What is turmeric?
Also known as Indian saffron or the golden spice, turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa plant. The turmeric root, or rhizome, grows underground and looks similar to ginger. The botanical name is derived from the Arabic word "al-krukum". It means "saffron" and refers to the colouring property of the turmeric plant. The yellow dye of the rhizome is also used to dye paper, textiles and ointments.
While you can find it in many Southeast Asian countries, India is the largest producer of turmeric and has been since ancient times. India consumes nearly 80% of the world’s turmeric!
Turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 4000 years, especially in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of natural healing. In Ayurvedic practices, healers use this root to treat respiratory conditions, alleviate gas, improve digestion and relieve arthritis, just to name a few.
What makes this golden spice so powerful? Curcumin — the bioactive compound in turmeric. It is supposed to be the key to all the health benefits and the reason the body reacts so well to it!
The powerful roots of the turmeric plant
Turmeric is a perennial and herbaceous plant that can grow up to one metre high. It forms fleshy rhizomes that strongly resemble those of ginger and, like these, form tuberous secondary rootstocks. The main root is two to five centimetres thick. In contrast to the pale yellow ginger, the tuberous rhizomes of the turmeric plant are strikingly orange-yellow in colour.
As a true tropical plant, turmeric loves high humidity, sun, warmth and rather dry soils. Nevertheless, turmeric can also be grown in Europe: In greenhouses or conservatories where the temperature does not fall below 18°C, the relatively undemanding exotic plant can also be grown in pots at home.
Turmeric and black pepper
The combination of turmeric and black pepper is said to have a beneficial effect. Adding just a pinch of black pepper is said to encourage the body to better absorb the active ingredient curcumin. This in turn is due to the combination of turmeric and piperine, the active ingredient in pepper that is said to promote the healing effect of turmeric. Since
Dosing turmeric and pepper together increases the chance of a positive effect of turmeric, but is not the only option. Fats are another way for the body to better absorb curcumin. They increase the absorption capacity of fat-soluble substances such as curcuminoids. This is also why a turmeric latte called golden milk has become so popular. More on that later.
Please be aware that piperine can lead to stomach and intestinal irritations or even interactions with medications so please consult your doctor before consuming.
Organic turmeric powder
Turmeric powder is used for curry mixes but you can also buy instant golden milk powders or just pure turmeric powder. The downside: the amount of turmeric in curry powder is so little that the health benefits cannot really be seen and in the ready-made instant drinks, companies usually mix in sweeteners to make them tastier. And how should you use just straight up turmeric powder - just spoon it?
Okay so what other choice do you have to benefit from the powerful effects of turmeric you might ask. How about a clean, organic turmeric powder mix that can serve multiple uses - either in a golden milk or as a spice in curries! That’s why we’ve created Golden Mellow. This mix combines turmeric with just 5 other organic plant superfoods - of course also black pepper - that support the healing effects, all while naturally sweetening it - thank you lucuma and cinnamon! So make turmeric your daily ritual by finding your favourite Golden Mellow recipe.
Top 8 health benefits of turmeric
With over 13,700 scientific studies supporting turmeric’s health benefits, it’s hard to dispute this spice has superpowers. Here are some of the top reasons why turmeric should be part of your diet.
1. Turmeric fights inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and infection. It signals the immune system to respond by either treating or repairing the damage or to “prepare for battle” against invaders, such as bacteria or viruses.
While some inflammation is necessary (and even vital), chronic inflammation can lead to many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer.
Thanks to its curcumin compounds, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory — and a strong one at that. One study found that turmeric (and curcumin) is comparable to anti-inflammatory medicines with the added bonus of no side effects. (As a side note, the study also found aspirin and ibuprofen were the least effective.)
2. Turmeric may prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease
Inflammation and oxidative damage are two of the biggest contributors in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric to the rescue!
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, research also shows curcumin could prevent the formation, and even break up, of the amyloid-beta plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease. And while it may be anecdotal evidence, some believe India has the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s due to their turmeric consumption. (Another factor: they don’t eat the Standard American Diet.)
3. Turmeric is a powerful cancer fighter
When it comes to certain types of cancer, it’s no match to curcumin’s anti-cancer properties! From inhibiting cancer cell death to reducing cancer growth and even preventing the spread of cancer, studies show that curcumin can do it all.
According to Cancer Research UK, curcumin has the best effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells. What’s more, less than ½ teaspoon of turmeric a day reduces the DNA mutating ability of cancer-causing substances. (This is one of many reasons why turmeric is on Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen list.)
4. Turmeric is good for arthritis
As mentioned before, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. And this herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis.
Curcumin was put to the test in a 2012 randomised study consisting of 45 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. One group received 500 mg of curcumin while another group received 50mg of diclofenac sodium (an anti-inflammatory drug). The results, which were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Phytotherapy Research,” found the curcumin group had the highest percentage of improvement.
The study also notes: “More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events.”
5. Turmeric may help reduce depression symptoms
Studies show curcumin could be effective in treating depression.
In 2014, researchers in India gave study participants Prozac, curcumin or a combination of the two. The result? Curcumin was just as effective as Prozac. Two other studies, one performed on men and women and another performed only on men, had similar results.
6. Turmeric is good for your heart and overall vitality
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the world, claiming the lives of over 15 million people — but turmeric may help! Curcumin has the ability to improve the endothelium — the thin layer of tissue that lines blood vessels. (Did you know? Endothelial cells, when laid end to end, could circle the Earth four times!)
A 2012 study tracked the endothelial function in a small group of post-menopausal women and endothelial function. One group performed aerobic exercise, while another group ingested curcumin. After 8 weeks, those who took curcumin improved their endothelial cell function just as much as a group who exercised. Another study suggests curcumin works just as well as Atorvastatin, a drug often prescribed for heart-related issues.
7. Turmeric can help with PMS
If you suffer from menstrual cramps or other PMS symptoms such as back pain and headaches, turmeric may provide some much-needed relief!
In a randomised, double-blind study, women who received two capsules of curcumin every day for seven days before their period and for three days after for three successive cycles had reduced PMS symptoms.
8. Turmeric is good for your skin
Turmeric may not be a beauty berry like acai, but it can still improve the health of your skin. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and it has the ability to block free radicals. And thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, it may be beneficial in treating psoriasis.
It’s also said the combination of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories helps bring out your skin’s natural glow.
Turmeric latte recipe, or Golden Milk
Turmeric is not only good for spicing up a curry but you can also enjoy it as a warming drink to help you mellow out: A Golden Milk. This drink has become a real trend with superfoodies around the world, despite it being a popular way to consume turmeric for years and years. We show you how you can make a healthy and vegan turmeric latte at home! Simply follow this easy recipe with minimal ingredients and sip yourself to calm.