Turmeric... What's All The Hype?
It’s 2018 and the word is out on turmeric only - and it only took 4,500 years! It is argued by many health professionals that turmeric is one of the most healing spices on planet earth, and we believe it at Pure Green. Turmeric, also known as “Indian Saffron,” due to its rich golden coloring, contains a compound called Curcumin that has been used in India and Southeast Asia for centuries for medicinal healing. From reducing inflammation, to healing wounds, to protecting brain and cognitive health, to helping ease the discomfort of menstrual pain, turmeric has been considered a one-stop-shop in eastern medicine. The list doesn’t stop there - depression, aging, cancer, skin health, and digestive health to name a few more.
What is Turmeric?
This bright golden powder that we see on the shelves of markets today is a tall plant that grows in Central America and Asia. It barely reaches three feet in height and creates both a flower and a rhizome, which is a stem that forms underground. This root-like stem, resembling that of the ginger root, is what ultimately forms the ginger herb that we recognize as turmeric. Once the turmeric is formed, it must dry before it can be turned into the powder that we use in our dishes.
Aside from being known for its beautiful coloring, it can also be identified by its distinct flavoring that we taste in Indian food. For this reason, it can be truly delicious in soups, curries, biscuits, rice or in our very own Pure Green cold pressed juices in NYC! If we tried to put a flavor profile on the turmeric spice, we would say it has a mustard-like scent with a hot, pepper-like kick to it and an undeniable sweetness – making it a fantastic addition to many dishes.
Curcumin is the chemical compound that defines turmeric as “functional medicine,” - which is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.” This super-ingredient is available on the market in many forms such as capsules, teas, powders, extracts and much more.
History Of Turmeric
According to PBS’ article, “What is the History Of Turmeric,” written by Tori Avey, the use of turmeric dates back 4,500 years and was discovered through the analyses of pots with residue from turmeric and ginger, discovered near New Delhi. However, it wasn’t until 500 B.C. that Indian Saffron emerged as an important Ayurvedic treatment. At the time, inhaling fumes from the burning plant was said to alleviate congestion, heal wounds, and improve skin conditions, such as small pox, chicken pox, skin blemishes and shingles.
But the significance of turmeric in Indian culture goes beyond health benefits, into its religious impact. In Indian and Hindu culture, Indian Saffron is sacred. If you’ve ever been to an Indian wedding, you will recall the part of the ceremony called “mangasutra”, in which a yellow and black necklace that has been prepared using turmeric paste, which is yellow in hue, and is placed around the bride’s neck as mantras are recited. The beads on the necklace are said to protect the bride from evil.
Indian Saffron has also been used throughout history to die thread and clothing. Bright yellow colored Buddhist robes are died with turmeric, partly for color and partly for symbolism. Similarly, in parts of southwest Asia, children were given turmeric-dyed clothing to wear during certain religious festivals. Past this, turmeric has been used in the Indian food signature curry dishes for centuries.
Turmeric Nutritional Value
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon of turmeric powder contains:
- 29 calories
- 0.91 grams (g) of protein
- 0.31 g of fat
- 6.31 g of carbohydrates
- 2.1 g of fiber
- 0.3 g of sugar
- 26 percent of daily manganese needs
- 16 percent of daily iron
- 5 percent of daily potassium
- 3 percent of daily vitamin C
One of the most well known properties of turmeric is its ability to control and decrease inflammation. According to the journal, two of the most widely accepted anti-inflammatory options, aspirin and ibuprofens, are actually less effective than curcumin. Believe it or not, inflammation is the root cause of many other health problems, including heat disease, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, high cholesterol, chronic pain, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer. The Arthritis Foundation suggests taking turmeric capsules of 400 to 600 milligrams up to three times a day for relief.
There is also growing research that turmeric may be a preventive for Alzheimer’s disease. Several animal trials have studied the affects of curcumin on Alzheimer’s. It seems that curcumin can “reverse existing amyloid pathology and associated neurotoxicity.” This is a key feature of the progression of this neurological disease related to chronic inflammation – though, all-in-all, this study is still very much underway.
May Prevent Blood Clotting
For those who are less familiar, blood clotting, also known as thrombus, occurs through a process called platelet aggregation, in which blood platelets concentrate in one area, building up to create a kind of clotting. In both lab and animal studies, the magical curcumin vastly decreases the platelet aggregation, thus increasing blood flow and potentially reducing the risk of blood clotting. However, at the 2010 American Heart Association Stroke Conference, it was reiterated that turmeric alone is less likely to dissolve clotting because it is poorly absorbed and easily depleted once ingested. For this reason, the new stroke medications include the compound circumin, as opposed to turmeric to combat this.
Immune System Boost
Turmeric can help boost the state of your immune system through the incredible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that it holds. As you can see, the bright golden powder is known for its health benefits all around. Studies have even shown turmeric to have anti-carcinogenic properties, and all of these benefits are of course due to the active compound found inside of turmeric's rhizomatous root, curcumin - as discussed earlier. Curcumin helps boost your immune system health by helping your body defend itself and function at its best capability. On top of this, according to Me First Living, studies have shown that turmeric can help boost white blood cells that fight off bacteria, disease, viruses and any other ailments.
As discussed earlier in the article, turmeric can help boost metabolic health. In doing so, the body is able to burn through more calories and more energy each day. This lines you up for a restful night of sleep, as your body produces a chemical called melatonin. Of course, more restful nights means a stronger immune system.
Supports Healthy Skin
If skin care is what you are after, turmeric can help you with that too! The natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help provide that luster and glow that we all want. If you are healing skin wounds, soothing irritation or treating acne scars, turmeric can decrease levels of oxidation and inflammation. Doctors recommend applying curcumin as the formula for skin wounds.
You may want to test this out on your skin by creating a turmeric facemask. Mix a small amount of Greek yogurt, honey, and turmeric together and apply to your face. After 15 minutes, rinse the mask off and blot dry. Note however, turmeric masks are not for everyone – test before committing.
May Give Your Brain A Boost
Last but not least, there is mental and emotional health. We take this just as seriously as physical health. After all, they are linked! According to Be Brain Fit, the active ingredient curcumin can help combat depression, anxiety, brain aging and more. Believe it or not, curcumin is shown to be just as effective as your standard selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Prozac. It works by increasing two major neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. If your SSRI has been giving you unwanted side-effects, this could be a great option. Check with your doctor about enhanced circumin supplements as an option.
Aside from this, there are many theories that mental health is directly related to brain inflammation and blood flow. Curcumin increases blood flow, thus improving memory and concentration.