What is Turmeric Root? Most people are familiar with curry powder. Curries are very popular in Indian, Thai, Cambodian, and Chinese cuisine. The main ingredient in yellow curries is Turmeric. If you have ever used this colorful spice at home, you will quickly find out that it can stain your plate ware. It can be quite tricky to remove those stains.
Some say turmeric is the most powerful of all the spices. It has been used to treat every household ailment in India. Its incredible healing powers are numerous. It is an antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory. Wow! With all that going on, maybe you should add it to your diet.
Turmeric is also used as a Dye. The golden yellow color is due to curcumin. Dye made out of turmeric isn’t the greatest of dyes, but it is often used to color traditional Indian dresses (Saris) and it is the base color used in the robes of Buddhist monks.
Buddist monks in meditation
What is the History of Turmeric?
The turmeric plant originates from South Asia. It has been used for medicinal purposes for 4000 years in India. There it has primarily been used as a spice (it is the main ingredient in many curries). In India, turmeric powder is seen as a symbol of purity, fertility, and prosperity and, it is used in Indian rites and rituals. Because of its intense bright color, turmeric has been called “Indian Saffron”.
Turmeric more than likely reached China around 700 A.D. Shortly thereafter, it reached East Africa. It found its way to the New World (Jamaica) in the 18th century. Marco Polo was dazzled by the spice and added it to his famous trade route, The Silk Road, in the thirteenth century.
Turmeric also found its way into Polynesian hands. Evidence of turmeric was found in Tahiti, Hawaii, and Easter Island before European contact was made in these locations.
Turmeric has been found all over Polynesia
What are the Benefits of Turmeric?
You could have fooled me! Inflammation is important? Well, it’s a vital part of your immune system response. It behaves like a warrior… ready to go to battle with viruses and bacteria… or germs wanting to wreak havoc in your body. Inflammation also helps heal and repair damaged tissue.
If you didn’t have inflammation, dangerous pathogens like bacteria would take control of your body and possibly kill you. Now, I am talking about acute-short term inflammation here. This is beneficial in maintaining optimal health. inflammation becomes a huge problem when it becomes chronic.
Many scientists believe that chronic inflammation is involved with most ailments in our current times. Instead of helping your tissues, it becomes like an out of control pit bull and begins to tear your body down. Now, I have met a lot of nice pit bulls in my life, but I choose to avoid the damaging ones… just as I like to keep my inflammation at bay.
So, the bottom line is, anything that helps control inflammation is a friend of mine. At one point of my life, I suffered from sciatica. I decided to use a turmeric and curcumin supplement near the end of that ordeal (along with physical therapy), and my sciatica problem went into remission. The spinal area in your lower back gets inflamed horrendously with sciatica. It is a living nightmare. I do believe the curcumin supplement helped lower the swelling in my lower back and aided in my recovery.
Research has shown that curcumin aids your body in reducing inflammation by lowering your body’s histamine levels and boosting the amount of cortisone which is produced by your adrenal glands. This special turmeric compound has been a blessing in treating chronic arthritis. It has also been beneficial in lessening pain and fatigue.
Help with Arthritis
Arthritis is a common ailment in western countries. Imagine that. With our compromised cuisine. There are over 100 different types of arthritis… inflammatory arthritis is the type that you may benefit from by adding turmeric to your diet. This type of arthritis causes inflammation of your joints, so it makes sense to treat the cause instead of the condition. Getting the swelling down should be a primary concern. You may want to revisit the type of foods that you are consuming and find out which ones tend to cause inflammation.
They published a study back in 2012 demonstrating that curcumin is a compelling anti-inflammatory compound. It was proven to be more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug used in this test. (study located in resources). It makes good sense to give it a try if you suffer from any kind of inflammation.
It’s a Powerful Antioxidant
Along with chronic inflammation, Oxidative damage is another dirty rotten scoundrel behind the scenes of many diseases. You may have heard the term free radical. These are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. Basically… your cells are damaged. CANCER is a collection of damaged cells. NO BUENO.
