Turmeric is one of the best spices you can add to any dish for enhanced flavor and to capitalize on the health benefits it boasts. Most often, people find this root in its ground up form and it is easily identified by its intense yellow/orange coloration. I absolutely love to add turmeric to any dish I can; it goes great with broccoli, ground beef, and even teas. Besides the mild spiciness this root has to offer, it is a potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric root has been used for thousands of years to help ailments ranging from stomach aches to infections. The active component of turmeric is a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has so many different pharmaceutical effects and is known to decrease inflammation, act as an antibiotic agent, and help neutralize oxidant products in the body. When turmeric is ingested, it inserts itself deep in to the membranes of our cells (3). I’m going to get somewhere with this in just a moment.
The American diet has earned a reputation as being one that is unhealthy through the high consumption of foods which are considered unhealthy like fast food, processed foods, and sugary products and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. When we eat junk food, we ingest an overabundance of arachidonic acid (AA) which is an omega-6 fatty acid. One of the many functions these omega-6 fatty acids possess is that they turn on the inflammatory cascade in our bodies – the same ones that are active when we stub our toe and feel pain or overuse certain joints which ache or when we get sick and need the kickstart to develop a fever. Basically, we eat ourselves in to an inflamed state. Common remedies for inflammation include taking an NSAID like ibuprofen or if it gets bad enough, even getting cortisone injections. So you may ask, what is a pro-inflamed state and how do I get there exactly? Below is a diagram on how the cascade works with diet and how turmeric fits in to this conversation:
Basically, the curcumin found in the turmeric is a modulator of inflammation and all of the side effects that come with it (pain, swelling, asthma, etc). In essence, all diseases are biochemically similar in the fact that they are initiated by inflammation (1). With the American diet being one that is high in omega-6 fatty acids and lower in omega-3 fatty acids (like those found in wild fish and flaxseed for example), there is an imbalance which leads individuals to be chronically inflamed. Remember, it is long-term inflammation which leads to the development of chronic or degenerative diseases.
Curcumin has so many positive modulating effects ranging from suppressing cognitive deficits and amyloid accumulation found on Alzheimer’s disease to being a potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory (2). I like to add this super-spice to my daily regiment because of it actions and you should too. For a tea, get a jar or organic turmeric powder and add it to some hot water, ginger, and a cinnamon stick. In a meal or side dish, add it to taste. The possibilities are endless with this super-spice.
In Health and Wellness,
Seaman DR, et al. The diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002.
Yang F, et al. Curcumin Inhibits Formation of Amyloid Beta Oligomers and Fibrils, Binds Plaques, and Reduces Amyloid in Vivo*. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5892-901.
Barry J, et al. Determining the Effects of Lipophillic Drugs on Membrane Structure by Solid-State NMR Spectroscopy– The Case of the Antioxidant Curcumin. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5892-901.