If I could only use one herb for the rest of my life, it would be turmeric. It really is a "cure-all."
Turmeric is the spice that gives Indian curry it's yellow hue. The active ingredient is curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
1. Reduce Inflammation.
We now know that inflammation is at the root cause for most chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Including turmeric in your diet is one of the most powerful ways you can reduce inflammation and thus promote longevity.
Inflammation can also result in acute and chronic pain. Turmeric is helpful in cases of acute pain, such as a sprained ankle, as well as chronic pain, such as arthritis.
2. Enhanced Memory.
It has been suggested for years that eating turmeric is the reason why people in India have a much lower rate of Alzheimer's than Americans. Now we have research to explain the link. A recent study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry revealed consuming curcumin improves memory performance in middle-aged and older individuals and may also lead to less neuropathological accumulation in the amygdala, our emotion center in the brain, and the hypothalamus, which maintains the body's internal balance.
3. Improved Mood.
It is now well established that inflammation is a trigger of depression. In fact, turmeric has been found to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants, improve PMS and some studies show it is be superior to Prozac. See here for some abstracts:
Chronic Supplementation of Curcumin Enhances the Efficacy of Antidepressants
Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Effect of curcumin on serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in women with premenstrual syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
4. Gut Support.
Turmeric is a digestive-aid used around the world. It can successfully be used to reduce inflammation in the gut, thus aiding in IBS, Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's and colitis are often treated with steroids, antibiotics and immunomodulators. These are major medications that come with a whole host of side effects. Clinical studies have shown that co-administration of curcumin with conventional drugs was effective, to be well-tolerated and treated as a safe medication for maintaining remission, to prevent relapse and improve clinical activity.
5. Immune Support.
The immune system is meant to protect us from foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses; however, the immune system can become dysregulated and attack our own organs or tissues. This is autoimmunity. Common autoimmune conditions include Hashimoto's, MS, lupus, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Curcumin inhibits these autoimmune diseases by regulating inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-12, TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma and associated JAK-STAT, AP-1, and NF-kappaB signaling pathways in immune cells.
In addition to regulating the immune system in cases of autoimmune diseases, turmeric provides seasonal allergy relief. A study of 241 people with seasonal allergies found that curcumin significantly reduced symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion, when compared to a placebo.
How to best consume:
Turmeric is best absorbed with a fat and black pepper. This makes Indian dishes, such as curry cooked in coconut milk, a perfect nutrition pairing. Aim for 2 teaspoons daily. You can add turmeric to soups, stews, curries, eggs, stir-fries or even smoothies.
Supplementing with Turmeric:
When supplementing with turmeric, look for a curcumin supplement (turmeric extract) bound to a phospholipid for optimal absorption. A typical daily dose is 1,000 mg. It can be taken at higher doses in cases of autoimmunity or arthritis, for example, at doses of 1,000 mg 2x/day.
Yellow Lentil Dahl with Ginger and Turmeric
Turmeric Protein Drink
Coconut Turmeric Crusted Fish
Winter Warming Chai Tea Latte
Carrot Ginger Squash Soup
Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Ginger Iced Tea
Dr. Axtell is a naturopathic doctor, providing holistic health and wellness services for the whole family. She helps people facing many health conditions such as digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, weight loss resistance, food sensitivities, and hormone imbalances. She is passionate about using food as medicine with her patients. Dr. Axtell has a private practice, Lakeside Natural Medicine, in Shorewood, WI.