One of the big reasons I chose to practice integrative medicine, as opposed to a strictly allopathic approach, is my absolute love, fascination, and reverence for medicinal plants.
The rich history of medicinal herbs in America, from Echinacea to Goldenseal, could likely fill 100 libraries, but today we’re going to focus on an ancient root native to the East.
This bright yellow spice belongs to the ginger family, is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India), and has thousands of peer-reviewed published studies behind it.
I’m talking about turmeric and its main medicinal component: curcumin.
In today’s post we’re going to look at my top 5 reasons to love it and use it as part of a healthy lifestyle.
A little history on one of the world’s most-studied medicinal plants
Turmeric, mostly known in the West for its use in Indian curries and as a cheap substitute for saffron, has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, cooking, and religious ceremonies for thousands of years.
Widely produced in India, it is considered a sacred herb and its first recorded use dates back to 250 B.C. where it was used as an ointment for food poisoning.
Over the past 50 years, modern Eastern and Western science has taken a keen interest in turmeric’s main medicinal compound, curcumin, where it has been the subject of over 6000 peer-reviewed published biomedical studies.
Turmeric’s Traditional Uses
Though we all get excited when science confirms the validity of a natural substance, I am always more fascinated with how it has been used by traditional healers throughout history.
All the recorded traditional uses of turmeric are too vast to list here, but some highlights include use for:
Digestive disorders, hair removal, parasites, regulating menstruation, for cuts, burns, and bruises, bacterial infections, pain and inflammation, skin conditions, gray hair, viral infections, fungal infections, and metabolic issues.
What’s more is many of these traditional uses now have solid scientific backing. Let’s look into why turmeric works so well for many conditions…
A Modern look at Turmeric’s Benefits
As mentioned above, science believes the majority of turmeric’s healing properties come from its medicinal compound: curcumin.
Curcumin is what gives turmeric its signature golden color and acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Due to the research backing its traditional uses, turmeric, or more specifically curcumin extract, is a popular ingredient in many over-the-counter supplements and beauty products…but is it right for you?
With all the exciting research behind it, the answer is probably…but let’s delve a little deeper with my 5 reasons to LOVE turmeric:
Top 5 Scientifically-proven Reasons to LOVE Turmeric
Note: Curcumin (found in turmeric) is the subject of the majority of these studies.
#1: For pain and inflammatory conditions
Modern research tells us that nearly every single chronic disease, from heart disease to certain cancers, has its roots in excess inflammation. There is no doubt, inflammation is the new “it” topic in medicine.
An added complication of inflammatory diseases, lies in their treatment. NSAID drugs alone can cause serious side effects such as liver toxicity, while cholesterol-lowering drugs should be used with the utmost caution.
Luckily, turmeric naturally inhibits key pro-inflammatory pathways making it a viable and safe choice for many inflammatory-based conditions.
For an in-depth article including published studies on curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties, check out this free article published by the International Journal of BioChemistry and Cell Biology.
#2: For balancing blood sugar
Blood sugar issues, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity have reached near epidemic-proportions.
Now recognized as an inflammatory-based disease, many experts, myself included, believe this has its roots in stress, an overly processed diet, and genetics.
Curcumin has been the subject of various studies related to blood sugar regulation.
The subjects of this study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism, reduced their blood glucose levels using curcumin, suggesting it has antihyperglycemic and insulin sensitizing effects.
Though the human research on curcumin and blood sugar issues is still relatively young, it is worth considering for those with a history of diabetes, hypoglycemia, metabolic syndrome, or other blood-sugar related issues.
Perhaps the most exciting studies (and traditional uses) of curcumin focus on its potential to prevent and even fight certain cancers.
In fact, curcumin has shown such promise in helping certain cancers by increasing the body’s antioxidants and preventing DNA damage, it is being considered as a potential candidate for anticancer drug treatment…pretty exciting!
#4: Healthy youthful skin
Because of its powerful antioxidant profile, turmeric is a popular ingredient in many modern natural skin care products.
Traditionally, it’s been a part of skin and beauty rituals for everything from clearing up blemishes, to preventing wrinkles, as a strengthening hair treatment, and even to repair and prevent sun damage.
Though its antioxidant benefits speak for themselves, the research is starting to catch up, with promising results for curcumin’s ability to curtail UV-induced skin aging. Read about it here.
#5: Gut health
Turmeric has been revered for centuries as a digestive aid and natural remedy for food poisoning.
And now modern research agrees, especially when it comes to H. Pylori infections.
H. Pylori infections are common and can go undetected in your digestive tract for months or even years. If left untreated, it can lead to a host of digestive disorders including ulcers, IBS, and even stomach cancer.
If you suffer any type of chronic or acute digestive issues, or if you suspect food poisoning, I highly recommend giving turmeric a try.
Final thoughts on turmeric for health issues
I must admit, with so much history, tradition, and scientific studies behind it, sharing just 5 reasons to love turmeric was a HUGE challenge.
Heck, I didn’t even have space to dive into the studies on curcumin’s promise for treating depression, bacterial infections, heart disease, burn and wound care, influenza, and so much more.
I’ll plan for a “Top 5 Reasons to Love Turmeric Part 2”, but until then if you’d like to start adding some of the “golden spice” to your life, the easiest way is to try cooking with it.
Add a teaspoon to your favorite dishes, soups, marinades, and even smoothies. Do a search on Pinterest and discover all sorts of creative recipes and techniques to try.
If you’d like to try a curcumin extract supplement for a specific health concern, I recommend you check with your healthcare practitioner as they can recommend the best brand and potency for your unique health needs and goals.