Have you ever had a chance to hold a piece of turmeric root in the palm of your hand? This brown skinned tuber looks a lot like ginger until you cut it open. There you will find a bright orange flesh that is key to its extensive healing properties. And if you have never seen fresh turmeric root before, you may want to start shopping for it, as it is one of the most studied spices today.
The reason I include this golden root in my diet is.... you guessed it ...for its amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Here is an excerpt from my book, Meals That Heal Inflammation
“Natural anti-inflammatory remedies like the ones described in Meals That Heal Inflammation reduce pain without side effects because whole foods and medical herbs don’t contain just one active ingredient - they are loaded with nutrients that work synergistically to support the body’s natural healing processes.”
Here are 6 reasons to give turmeric (curcuma longa) a place of honor in your kitchen:
1. Turmeric improves digestion:
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, works by stimulating the liver and gallbladder to do the essential work of bile production, the release of gastin, secretin, gastric wall mucus, and digestive enzymes. At the same time, it decreases intestinal spasms and ulcer formation. Studies have found curcumin reduced symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion. (1
) It is also beneficial at decreasing symptoms associated with IBS, acid reflux, and improves IBD. As a digestive aid, turmeric is one of the best and can actually protect your GI tract through its anti-inflammatory effect.
2. Turmeric improves circulation and supports heart health:
By helping to thin and invigorate and move our blood. Turmeric's ability to support the liver while cleansing the lymphatic system makes it an ideal herb for spring cleansing (along with beets and dandelions). Numerous reports found that the root cause of most cardiovascular diseases is inflammation and oxidative stress, as it contributes to atherosclerosis and risk of blood clots. (2
3. Turmeric is a leader in the field of anti-inflammatory spices:
It has been used for 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions, and studies show that turmeric may help our bodies fight infection and reduce inflammation. (3
) Because of this, it is great at decreasing risk of cancer through inhibiting tumours and improving the function of your immune system. It can help you stay active through decreasing inflammation in your joints, and improve your digestive tract by treating conditions such as IBD.
4. Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant:
It scavenges free radicals to reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause in 2 ways – it acts as an antioxidant and increases antioxidative enzymes in our body. Talk about free radicals taking a double hit! Oxidative stress, like inflammation, is at the root of most of today’s prevalent chronic diseases and plays a role in the ageing process, so ingesting more antioxidants is a fantastic way to promote health. (4
5. Turmeric improves mood:
Researchers are recently discovering that curcumin can act as an effective antidepressant. A study has found that curcumin was as effective as fluoxetine (antidepressant medication) at decreasing major depressive disorder, and had fewer side effects. Curcumin’s anti-depressant action comes from its role in increasing serotonin and dopamine. (5
6. Curcumin is effective for Alzheimer’s disease:
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that involved both inflammation and oxidative damage. There is much evidence to support the use of turmeric for this condition because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin decreases oxidized proteins in the brain and prevents cognitive deficits and amyloid plaque accumulation. (6
Wondering what to do with a slice of turmeric? One possibility is to make a tea, which is wonderfully nurturing and nutritive with warming, invigorating and relaxing properties.
Simple Turmeric Tea Instructions:
In a pint-canning jar, place a handful of dried lemon balm leaves, a few slices of fresh turmeric* and ginger root, several crushed rose hips. Pour 'just off the boil' water over the herbs. With the lid sealed, brew for four hours under a tea cozy or wrapped in a towel. Strain and enjoy as is or with a bit of honey.
My recipe calls for fresh turmeric root (as opposed to the dried spice). The root contains natural oils, which will enhance absorption and bioavailability. The combination of curcumin and volatile oils from raw turmeric root resulted in a 6.9 fold increase in absorption. The inclusion of curcumin in a lipophilic matrix increases absorption of curcumin (because curcumin is a hydrophobic polyphenol). Addition of natural antioxidants (tocopherol and ascorbic palmitate) increase absorption of curcumin. (7
If you are using dried turmeric powder, many practitioners would recommend a pinch of black pepper to increase the bioavailability (8) but it is also known to be inflammatory. In general, I do not recommend black pepper for most of my clients as it can cause bowel irritation. Black pepper causes hyperpermeability so it is not good for IBS and IBD patients.