What is turmeric?
Turmeric is more than just a spice used often in curries and other popular Southeast Asian dishes. It has also been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Turmeric plays an important role in healthy diet and habits.
Turmeric is a root closely related to ginger, sometimes referred to as Indian saffron. Its stem, the part that grows underground, is taken and used to season foods and treat some conditions homeopathically.
Traditional Chinese medicine and similar medicine systems in Southeast Asia used turmeric often. In ancient times, it was put to use to help those with skin disorders, difficulty breathing, aching joints, and an agitated digestive system.
You might recognize turmeric’s bright yellow color. It’s a popular flavor booster in Asian cuisine, and it has hints of ginger, pepper, and bitter notes. Part of turmeric’s natural composition include curcuminoids.
Turmeric health benefits
Curcumin, one of the curcuminoids found in turmeric, has a number of health benefits. One of the ways it helps your body is by fighting inflammation. Although inflammation is a natural response by your body to heal, reduce irritation, and stop infection, chronic inflammation does more harm than good. Curcumin has been known to have anti-inflammatory effects on obesity and decrease pain and swelling associated with arthritis.
There is also a relationship between curcuminoids and improvements in the following conditions:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Certain cancers
- Digestive disorders
- Respiratory infections
- Liver disease
How to ingest turmeric
Most people take turmeric orally because it typically comes in the form of a spice. Although this is an easy way to take it, turmeric isn’t very soluble and has a fast metabolism, so much of what you ingest ends up leaving your body before you’re able to benefit.
If you want a turmeric pill to enter your bloodstream and have its desired effect, you shouldn’t take it alone. Take the pill with a meal to help increase benefits.
Eating powdered turmeric mixed in with food or turmeric in its natural state is a better way to bring on more health benefits. When it’s eaten with solid food or with fatty foods, though, it takes longer to digest.
It has been proven that combining turmeric with black pepper increases the availability of curcumin to your body by 2,000%. A major ingredient in black pepper—piperine—has this effect on turmeric.
There isn’t currently a recommended amount of turmeric that you should take to reap the benefits, you can add it to your cooking where it naturally fits—turmeric is a great addition to chicken, fish, lentil, and rice dishes and is easily mixed with salad dressings, soup, and stew.
Turmeric can also be made into a topical salve to use on some skin conditions.
Is turmeric safe?
It’s generally safe to use turmeric. You might experience feelings of nausea or digestive issues if you eat a lot at one time, though. If you’re worried about potential side effects, get in touch with your healthcare provider. They may be able to answer your questions about using turmeric to address minor health issues and what the possible risks are.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, large amounts of turmeric might be unsafe. There are a lot of unknowns about turmeric’s safety, but a general rule for these groups is to not ingest more than is commonly found in food.
Turmeric can be a flavorful addition to many dishes and doesn’t have any known negative side effects. At the same time, keep in mind that while turmeric can help with inflammation and pain, it isn’t a miracle supplement. Using turmeric should be accompanied by eating well and leading an active lifestyle. Avoid eating excessive amounts of sugar, fat, and processed foods. When possible, you should eat daily recommended amounts of fruit, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fat, and whole grains.
Speak with your healthcare provider
If you plan on doing more than simply adding powdered turmeric to your meals, you should speak with your healthcare provider. Taking it in pill form or in large amounts could disrupt your health or affect other medications or treatments you’re currently receiving. Coordinate your care with a professional to ensure safe results.
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Mayo Clinic: "Home Remedies: Are there health benefits of turmeric?"
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Turmeric."
University of Utah Health: "BENEFITS OF TURMERIC."
WellSpan Health: "Health benefits of turmeric."
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