Turmeric has become more popular than ever for medicinal and culinary uses in the health and wellness world. Curcumin, the active nutrient in turmeric we have to thank for that bright yellow color, was first isolated and studied as its own compound in 1815. Today, we have the ability to prepare and store turmeric in different forms like powder, paste, tinctures and essential oil. Many people are familiar with turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties, but are often surprised to learn about its other superstar qualities.
Turmeric is rich in an antioxidant group called polyphenols. Polyphenols enhance mental, emotional, and intellectual functions by protecting brain cells and supporting their different roles. This type of antioxidant activity in the brain has the potential to influence mental and emotional health similarly to some anxiety medications and antidepressants. However, you may want to check with your doctor or trusted healthcare practitioner before using turmeric if you are prone to anxiety or depression, as certain genetic differences can occasionally lead to symptoms like anxiety, changes in blood pressure, and hot flashes.
The antioxidant activity in turmeric can act on how cells in the brain and nervous system communicate. Since turmeric has so many roles in the body and can act on different cells and molecules, we are still studying the extent of this influence on the brain. For maximum benefits, turmeric is best paired with a range of other polyphenols (a group of antioxidants that protect the nervous system which are found in a wide variety of foods) because they interact to support one another’s potential role in brain health. Pairing turmeric with other antioxidant rich foods has a greater potential to improve symptoms like brain fog and prevent conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric can play an important role in supporting the digestive tract and preventing certain causes for common digestive problems. Turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a food additive to preserve ingredients and reduce the risk of bacteria, fungus and other microbes from growing on food which can cause digestive upset, food poisoning or infections.
With modern science, we have discovered just how active it is in supporting digestion by reducing or eliminating potentially harmful infections. The key component, curcumin, provides turmeric with anti-cancer benefits that can reduce and prevent colon cancers from developing as well as decrease growth of H. pylori strains of bacteria (a class 1 carcinogen) (Mahady et. al 2001).
These benefits could be from curcumin’s powerful ability to hinder the growth of cancer producing bacterias in the digestive tract. In addition to protection against harmful bacteria, curcumin can also prevent inflammatory reactions in the digestive tract which can lead to rapid and unusual breakdown of intestinal cells and cause what is commonly known as intestinal permeability or “leaky gut.”
When we talk about stress, many people associate their mental health with the experience. They’re surprised to learn that there are a number of organs and processes involved in stress beyond your mood or emotions. We already discussed what turmeric can do for our brain health, but we want to make sure we address the big role it plays in managing and supporting all organs involved in stress reactions.
Chronic stress can increase inflammatory activity and physical damage done to the body. Curcumin has a promising role in reducing free radical activity associated with inflammation naturally caused by food, pollution, waste, and stress. In addition to its antioxidant activities, it can reduce and prevent an elevated stress response by managing the secretion of stress hormones released by the adrenal glands.
Skin & Dental Health
For thousands of years, people have been using turmeric to heal wounds and infections on the skin and in the gums. It is a powerful agent in dental health to reduce pain, inflammation, gingivitis and other dental infections. It’s range of antibacterial properties can even help strengthen the teeth and gums to prevent decay.
When mixed into a paste or liquid and exposed to the sun, turmeric develops strong antibacterial properties which can help heal skin quickly and prevent infections. It’s unique nutrient properties help improve complexion and improve skin healing making it a great option for a range of skin conditions like acne and cuts.
Even while we are still learning about turmeric’s capabilities, we have so much information explaining why it has become so popular in food, skincare, holistic health, and medicine. Exploring the different forms of turmeric can make a big difference if you are looking for an all purpose agent to improve your overall health and wellness goals. Even if you are just looking for prevention and protection against the many culprits of chronic illness and disease, turmeric has done a lot for centuries to protect and support the human body. It might just be a great option to bring your health to the next level.
Looking for turmeric-rich, delicious meals? Try our Butternut Turmeric, Moroccan Lentil (with tomatoes and turmeric), or browse this week's Splendid Spoon menu!