There’s a hype around turmeric and it’s benefits. This herb has been purported as a cure-all especially by the traditional medical system and by modern medicine (in a form of supplements). Should turmeric be considered a superfood? Well, the proof is in scientific evidence. We will find that out in a short while.
According to Wikipedia, turmeric has been in use for thousands of years. It is native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
This flowering plant belongs to the ginger family and “its roots are used for cooking as a culinary herb and traditional medicine”. It is used by modern medicine too in the form of supplements.
This deep yellow herb is used as a spice especially in Indian cuisine. It can be used “fresh or dried and ground into a powder and used as a dye and coloring agent “among other things.
Turmeric has been used in “traditional medicine such as Ayurveda as well as traditional Chinese medicine” to treat various diseases. According to Wikipedia there’s no strong evidence “for turmeric or it’s constituent curcumin, to cure any disease”
There’s a compound in turmeric called curcumin to which the benefits of turmeric are attributed. It is thought to be anti-inflammatory and is also an antioxidant.
Curcumin is the reason why turmeric has this brilliant color, it gives it the pigmentation.
Despite all these benefits present in turmeric, curcumin has been reported to have a lower level of absorption in the human body.
Some studies suggest that when it’s combined with black pepper, its absorption may be increased from the digestive tract into bloodstream.
Turmeric is Anti-inflammatory And Also Increases Antioxidant Enzymes In The Body
An antioxidant is a compound that prevents cell oxidation caused by free radicals. It’s found mostly in vegetables and fruits, plant-based foods, that is. Free radicals can trigger oxidative stress and cause cell damage
Oxidative stress is thought to play a major part in variety of diseases including, “metabolic syndrome, diabetes, dementia, atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis” and other age related diseases
Curcumin, on the other hand, is thought to have antioxidant effects and is also anti-inflammatory.
According to research ” It aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and hyperlipidemia.
It may help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and soreness”
It is said that curcumin is not properly absorbed in the digestive tract. This is the reason for it’s poor bioavailability as it can be quickly metabolized and eliminated from the body.
However, all is not lost, as peperine, a component found in black pepper is thought to have the ability to activate the bioavailability of curcumin in turmeric so that we may benefit from this phytonutrient
How does Turmeric Benefit Skin Health
Turmeric seems to be doing more good that harm. Well, let’s hear what research says about this.
The skin as the largest organ of the body is the first line of defense against pathogens like bacteria and the damage by sunlight among other factors.
It can only make sense that since curcumin is an antioxidant and also anti-inflammatory, the activities of these phytonutrients may counter the effects of free radicals from causing harm to the skin cells and combat inflammation.
“Studies have suggested that curcumin has protective effects against skin-damaging chemicals and environmental pollutants” – Medical News Today
“Curcumin protects the skin by quenching free radicals and reducing inflammation through nuclear factor-KB inhibition”
Turmeric Has Been Found To Boost Brain and Memory
According to Medical News Today, the study published in the American Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, suggest the daily intake of the bioavailable form of curcumin, may provide brain benefits and help improve memory and attention over time in adults who doesn’t suffer from dementia.
“An eight week randomised double blind placebo-controlled study was conducted to examine the effects of curcumin in patients with schizophrenia, also assessing the BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic Factor) levels, among other things.
It was found that curcumin could increase the BDNF levels and improve cognitive performance.
Turmeric May Elevate Mood And Benefit Those with Depression
Curcumin in turmeric is thought to have potential health benefits due to inflammatory qualities and the antioxidant content.
Experts say there’s a “Strong link between the inflammation in the body and depression, and that curcumin had influenced several biological mechanisms including inflammation in previous studies”
“Dr Adrian Lopresti from school of psychology and Exercise Science studied the effects of curcumin, the medicinal compound which gives turmeric it’s distinctive yellow color, in a randomised double blind, placebo controlled study of 56 volunteers with major depressive disorder.
Half were treated with patented curcumin extract (500milligrams twice daily) and the other half took placebo for eight weeks”
“From week four to eight of the study, Lopresti found that curcumin was significantly more effective than placebo in improving several mood-related symptoms in volunteers.
The compound had an even greater efficacy in a small subgroup of individuals with atypical depression, which can be characterized by weight gain and increased appetite and hypersomnia” – MedicalXpress
According to Dr Lopresti, “a strong evidence is required to recommend curcumin as the first line of treatment for depression”
Turmeric Has Been Touted As A Superfood, Does it Have Side Effects?
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years on various diseases and as culinary spice especially in Asia, and has gained popularity in recent years.
Ethiopia among other countries has adopted the use of the herb in their cuisine.
Curcumin has been touted as some kind of “superhero” “Surely it works synergistically with other phytonutrients present in the herb”
Nonetheless, “turmeric has been reported to be safe in many human studies”. It is thought to have negative side effects such as skin rash, diarrhea, yellow stool, nausea, and headache when taken in excess.
The Final Thoughts
Turmeric, a herb mostly used by Indians has been reported to have some health benefits, especially by Traditional Medical systems for thousands of years.
Although some research suggests that a holistic approach needs to be taken to investigate turmeric herb as a whole as opposed to just focusing on curcumin, a compound extracted from turmeric.
Nonetheless, curcumin is thought to be anti-inflammatory and is high in antioxidant that is thought to fight off oxidative stress and manage inflammation in the body.
Curcumin is said to have poor bioavailability as a result it is poorly absorbed and is quickly metabolized and eliminated from the bloodstream.
Well, despite all that, it has been suggested that when turmeric is combined with black pepper, this can increase the bioavailability of curcumin so that we may gain from its potential benefits.
It’s worth noting that curcumin is only 3% of the turmeric weight. The spice alone will not provide all the benefits mentioned above as you can only use a small amount to give your food flavor. Even so, every bit counts.
Using too much of the herb is not ideal either given the intense color it possesses, besides too much of anything is not good.
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