Turmeric is a bright yellow relative of ginger, and it is sometimes referred to as Indian saffron. While dishes using turmeric take on a distinctive colour and flavour, the spice is actually one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances found in nature.
When consumed in high levels, turmeric has been known to help decrease chronic, low-level inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the cause of conditions such as arthritis and joint pain, heart disease, and cognitive diseases. Turmeric’s benefits aren’t a recent discovery, though; it’s a key ingredient in one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world!
Turmeric, Curcumin, And Ayurvedic Medicine
Turmeric is important to Ayurveda, a holistic healing tradition from India. Ayurvedic medicine says that food is integral to whole-body healing, and through proper preparation and ingredients, it can bring balance to the three “doshas”: Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth). It is believed that too much of any dosha can cause serious health imbalances, but turmeric’s heat and bitterness balance all three. Thanks to this tradition as a “tri-doshic” spice, turmeric still is a major ingredient in Indian cooking.
Ayurvedic tradition saw that turmeric had many benefits long before science identified the active ingredient behind it. Turmeric is now known to be an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and a natural antibiotic because of a compound known as curcumin. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its colour and flavour, but it’s also the bioactive ingredient that makes turmeric an effective supplement.
Curcumin works by stopping low-level inflammation at the source. Inflammation is caused by your white blood cells releasing chemicals to fight foreign pathogens, making it an important part of healing. However, when the body sends improper signals to the white blood cells, they can start attacking tissue where there is no problem. This is the cause of many degenerative diseases like cognitive decline, arthritis, and heart disease. Curcumin fights chronic inflammation by blocking the molecular signaling that is telling the body to attack specific areas like joints or neurons in the brain.
How Can I Consume More Turmeric?
Cooking or consuming more Indian curry is one tasty way of making turmeric a regular part of your diet. Turmeric is used to flavour many different curry powders, as well as butter and cheese. Even if Indian food isn’t to your taste, turmeric can be used as a flavouring agent in almost any savory food, including soups, stews, and chicken dishes. You can add it as a new component to a dish when you use a bay leaf, cumin, garlic, pepper, or thyme. Pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin, so try to always use them together.
Turmeric is also the main ingredient in a calming drink known as “golden milk.” This turmeric tea mixes one teaspoon of turmeric, a cup of a dairy or plant-based milk, and warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, or pepper. You can even add coconut oil or bone broth to the milk to make your golden milk a heartier beverage. To prepare, whisk the ingredients together and heat until it’s hot but not boiling. Golden milk makes for a great addition to your bedtime routine!
One of the most effective ways to fight inflammation with turmeric is to take curcumin supplements. Curcumin represents, at most, 10% of turmeric preparations, and the body has a hard time absorbing it. Supplements that are just curcumin and piperine (an extract from black pepper) have a dramatically higher bioavailability. This means that the body is able to utilize more of the anti-inflammatory benefits directly without having to consume large amounts of turmeric. Curcumin supplements can be found at any local natural health store, but talk with a healthcare provider to ensure that the supplements do not affect pre-existing conditions or medications.