Are you wondering why there is so much buzz about turmeric?
It turns out it’s not just the most recent fad. For thousands of years, people have considered turmeric to be one of the most valuable medicinal herbs. Over the millennia it has been used for numerous ailments, including pain, inflammation, stomach issues and skin disorders, just to name a few.
As if that’s not enough, it provides that unique savory, pungent flavor to many foods, including Indian curries and Moroccan dishes. The initial introduction of turmeric into cuisines in India and the Middle East was likely originally due to its medicinal properties.
So just how long has turmeric been used as a medical miracle?
An astounding 4,500 years. The discovery of ancient pots in New Delhi revealed that residues from turmeric and other medicinal herbs have been in use since around 2500 BCE.
Turmeric’s uses in Ayurvedic medicine have long been relied upon throughout Southeast Asia to cure a number of ailments, including stomach complaints and even autoimmune conditions such as shingles.
Modern medicine has taken its use a step further.
Studies and analysis have allowed scientists to unlock the numerous benefits of not only turmeric but also its individual compounds.
Those healing powers are contained in the rhizome (the root). Turmeric’s rhizomes are tuberous formations with finger-like protuberances, much like those that are seen on ginger, a close cousin.
It originally comes from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia but grows well in any tropical or subtropical environment.
The most prolific modern producer of turmeric is India, with the majority of the world’s fresh rhizome being grown in India’s warmer regions.
Curious where turmeric gets its glowing, vibrant color?.
That beautiful golden-orange hue that lends its glowing gold color to foods such as curries and rice comes from the pigmented compound known as curcumin – a polyphenol.
Polyphenols are the most widely recognized compounds of the plant, containing the highest levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to being used as a medicinal herb and culinary spice, it is also used to color foods, drugs, and cosmetics. The unique properties of curcumin allow it to be used in both oil-based and water-based formulas, making it ideal for tinting products such as lotions or salad dressings without altering the product itself.
What you may not realize is that recent research suggests that curcumin isn’t the only part of turmeric that offers healing qualities – turmeric contains more than 235 compounds that may help fight inflammation, boost the immune system, fight the growth of cancer cells and act as an antibacterial but these represent only the tip of the iceberg.
You’ve probably noticed in the last decade or so that turmeric features strongly in many supplements and products.
This has been driven, in part, by the numerous studies in both the private and government sectors that are being conducted to learn more about its healing abilities.
For many, its anti-inflammatory properties make it a go-to for those that are looking for a safer alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
NSAIDs are known for causing gastric discomfort or even ulcers. Other users report they don’t receive the relief they’d expect. If you’re amongst this group, you may find turmeric will become a staple in your medicine cabinet.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a 2010 study showed that individuals with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) had better results with a specific curcumin product than they did with the drug diclofenac.
This sort of evidence supports what has been suspected for years -- turmeric is an effective medicine for treating significant inflammation.
As more and more such studies are released, conventional medicine has started to accept turmeric extract as a potent alternative to chemical pharmaceutics.
Turmeric can now be found in almost every product available, from concentrated capsules to topical creams and toothpaste -- even bottled lemonade.
The benefits from some products might need to be investigated further, but the potential for widespread use of turmeric as a potent natural medicine is incredibly exciting.
How can you make turmeric an effective part of your defense against inflammation?
As has been proven through numerous studies, turmeric can be used both internally and as a topical treatment with excellent results.
Externally, when paired with other substances that encourage absorption, you may find it is more effective than conventional pain creams, such as those that are used for arthritis or muscle soreness. Depending on your needs, one may be more appropriate than the other.
Internally, turmeric can help heal peptic ulcers, in addition to the potent whole-body anti-inflammatory properties it offers. Adding it to cooking can also help up your curcumin intake but a standardized capsule is going to offer the most reliable benefits.
When you’re looking for turmeric in a topical application, one way to ensure you’re getting a high-quality topical is to look for the word “transdermal” on the label. This means it has been formulated to be thoroughly absorbed, taking advantage of all of the different compounds turmeric contains.
A transdermal product is intended to transfer its benefits beneath the skin to be utilized throughout the body, whereas a topical product is designed to work only at the site of application.
If a product merely contains turmeric but doesn’t include the right supporting ingredients to help deliver it to the site of the pain or inflammation it will be about as effective as a normal hand lotion. Some of these ingredients may include DMSO, glyceryl stearate, magnesium and sorbitan olivate.
The wonders of turmeric are only now beginning to be realized.
Undoubtedly, as further studies are conducted this relative of the ginger plant will reveal more of its healing secrets. However, you don’t have to wait for the next wave of data to reap the benefits. High-quality, effective turmeric products may be the key to your inflammation and discomfort!