Turmeric: The Root (Or Stem) Of The Matter

Monday, December 5, 2016. Author Tyler Breedlove

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This week, we have a kibbeh recipe for you. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can by clicking here. Now, this recipe has a very important ingredient. It’s the spice “turmeric” and you should definitely add it to your diet. After you finish the article below, you’ll most likely be racing to the store to grab some for yourself.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a perennial plant known for its short stem and oblong leaves. This “short stem” is known as a “shoot.” Turmeric is a rhizome, meaning that the stem of the plant grows horizontally underground. This is the portion of the plant, most often mistakenly referred to as the root, that produces the yellow-orange spice we are most familiar with.

The popularity of this plant comes from its uses in modern day Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha (Indian) medicinal practices. Besides its use as a spice, turmeric is also used as a preservative and coloring agent in many Asian countries. It has even found its way into cosmetics and has found use as an “oleoresin” in many foods and pharmaceuticals.

Turmeric contains numerous compounds beneficial to human health, and there have been over 9,000 studies focusing on a polyphenol that makes up a small portion (approximate 5%) of the plant: Curcumin. With so much published research, what have the scientists found?

Healthy Bites

  • Turmeric (and its curcumin component) shows strong anti-oxidant activity. This anti-oxidant capacity leads to the protection and proper function of numerous parts of the body, e.g. the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
  • Curcumin has been found to hold powerful anti-inflammatory effects, in some cases, equivalent to that of pharmaceuticals.
  • Turmeric’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have shown hepatoprotective properties, protecting the liver from toxic compounds, while improving its general function.
  • The compound curcumin may have anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic effects. Some studies in isolated human cells showed that a high dose (thus not something you could or should eat) may aid initiation of apoptosis (death) in cancer cells. It also could prevent cancerous tumor growth. These results have led to test the use of turmeric in development of future cancer therapies.
  • There are indications that turmeric (the extract and essential oil) has anti-microbial effects. This is seen in the prevention of growth in certain types of bacteria, parasites and pathogenic fungi.
  • Some research in animal models, using relatively low doses, has shown turmeric to lower cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels.
  • Turmeric has also been reported to decreases blood sugar levels in diabetic rats.

Interesting Additions

With over 9,000 published studies, the above benefits are just a general overview. However, there are some other effects that Turmeric offers. Here are a few extra tid-bits…

  • Fresh juice from raw turmeric (the rhizome), paste made from the powdered turmeric, and concentrated extract made from boiling have been used as local (or sometimes internal) treatments for leprosy and even snake bites. These have also been used for vomiting associated with pregnancy.
  • A study was performed on 25 patients with diagnosed gastric ulcers. Participants were given 600 mg, 5 times a day. After 4 weeks, the ulcers had completely healed in 48% of patients and at 12 weeks in 76%.
  • Rubbing aching teeth with roasted, ground turmeric can eliminate pain and even reduce swelling.
  • In patients with healing wounds or those undergoing surgery, oral administration of turmeric appears to reduce post-operative inflammation.

For Your Information

With regards to ingestion, Turmeric is very safe. The average intake ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 grams per day in Asian populations. In various human studies, no toxicity has been seen from doses of 1 to 10 grams per day.

Your Genetics

Understanding your genetics can play a key role in knowing if and how you would benefit from the consumption of turmeric. This becomes very relevant when we look at certain genes. To the DNA chart!

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References

Chattopadhyay, I., Biswas, K., Bandyopadhyay, U., & Banerjee, R. K. (2004). Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications. Curr Sci, 87(1), 44-53.

Krishnaswamy, K. (2008). Traditional Indian spices and their health significance. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 17(S1), 265-268.

Nagpal, M., & Sood, S. (2013). Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview. Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, 4(1), 3.

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