Turmeric is the yellow powdery substance derived from the root (the botanically correct term is rhizomes) of the plant Curcuma longa. It is usually added to food to give it a nice layer of flavour, a hearty and earthy aroma, and hint of yellow to orange colour. It gives food a slight mustard-ginger like taste. It can be added to both sweet (cakes, puddings, ice cream, biscuits) and savoury (curry, rice, soup) dishes. It can also be added to drinks. It comes from the same family, Zingiberaceae, as ginger and can be used in powder or fresh root form. While turmeric is more popular for its culinary contributions, it is lauded for its Ayurvedic properties and has been widely used in traditional medicine.
Powerful antioxidant & anti-inflammatory
Its healing properties have long been well-known in traditional eastern medicine. Turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most important active ingredient. This key substance gives turmeric its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is said to fight off inflammation at a molecular level. Its antioxidant powers works by blocking free radicals that cause oxidative damage and by stimulating antioxidant defenses. Given its potent anti-inflammatory properties, it's no surprise that turmeric can also help reduce arthritis which is a chronic disease characterised by inflammation of the joints.
What else can curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties help prevent? Alzheimer's disease, that’s what. Curcumin can help clear up amyloid plaques which is a buildup of protein tangles that cause this neurodegenerative disease.
Reduces heart disease
Turmeric can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. How? Aside from reducing inflammation and oxidative damage, the superstar substance, curcumin, improves the lining of blood vessels called endothelium. Studies found curcumin to be as effective as exercise and medication in strengthening the endothelial lining and improving its functions.
Perhaps the most significant claim in all of turmeric’s healing benefits is its cancer fighting abilities. While there are many different kinds of cancer - and all of them terrible - curcumin has shown promise in preventing colorectal cancers as shown in the positive results of a study in 44 men with colon lesions. The men took 4 grams of curcumin each day, over a course of 40 days, and their colon lesion (that can sometimes turn cancerous) were reduced by a whopping 40%. Multiple lab studies in test animals have shown that curcumin can contribute to the the death of cancer cells and prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. These results are very promising and are now being studied intensively to see if high dose curcumin can, in the future, be used alongside conventional treatments to treat cancer in humans.