By: Sammy Cusimano
With the vast amounts of information on health and nutrition at our fingertips, many “superfoods” are becoming household names. For instance, a simple trip to the grocery store may commonly include a bottle of apple cider vinegar, a bag of kale and most likely a jar of turmeric. These are three very popular and effective “superfoods” that are enhancing the wellness of countless individuals. Turmeric is especially beneficial to overall health. It is a spice most notably found in Asian and Indian cuisine as one of the key components in curry. Turmeric’s healing potential is largely due to its content of curcumin, a unique yellow-colored chemical that is contained within the spice. It has been used as a culinary spice as well as a medicinal product for over 4000 years, mainly in India where most of the world’s turmeric crop is produced.
The list of health benefits associated with turmeric seems almost endless due to the diversity of uses and applications of the “superfood”. Its strength is in its ability to aid the body in healing. Nearly every part of the human body can benefit from turmeric’s positive effects. It is a natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and even anti-arthritic alternative to prescription medicines. Turmeric also works exceedingly well in improving digestion. Its ability to lower cholesterol and heal stomach ulcers makes it a very effective, natural choice for treating the symptoms that cause discomfort in the digestive system. In addition to its many medicinal uses, turmeric’s potential to aid in fat metabolism and weight management make it a useful enhancement to the nutrition program of many fitness enthusiasts. It is truly mind-blowing to realize that one “superfood” can do so many good things for health and wellness.
Being a flowering plant of the ginger family, turmeric roots are used in cooking. It is most commonly utilized as a powder in cooking applications. When taken as a supplement, turmeric can be ingested as a powder or in capsule form. The supplement form of turmeric contains a much higher concentration of the powerful plant chemical, curcumin, than the spice form. Curcumin has very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The curcumin concentration in a turmeric extract for supplemental use is as high as 95%, whereas in food it is much lower at 3-5%. Typically, dosage of turmeric supplements ranges from 500-700 mg each to be taken two-three times per day for effective results.
As beneficial as turmeric is to the internal areas of the body, it is equally helpful to the exterior as well. It is a very useful antiseptic on the skin in treatment of cuts, burns and bruises, while also acting as an effective antibacterial agent. Wounds will heal much faster when turmeric is applied due to the decrease in inflammation. Skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, alopecia and even scabies have been treated with turmeric to great avail.
The cosmetic benefits of turmeric are also impressive. A turmeric face mask can help treat acne and many other skin-related imperfections. Mixing turmeric with Greek yogurt and honey and applying to the face for 15 minutes will bring out the natural glow of the skin, while clearing up any blemishes and reducing scarring. When applying turmeric topically to the skin, it may temporarily stain the skin. A yellow residue is normal. Some individuals may actually be allergic to turmeric. Always check with your doctor before incorporating it into your nutritional program and/or medicinal collection of natural products. If using turmeric directly on the skin causes any irritation, redness or swelling, then immediately discontinue use.
Perhaps, the most notable of all the health benefits of turmeric is its disease-fighting ability to help prevent cancer (breast, prostate, skin, colon, lymphoma and leukemia), while also preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s and even slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis. Research is still ongoing, but studies show the effective cancer-fighting properties of curcumin in turmeric, along with its memory-enhancing qualities, give hope to those battling the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation in the body fuels the spread of cancer. Turmeric naturally helps reduce inflammation, while also making chemotherapy and radiation treatments more effective by protecting healthy cells from damage. There is even research showing a lower cancer rate in countries where people eat turmeric each day for a long period of time.
Although turmeric is generally a very safe supplement, it is imperative to consult with a doctor before beginning use. There are some health conditions to be aware of before taking turmeric medicinally. During pregnancy and breast-feeding it is best to avoid turmeric supplementation. It may affect the menstrual cycle and/or uterus. To avoid any possible risk during pregnancy it’s better to play it safe and not consume turmeric in medicinal amounts.
Turmeric can also slow blood clotting. Individuals with bleeding disorders will want to consult a physician. It may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in those people who are prone to these types of issues. It may also cause higher than normal bleeding before and after surgery. It is wise to discontinue any turmeric supplementation two weeks before any surgical procedure. If a person has any type of iron deficiency such as anemia, it is also important to consult a physician before ingesting turmeric medicinally because of the chance that it may affect the body’s ability to absorb iron. Men need to be aware of turmeric’s possible effect on fertility. It may lower testosterone in some men and even decrease sperm movement, thus reducing fertility.
Supplementing with turmeric may be just what your body needs to feel your best and live life to your full potential. Adding the right natural, organic foods and supplements to your daily routine may help you achieve a healthy, balanced life.