Turmeric is a bright yellow-orange spice derived from the Curcuma longa, a flowering plant belonging to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.
Native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, turmeric has long been used as a spice and food colouring agent. It is one of the important ingredients in curry powder and is used in many products such as baked products, dairy products, ice cream, biscuits, cakes, and sauces.
Apart from its culinary uses, turmeric is also used traditionally to treat a variety of health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and rheumatism.
Nutritional Value of Turmeric
Turmeric is a rich source of many essential nutrients, such as vitamin B6, iron, manganese, copper, potassium, and magnesium. According to the USDA, one tablespoon (9.4 grams) of turmeric powder contains:
- 29 calories
- 0.9 grams of protein
- 0.3 grams of fat
- 6.3 grams of carbohydrates
- 2.1 grams of fiber
- 0.3 grams of sugar
Turmeric also contains numerous chemical compounds called curcuminoids, and the most important of which is curcumin. It is the active ingredient that gives turmeric its yellow color. Curcumin has been shown to possess significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antimicrobial properties.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
1. Reduce heart disease risk
Due to its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can lower the risk of heart disease. The curcumin found in turmeric can improve the lining of the blood vessels and reduce blood cholesterol levels.
In a study of healthy postmenopausal women, published in the Nutrition Research, showed that curcumin consumption may improve the function of the endothelium, which forms the inner lining of the blood vessels .
Another study showed that supplementing with 1000 mg per day of a curcumin-bioperine formulation resulted in significant reductions in LDL and total cholesterol .
2. Prevents cancer
Studies have shown that curcumin may play role in treating and preventing a variety of cancer types, including colorectal, breast, prostate, and liver cancer.
In a 2013 study looked at the effects of combined treatment with curcumin and chemotherapy on colorectal cancer cells. The researchers concluded that the combined treatment might be better than chemotherapy alone .
In one study, published in the Oncology Letters, curcumin inhibited the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. And in a mouse model of liver cancer, treatment with curcumin caused the tumors to grow much more slowly .
3. Protects against Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
Curcumin also has a potential role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s known that inflammation plays a role in AD, and curcumin has anti-inflammatory effect on brain cells .
In addition, a 2018 study found that curcumin can help decrease the accumulation of amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark of AD .
4. Diabetes management
Many studies have suggested that turmeric might protect against the development of diabetes. For example, one study done in 2012 found that prediabetic patients who took curcumin for 9 months continuously were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those taking a placebo .
Another study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism showed that curcumin disrupted the progression of high blood sugar and insulin resistance that lead to diabetes development .
5. Treats rheumatoid arthritis
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been proven to help with inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2016 review found that the curcumin present in turmeric act as an anti-inflammatory agent and provided relief for osteoarthritis .
Another systematic review found that the intake of turmeric extract for 8-12 weeks reduced the symptoms of arthritis, such as pain and inflammation. It was also found that turmeric extract performed similarly to the pain relievers ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium .
6. Fights depression
Curcumin has been shown effective at fighting major depression by reducing stress and increasing the release of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate mood and behavior .
The spice also show promise as an effective antidepressant. In a 6-week study conducted on patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), curcumin was shown to have a similar effect as fluoxetine, which is an antidepressant medication .
7. Weight loss
Drinking turmeric tea is a great way to lose weight. It helps burn excessive fat by increasing your metabolism rate. Additionally, turmeric tea also helps to detoxify the body, particularly the liver, which can aid in healthy weight loss .
One preliminary study suggests that curcumin consumption was effective at increasing weight loss and reducing fat among overweight subjects .
8. Improves skin health
Since turmeric is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, it has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of skin conditions, including acne, atopic dermatitis (eczema), photoaging, and psoriasis.
One review published in the January 2018 issue of Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences suggests that oral curcumin in particular may be an efficient and safe treatment option for psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin disease), but more studies are needed before making recommendations .
Another review of 10 studies found that turmeric (curcumin) ingestion may provide therapeutic benefits for skin conditions, such as acne, facial photoaging, atopic dermatitis, radiodermatitis, and psoriasis .
9. Prevents hair loss
According to research, turmeric works to help prevent hair loss because it contains chemical factors that help to inhibit 5-alpha reductase enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is the same hormone linked to androgenetic hair loss, a genetic condition that manifests through the loss of hair.
Researchers suggest that using turmeric would, therefore, help to prevent hair loss due to genetic factors and may also help to support other systems of the body responsible for hair growth.
There are two ways that you might benefit from taking turmeric. The first is that you can use it as a spice in your food or take it in supplement form. The second is that you can make a turmeric paste and apply it to your hair.
To make the turmeric paste, mix turmeric powder with the same amount of milk and honey in a bowl, and apply it on your scalp. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse it off with your regular shampoo. This method can be used twice a week.
10. Promotes wound healing
Turmeric is an effective remedy for open wound healing. It has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, which all contribute to the enhancement of wound healing. Turmeric will also take care of any internal wound or injury.
Mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder into a glass of hot water and drink it regularly twice a day.
How to Choose and Store Turmeric
When buying turmeric in its whole form, look for roots that are firm, plump and free of molds. For cooking, choose brightly colored and aromatic turmeric powder. As for dosage, the recommended daily dosage for adults is typically 400 to 600 mg of curcumin three times per day or as directed on the product label.
Fresh turmeric can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a month. Turmeric powder should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place, where it will keep for up to a year.