Guide to Turmeric: Tips & Health Benefits

Turmeric may be a mainstay in the spices aisle these days, but did you know it has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties? As part of the ancient Indian medical system Ayurveda, turmeric was used to treat common eye infections, dress wounds, treat bites and burns, aid childbirth recovery, suppress cough and respiratory ailments, and relieve indigestion.1 Today, many of turmeric’s uses are supported by scientific studies, and it has never been easier to incorporate into your diet. 

What Is Turmeric?

Derived from the turmeric plant, which is native to southern India and Indonesia, turmeric is a powerful spice with a conspicuous golden hue. It is commonly used in Indian cooking, giving curries their bright color and pungent punch of flavor. The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.2 Uses of turmeric date back 4,500 years.3 It was so integral to Ayurvedic medicine that Ayurvedic literature contains over 100 different terms for the spice, including jayanti, meaning one who is victorious over diseases.

Health Benefits of Turmeric   

Aside from having natural anti-inflammatory properties with the efficacy of anti-inflammatory drugs and the ability to protect your body from free radicals, turmeric has a variety of scientifically-proven health benefits.4 These include:

  • Lowering the risk of heart disease: Studies suggest that the curcumin in turmeric leads to improvements in endothelial function, or the lining of blood vessels, with the same effectiveness as exercise.5 Its anti-inflammatory properties may also help cardiovascular function as well.

  • Relieving symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory compounds may also relieve symptoms of arthritis. In one study of people with RA, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug.6

  • Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): In a study of curcumin’s effects on Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which most commonly includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, researchers found that curcumin seems to be a promising and safe medication for maintaining remission in patients with IBD.7  

  • Improving skin: The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components of turmeric may also do wonders for your skin, including speeding up wound healing, reducing acne, and controlling psoriasis flare-ups.8

  • Treating depression: Curcumin increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may reduce symptoms of depression.9 In one 6-week study, researchers found that curcumin led to improvements that were similar to Prozac.10

  • Boosting the immune system: One study showed that turmeric can moderate the immune system, even in those with immune disorders. 

How to Eat and Drink Turmeric

If you’re not a fan of curry, don’t fret. There are many creative ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet, from teas and golden milk to soups and supplements. Keep in mind that taking turmeric with pepper aids your body’s absorption, so adding a pinch will increase the benefits. Some ways to add turmeric to your diet include:
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  • Make golden milk, a popular nighttime drink, by mixing two cups of boiled milk with one teaspoon of turmeric, and one teaspoon of ginger. Add a teaspoon of honey when the mixture cools and a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon for sleep-inducing effects.

  • Add turmeric to soups and stews. 

  • Make a turmeric tea by dissolving two teaspoons of turmeric in two cups of boiling water, adding one teaspoon of honey, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of black pepper.

  • Add a teaspoon of turmeric to your favorite smoothie.

  • Whisk turmeric into scrambled eggs, a frittata, or tofu scramble.

  • Warm up root vegetables by tossing them in turmeric and pepper.

  • Dress up rice dishes with turmeric.

Spice up your diet with turmeric and enjoy a range of health benefits, including a stronger immune system. And if you’re already struggling with a cold or flu, consider Brillia Health to help you bounce back. Our homeopathic formulations contain unique active ingredients to reduce cold and flu severity and duration and control coughing. Find out more about how Brillia Health works 

Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles and a mother of one. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
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