Antioxidants are so IMPORTANT! They help protect your body from harmful free radical scavengers. Turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties that will fight the good fight against these devils. Curcumin also may amp up the activity of your own body’s antioxidant enzymes. So, you can double dip with curcumin… stop free radicals before they cause damage… charge up your own body’s defense mechanisms!
Heart disease is the world’s #1 cause of death
It is common knowledge that heart disease is the number one killer in the world. Like many man-made afflictions, poor diet choices play a huge role. Sure, some people have drawn the short straw when it comes to having a healthy heart. I knew a little girl when I was a child, that had a hole in her heart… her lips were even blue… she bravely trudged through life. That was a long time ago, and medicine was not yet advanced enough.
For the rest of us born with normal hearts, we should all show more love to our hearts. As a society, we just don’t. We get caught up in the moment and eat whatever is sitting in front of us. Things are way more out of control than when I was a kid 45 years ago. Portion sizes have skyrocketed… Belt sizes have ballooned… Food has been poisoned with who knows what… Food is not really even “food” half the time.
Anyway. Nature has the answer. She always does. Eating food created in nature… eating as nature intended. Turmeric contains properties that can help reverse heart disease Curcumin can help improve the function of the endothelium (this is the lining of your blood vessels).
Endothelial dysfunction has nothing to do with clogged arteries (which is what most people associate with heart disease). The large blood vessels on your heart constrict instead of dilating. This condition, oddly enough, favors women over men.
Curcumin also reduces the amount of inflammation and oxidation in your body (as discussed above). Inflammation and oxidation negatively affect heart disease as well and every other organ in your body.
Cancer used to scare me to death. To this day, I remember a teacher instilling this fear in me. Back in the seventies, it was a death sentence. It sill can be. My dad died of lung cancer in 1999. I despise cigarettes by the way. I watched him slowly wither away to the nastiness that is cancer.
Science has come far since those early days of my childhood. I don’t think about cancer so much. I eat extremely healthy these days… I make sure there are no chemicals in my food and I have been into herbal remedies for decades now.
Cancer is a disease of damaged cells, of course. I suppose most people have a basic understanding of this. Certain cancers are more treatable than others, and not all cancers are caused by environmental toxins or poor dietary habits. I used to work for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as a fundraiser and childhood cancer is the result of DNA changes early in a child’s life or even before they are born… some are the result of genes.
There are some steps you can take if you develop cancer. Curcumin from turmeric is one of the many options you can take to fight cancer. If you are undergoing radiation therapy, sometimes new cancers may develop. Curcumin can help prevent these new cancers from forming. It can also slow down the generation of existing cancer cells and may help prohibit tumor growth.
Studies have demonstrated that curcumin can play a role in the death of cancer cells and help limit the number of blood vessels growing in tumors. It can also help slow down the spread of cancer. Various studies point out that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancer cells in a laboratory setting and stop the growth of tumors in test animals.
You don’t have to wait for a cancer diagnosis before adding turmeric or a curcumin supplement to your daily routine. Evidence shows curcumin can help prevent cancer from developing in the first place. There may come a day when curcumin is used alongside conventional cancer treatment. Too early to say, but it looks promising!
Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years to add flavor to food. Curry is extremely popular in South Asian cuisine. Besides spicing up food, turmeric has an added benefit… it can help you digest your meal better. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds (if not thousands) of years as a digestive aid.
The curcumin properties in turmeric help support your gall bladder, stomach, and kidneys. Modern Western medicine is now beginning to explore how turmeric can help with gut inflammation and as a possible treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.
Are you Depressed?
Big pharma has reaped the rewards of an increasing number of depressed people in recent times. Depression has been in the media’s spotlight since The Prozac Nation became a staple on many best selling books lists. Doctors in these stressful times are quick to write scripts for anti-depressants.
