The Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is an ancient cooking ingredient, used equally in curries as it is in health supplements. It’s world famous for this double life, but these claims have come under some scientific scrutiny in recent years. So, what does the science actually say on the health benefits of turmeric?
What is turmeric?
The name turmeric is given to a flowering plant in the ginger family, and the ingredient used in cooking actually comes from the roots of the plant. It’s native to India and South-east Asia, where it’s been used for hundreds of years for its sharp, peppery flavour, its dyeing properties and its reported health benefits.
How is turmeric used in cooking?
Turmeric is used in an enormous variety of ways across South and South-east Asia.
In India, turmeric has become a staple in everything from curries, flavoured rice and even yoghurts and ice creams. In Vietnam it features their iconic bánh xèo (crispy rice pancakes), in Indonesia it’s used in the base for rendang and in Iran, it’s caramelised with onions as a base for khoresh stews.
What are the health benefits of turmeric?
So let’s strip fact from fiction and get to the truth: these are the scientifically-backed health benefits of turmeric. On a technical note, the health benefits are actually derived from curcumin, an element present in the turmeric root.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory
Studies published in America’s National Library of Medicine have found that turmeric helps regulate inflammation in the body, and have produced interesting results as a treatment for arthritis. The researchers call for further study into how turmeric can be used to treat other inflammatory diseases.
Turmeric helps to support the nervous system
Researchers have found ingesting small amounts of turmeric can help fight off infections by improving your antibody response. Separate studies on animals have also found it reduces the body’s reaction to allergens, and shows promising results for sufferers of hayfever.
Turmeric can provide relief from metabolic syndrome
Turmeric provides relief from metabolic syndrome (a condition that includes insulin resistance, hypertension and elevated cholesterol) by targeting inflammatory cytokines.
Turmeric is an effective antioxidant
Curcumin has antioxidant properties, which have proven to reduce the risk of diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer. It works by scavenging free and peroxyl radicals and is considered a “chain-breaking antioxidant”.
Turmeric can potentially reduce symptoms of depression
Recent studies have shown a connection between inflammation and depression and anxiety. By relieving subjects of chronic inflammation, turmeric has shown promising results as treatment for both conditions.
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