5 Surprising Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric, a golden spice used as a staple in many recipes across Asia, has been used for thousands of years not only for cooking, but also in healthcare. The magical ingredient responsible here is curcumin, a chemical compound with powerful antiseptic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. So how does turmeric help your body? Here, I’ve put together a guide to the top 5 most unexpected health benefits of this delicious spice (backed up with science, of course)!
1. Anti-Inflammation, and Arthritis Relief
The curcumin in turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory compound, and works by blocking NF-kB, a protein complex involved in how your cells react to stress. By doing so, it can potentially help fight problems related to chronic inflammation, for example, psoriasis and arthritis. Interestingly, in a study at the Nirmala Medical Centre in Kerala, India, the anti-inflammatory abilities of curcumin were even found to be more effective than standard anti-inflammatory drugs in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in patients.
2. A Powerful Antioxidant Boost
Curcumin works in two powerful ways to protect your body from oxidative harm: first, it’s a powerful antioxidant in its own right, with its own ability to neutralise free radicals, and secondly, it’s also able to stimulate the body’s built-in antioxidant enzymes, giving your body a further boost. Since oxidative damage has been linked to a huge number of health conditions, ranging from infections, to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, boosting your body’s antioxidant levels can play a part in helping combat these problems.
3. Healthy Brain Function
It’s not just your body that stands to benefit from turmeric – it can also help your brain. Curcumin boosts your brain’s BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), a type of growth hormone in your brain. As we age, these levels decrease, and decreased levels of BDNF play a part in a variety of brain disorders, including decreased memory capabilities and Alzheimer’s disease. In boosting your brain’s levels of BDNF, the curcumin in turmeric can help prevent these problems and keep your brain at its peak.
4. Heart Disease Prevention
While heart disease can be the result of a large number of factors, curcumin may help prevent it. It does this by improving how endothelium, the interior lining of blood and lymph vessels, functions. When endothelium isn’t working correctly, it can lead to blood clotting, disease, and the inability to regulate blood pressure. By helping endothelium work optimally, these problems can be prevented. A 2012 study by the University of Tsukuba in Japan found that consuming curcumin had similar effects on heart health to regular aerobic exercise.
5. A Potential Cancer Treatment
Now here’s the big one: a range of studies have indicated that curcumin can potentially prevent certain types of cancers, and even slow the rate of cancer cell growth. Studies from the American Health Foundation in New York, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, and the Rambam Health Care Campus in Israel, all showed a link between intakes of curcumin and a reduction in the growth of cancerous cells. While more research is needed in this area, these studies could be a further step in the right direction for finding an effective treatment for certain cancers.
Fascinating stuff, right? So how can you take advantage of these benefits in your daily life? The obvious answer is to add turmeric to your cooking, but it can also be taken as a daily supplement, or brewed into tea. Experiment yourself, and see what works best for you!