I developed chronic pain back in 1997. My life took a quick nose dive. I went through years of uncertainty and dismay. I visited doctor after doctor and could find no answers to what was causing my pain. Years later when the pain came back, I discovered the cause and was able to use physical therapy to get on top of… sciatica.
So… back then, they could not figure it out. It baffles me. This is a common condition. It could be that forces beyond our material world set up the dynamics for me to learn a spiritual lesson. But… the doctors at the VA threw in the towel and sent me to a shrink.
All the psychiatrists wanted to do was prescribe me anti-depressants. I was upset with my situation, for sure, but I never have struggled with depression. I messed around with some supplements and eventually, the pain went bye-bye… at least for the time being.
In comes 2011 and I hurt my back and found myself in a world of pain again. I went back to the same doctor and she again kept saying I was depressed. I simply refused to take her diagnosis. I actually have suffered from anxiety for years and tried to get her to agree to that. It was always about taking anti-depressants with her. She never really tried to get me to talk about anything on a deeper level.
I truly believe some people need anti-depressants, but sometimes all you need is the right kind of nutrients to feed your brain. There is something lacking in our modern diets. I recommend consuming algae from Klamath Lake first thing in the morning. There are some components within the algae from this lake that will place your mind in a pleasant state of being.
I know for a fact that certain foods can alter your brain chemistry. Curcumin has been tested in clinical trials along with fluoxetine (Prozac). The study showed curcumin as being as effective as Prozac… but with fewer side-effects (since it is natural).
Depression has also been tied in with reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDFN). This is a protein in the brain that promotes the survival of your nerve cells by encouraging growth, maturation, and maintenance of these cells. Curcumin helps boost BDNF levels. There are also some indications that curcumin may help foster brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
Meditation is also helpful in combating depression
Alzheimer’s disease evokes a lot of fear in some people. The thought of losing your sense of self can be terrifying. The onset must be the most horrendous part… knowing that you are starting to lose your mind… and the impact on your family.
I could imagine it would be like some kind of nightmare when it is gone full-throttle. No one really could know. Could they? How would you tap into their mindset? It must be like a ghost trapped in between worlds. In reality, Alzheimer’s patients must be caught in some kind of strange existence.
I keep my brain busy. Writing is very helpful in keeping your brain neurons firing off… or learn a new language. It is important to keep your brain active. There are also brain-boosting foods available for consumption. I just mentioned how turmeric helps with depression by boosting it with neurotransmitters. Your brain needs nutrients to keep going. To keep you sharp and alert.
Science has yet to discover any effective treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. What you can do is treat yourself to some brain-boosting foods and eat foods loaded with antioxidants. Curcumin has shown the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, so it can feed nutrients to your brain. Those two scoundrels, inflammation and oxidation, are linked to Alzheimer’s. This post has already pointed out how turmeric does the body good combating inflammation and oxidation.
What is the difference between turmeric and curcumin?
Turmeric root is part of the turmeric plant as it appears in nature. It is a spice and most often seen in the market place as a ground powder. Curcumin is a supercharged chemical in turmeric. It is what offers turmeric its reputation as a superfood. Extracts are made with a higher dose of curcumin than from the root itself, but it’s not always easy to trick Mother Nature.
There is something special about receiving curcumin within the whole food. It is easier to absorb nutrients from whole foods than from a supplement form. When Black pepper is taken alongside curcumin (or inside a formulation) enable the compound to assimilate into your body easier.
CURCUMIN is a yellow pigment and the primary bioactive compound found in turmeric. It is a micronutrient with anti-inflammatory properties and has the ability to increase the number of antioxidants your body produces.
Supplements have been created with extracted curcumin to provide a stronger dose than found in turmeric. But trying to cheat nature doesn’t always work as well. Curcumin on its own is not easily digestible. However, adding black pepper to curcumin may increase its absorption by 2000%.
