
Plus, turmeric does not absorb very well on its own. A component of black pepper, called piperine, is necessary for any significant absorption. In fact, it absorbs 2000% better with piperine.16 And Of course, many products only contain turmeric, so it is important to add some black pepper to whatever you are eating.
Additionally, turmeric is fat soluble. This means that in order to absorb in the gut, it needs to be combined with fat. Of course, it can only do so if you have eaten some. So, when consuming turmeric, you not only need to have some black pepper as well, but also some fat. For instance, if you are eating a salad with turmeric and black pepper, be sure to top it with some fat. Olive oil, vinaigrette dressing or ranch (not fat free) are some options.
Don’t Overdo It
We have known for a long time that turmeric and curcumin are safe.17 But as always, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Overdoing turmeric can cause diarrhea, headaches, rashes and yellow stool. But these outcomes were only with very high doses.
Because turmeric (curcumin) has so many positive health benefits, it has gained a lot of attention. All of these effects seem to result from its ability to squelch inflammation and free radicals. But remember, if you want the benefits, you pretty much have to take it with piperine in black pepper and fat. You can see benefits in oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and obesity to name a few.