THIS MONTH’S MIRACLE INGREDIENT: TURMERIC
Want a simpler, more natural solution to some of your health problems? Just reach into the back of your spice cabinet and dust off the turmeric!
For centuries, turmeric has been used in India for both culinary and healing purposes. But although its benefits are well documented in traditional medicine, it has only recently been taken more seriously by modern medical practitioners. Turmeric is derived from the aromatic underground stem of a tropical Asian plant called Curcuma longa, which is a member of the ginger family. It’s made up of three main compounds – the curcuminoids – that are the secret to its healing properties. The most active of these compounds, curcumin, can be accessed either by adding turmeric to your food or by taking curcumin itself in the form of a supplement.
Which benefits are scientifically sound?
1 IT CAN REDUCE INFLAMMATION Research has shown that turmeric scavenges the free radicals formed in the body and has significant anti-inflammatory and pain-inhibiting effects. Several randomised clinical trials found evidence that taking 1000mg of curcumin a day (in the form of a turmeric extract) can help treat the symptoms of arthritis. The spice has also been linked to an improvement in inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis and chronic anterior uveitis (longstanding inflammatory disease of the anterior part of the eye).
2 IT APPEARS TO BE ANTI-CARCINOGENIC Inflammation is a significant risk
factor for cancer, and inflammatory states are linked to tumour promotion. Since turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, research has been done into the effect of curcumin supplementation on the prevention and treatment of cancer growth. Further testing on humans is needed, but current results show curcumin supplementation can discourage cancer growth, development and spread at a molecular level.
3 IT MAY BE EFFECTIVE IN FIGHTING DEPRESSION & PREVENTING ALZHEIMER’S The curcumin compound has been shown to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein linked to the circuits in the brain that regulate emotion, memory, learning, sleep and appetite. Common disorders connected to decreased levels of BDNF include depression and Alzheimer’s. A key feature of the latter is the build-up of amyloid plaques. Curcumin is believed to prevent the development of this disease through its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and clear away the buildup of pathogenic amyloid plaques. It also boosts BDNF levels, which reduces depressive symptoms by improving dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
4 IT IS AN ANTIOXIDANT Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by oxidants – free radicals that occur naturally in the body. When the number of free radicals exceeds the body’s antioxidant count, an external source of antioxidants may be needed. Enter turmeric. The phenolic nature of curcumin makes it highly effective in collecting free radicals and neutralising them. So boosting curcumin intake can help provide protection against heart problems (by removing oxidised cholesterol from the body), eye ailments, memory loss, mood disorders and immune system dysfunction.
5 IT CAN BE USED TO TREAT SKIN CONDITIONS In addition to its antioxidant properties, turmeric is also antibacterial and traditional healers use the spice to make a paste to soothe and heal small cuts and burns. Since the spice has also been shown to help improve skin elasticity, lighten pigmentation, control oily skin and acne, and generally rejuvenate the skin and hair, many natural skin and haircare products use turmeric as their active ingredient. But you can make your own skinboosting paste at home: combine raw turmeric with a few drops of rose water or melted coconut oil. Apply it evenly to a problem area. Leave on for 10 minutes, then wash it off with warm water. Do this daily if you can – and you’ll soon notice that your skin is glowing! (It may also have a yellow tinge to it…)