Scientists fool around with many formulations to create better bioavailability, but in the long run, you will benefit more by choosing to go with whole foods… turmeric in the way nature intended. Your body will always be able to digest and absorb nutrients way better this way.
Is Curry Powder and Turmeric the same Thing?
Curry is always a blend of different spices. Turmeric is what gives yellow curries its yellowish color. There also Asian curries that do not include turmeric. Red and green curries are popular in Thai cuisine. Coconut milk is usually added to these curries to give it a delicious sweet flavor with a little sting from chili paste. Thai curries are my favorite curry dishes.
Curry with turmeric often also contains spices such as cumin, fenugreek, and coriander. Ground chile peppers are usually added to the mix. Other popular added spices are cloves, caraway, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, fennel seed, mustard seed, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper. You see, it is a hodgepodge of ingredients.
And by the way… turmeric is just turmeric!
Is turmeric safe?
- turmeric may limit your iron intake if you have an iron deficiency
- it may lower your blood sugar to low. Diabetics should keep an eye on their blood sugar levels
- turmeric may interact with blood-thinning medication
- turmeric is high in oxalate. The oxalate could combine with calcium and cause kidney stones.
- too much can lead to headaches, nausea, and diarrhea.
Recipes with Turmeric
Vegan Yellow Thai Curry With Mixed Vegetables
20 Gluten-Free Turmeric Recipies
Turmeric or its potent compound curcumin is another great gift from nature to help you build a stronger immune system. You may or may not like the flavor of turmeric or curry. You could always find turmeric or curcumin in capsule form. You can also add turmeric powder to a blended power drink. I mix numerous powders to make my own natural energy drink. I do this every day. It is a quick way to load your body up with nutrients.
Thanks for reading… many blessings.
Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin
Endothelial function and curcumin
6 Replies to “What is Turmeric Root?”
What a fantastically researched and well written post. However it left me with many questions or dilemmas in regards to how to proceed. First of all the fact that it turmeric is high in oxalate probably means that I need to be careful not to take too much of it as would certainly not like to develop kidney stones. So is there a recommendation on how much is too much and safe quantities to use on a daily basis in order to avoid kidney stones?
I see you mention that curcumin is not easily digestible on its own but that the absorption can be improved by up to 2000% when adding black pepper to it. Now how does this work? You now have the curcumin in capsule form so how are you going to go about adding the black pepper? Or is black pepper already added inside the capsules these days due to medical experts realising that black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin drastically?
Great question Schalk… concerning black pepper, Yes, some formulations in the marketplace include a black pepper extract. Just check the labels and read the reviews before making a decision.
You also do not want to overdo turmeric, but it is a strong spice and you probably wouldn’t to add too much to your food. Adding a teaspoon of powder to a drink should suffice, or swallow the recommended number of capsules,
I actually love the flavor of tumeric. I didn’t know it had so many health benefits to it, especially with arthritis since it runs in my husband’s family. But I’ll have to add it to more of my dishes to help relieve that for him.
I always add it to my curry’s, which I don’t make as often as I should anymore. I do miss curry and it sounds delicious right about now. My Mom uses it in a lot of her dishes after I introduced her to it. Just because the flavor it adds is just so delicious.
Thanks for sharing all the benefits. It has made me want to add to more foods since many of us suffer from most of these ailments regularly.
You’re welcome Katrina. Many blessings
What great explanation about Turmeric, thanks, Brian. I always knew Turmeric is very healthy and we add it a lot to our food. But to see all the advantages listed is fantastic. Food as medication is still number one as far as I am concerned. 🙂
I used to color textile with natural products, but in those days I didn’t know turmeric. So that’s something worth trying out as well!
Maybe a bit off-topic, as this is about food, but my husband had sciatica last month and what helped him best was the infrared lamp.
I have never heard of using an infrared lamp. I work with a lady who is using a turmeric supplement for sciatica in which her doctor recommended. Its usage is getting more common. Thanks for your feedback.