Turmeric is a hugely popular supplement due to the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of its active ingredient, Curcumin. Here we explain the benefits of Curcumin and Turmeric and what to look out for in a supplement.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a yellow spice from the root of the Turmeric plant traditionally used in Asian cooking. It contains 3 active compounds called curcuminoids. These curcuminoids are biologically active in the body and provide a multitude of benefits. Turmeric can be added to foods or drinks and even used topically (applying to your skin).
What is Curcumin?
The most studied and potent of the 3 types of curcuminoids in Turmeric is called curcumin. It is the most common type found in food supplements and research shows it is the most biologically active.
Benefits of Turmeric
The active curcumins are fat soluble and therefore better absorbed if taken with a small amount of fat. Taking black pepper the turmeric also significantly aids the absorption of the active compounds.
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory
Curcuminoids, and in particular curcumin, reduce inflammation in the body by stopping the body from making inflammatory compounds. Curcumin works on the same pathway as a lot of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicines but without the side effects.
The pathway it targets is called NK-KB which is indicated in many inflammatory and chronic diseases.
Short term inflammation can be beneficial for fighting a disease or healing a wound. Long term inflammation however can have devastating health consequences and must be addressed.
Turmeric is rich in antioxidants. These are compounds that mop up free radicals which are created by the body, ingested and inhaled.
Oxidative damage plays a role in many diseases and in the ageing process. Free radicals interfere with the proteins and DNA in cells and may affect the way genes express themselves. Additionally, curcumin increases the rate your body produces its own antioxidants, providing even more benefits.
Joint pain can occur for a few reasons, most often due to arthritis or an injury. However almost all joint pain will involve some form of inflammation contributing to the pain. Reducing inflammation in the body helps to ease the symptoms of sore joints.
Curcumin has been shown to be helpful to people with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, some research has shown curcumin to be even more beneficial than anti-inflammatory drugs.
Turmeric and depression
There is research to suggest that in some cases of depression, there is low-grade inflammation in the body. There is a very strong link between mind health and gut heath, as 90% of the happy hormones we make (serotonin) is made in the gut, and then transported into the brain. When there is low-grade inflammation in the gut, not enough serotonin is created which can lead to low moods. Read our blog '5 foods to improve your mood'.
Reducing inflammation in the gut not only helps with gut health, but also with moods and mind health in general. Read our blog 'How your diet can improve your mental health'.
Curcumin increases a substance in the brain called brain-derived neurotropic factor which is a type of growth hormone for the brain. One of the health conditions linked to low levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor is depression.
Turmeric benefits for skin
Many skin conditions and problems involve inflammation. This could be acute inflammation such as in the case of eczema, allergy and acne, or low-grade inflammation such as in the case of large pores and inflamed looking skin. Read our blog 6 tips for healthy skin.
Reducing inflammation systemically will reduce inflammation on the skin and improve its appearance. Turmeric’s antioxidant benefits are great for the skin.
Antioxidants help to protect DNA from damage, and that includes part of the DNA which is responsible for producing collagen. Increased collagen production gives the skin more elasticity and a plumper appearance.
Ginger and Turmeric
Combining ginger and turmeric makes a potent anti-inflammatory pair. Ginger contains the active substance gingerol, which is highly anti-inflammatory.
Ginger and turmeric can be consumed together, either fresh or dried and can be used in both foods and drinks. Try this golden latte recipe for an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant boost, and discover our fabulous gingerbread recipe.
By Shona Wilkinson, RN, mBANT, CNHC
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