Turmeric. You are familiar with the wondrous spice and its incredible healing powers. What you probably don’t know is what is in this humble root that gives it the ability to treat arthritis, cancer, and inflammation.
Curcumin is the active antioxidant in turmeric which houses its anti-inflammatory, longevity boasting, therapeutic properties. It is better than turmeric alone at reducing diabetic markers, osteoporosis, and lower inflammatory markers… So it stands to reason that you want to get as much as possible from your turmeric. However, here is where it gets tricky to do this naturally. Curcumin is a small compound called a polyphenol and only makes up about 2-8% of turmeric by weight. Which isn’t a lot if you remember how strong the taste of pure turmeric is. It’s practically impossible (or very unpleasant for most people) to eat it in large quantities. For this reason, we have to think about creative ways to get the most Curcumin from turmeric. We can also look to others who have developed supplements by extracting this component from the root… but really, DIY can be so much more fun!
How to get your Curcumin from Turmeric:
- Pair with Black Pepper: Black pepper helps to chemically extract the curcumin from the turmeric root, using part of pepper called piperine. Piperine makes it much easier for you to absorb all of the components of turmeric… hence the popular combination in health shots!
- Oil is your friend (and curcumin’s): Oil helps to break turmeric root or powder down into each of its parts… including curcumin. Effectively doing the same as black pepper without the heat. So for those of you who can’t take the taste of pepper, using oil is a great way to get the most curcumin in a host of recipes.
Lucky for us, these ingredients are so common that we add them both to many of our recipes in everyday life. So even simply adding a spoonful of turmeric to your normal recipes could set you on the path to reaping the benefits of turmeric’s curcumin content. However, if you want to get more turmeric into your food, there are plenty of recipes in our recipe section. These include hummus, lattes, toast and even muffins… no excuses now not to give it a go. My favorite recipe though has to be a good old peanut curry with a spoonful of turmeric chucked in. But explore for yourself, and here are some of the amazing effects that it can have.
Anti-Cancer: Curcumin is chock full of antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage. In this case, they inhibit the triggering of rampant growth, which leads to tumor development. It can even help people who already have cancerous growth and are receiving chemotherapy. This study found that cancer treatments were more successful when chemotherapy was combined with curcumin supplementation, as it helps to protect the healthy cells from the effects of chemotherapy.
Diabetes: Curcumin has been shown in animal studies to be effective in reducing inflammatory markers associated with diabetes. Curcumin was shown to reduce the inflammation which leads to diabetes and also the inflammation which can trigger the dangerous blood sugar changes in diabetics. It also reduced the blood sugar level in rats, as well as glucose-saturated hemoglobin, both dangerous catalysts for a diabetic reaction. So curcumin could be effective in helping to regulate your blood sugar.
Brain: We’ve all heard of Altziemer’s disease. As we age, it becomes more and more of a worrying possibility that we will join the millions of people already affected by this condition. However, curcumin could offer some hope. Recent studies like this one have suggested that curcumin could help to prevent neurodegeneration and the onset of Altziemer’s disease. This is because it helps to fight the free radicals, oxidative stress and neuron communication confusion which progresses to become Altziemer’s. It has been used in humans already to treat dementia and brain trauma. While research for Altziemer’s is still in the early stages, if the other uses for curcumin in brain health are any indication, we could have a powerful medicine on our hands.
So the hype about turmeric and its components wasn’t just hype! It really does have the potential to aid in the healing and prevention of many many health problems. It’s also worth noting that this research is definitely still in the early stages… who knows what we will uncover next. So for the moment, go out and buy that golden milk latte in the knowledge that it really is more than just a health fad. Maybe even ask for an extra sprinkle of black pepper just to get the best effects!
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Photos: Chinh Le Duc – Unsplash; Osha Key – Unsplash; Eiliv Sonas Acero – Unsplash.