Turmeric: Super spice or common cooking herb?

Turmeric is a commonly used spice, most notably in Indian cuisine. Its bright golden color led it to become a popular dye for food as well as other crafts and hobbies. Not only is its use prevalent in modern times, but even dating back nearly 4,000 years ago where it was used primarily in Southeast Asia before spreading to other continents.

In the past couple of years I’ve read a wide range of studies and articles suggesting that this super spice does much more than add flavor to curry and color to crafts. These studies indicate that turmeric, and its active ingredient curcumin, has a vast array of health benefits, including qualities that are beneficial as a medical treatment or for cosmetic uses.

When the U.S. first adopted the use of turmeric, its purpose served mainly as a food colorant. What people may not know is that it can also be used to color hair and when made into a lotion it can even be a skin toner. Aside from being a great colorant, it has other beneficial applications. For example, turmeric has been found to be antibacterial which makes it an excellent facial scrub to treat acne and when mixed with gram flour, it can prevent hair growth.

More than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds have been found in turmeric which means that it can treat and prevent an extensive list of diseases, one of which is Alzheimer’s. It does this by reducing swelling as well as inhibiting the development of a substance called beta amyloid which is responsible for build  up of plaque that hinders the cerebral function over time.
Other ailments that this holistic herb can aid are arthritis, cancer, joint pains, headaches and eczema.

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque, fat and cholesterol builds up on the walls of arteries. Taking curcumin extract orally can do a number of things to dampen and completely get rid of the effects caused by this disease.

First off, its antioxidant properties halt the oxidation of bad cholesterol and prevents it, along with other fat, from depositing itself on the arterial wall. This extract also reduces obesity by restricting the division of cells producing fat, called adipocytes. Alongside that, it interacts with adipose tissue to promote the production of a major anti-inflammatory agent, adiponectin, produced by adipocytes. Other aiding qualities include roles like preventing blood clots, improving metabolism, relaxing blood vessels and reducing motor impairment.

In my experiences with turmeric, I have used it for anxiety, headaches, joint pains and as a general mood stabilizer. I’ve been testing its effects on myself as well as friends and family for over a year, and can vouch for these studies that it does help in certain areas. As a mood stabilizer it can boost levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and it regulates hormones. It has even been said to be more efficient and effective health-wise than Prozac and other antidepressants at alleviating mild to moderate depression.

One thing to always keep in mind about taking supplements you’ve never tried is that everyone’s bodies react differently to different things and you should always test with small amounts first, whether orally or topically. Also, recognize that too much of anything, even if it’s healthy, can be detrimental to one’s health.

Despite all the benefits one can gain from taking turmeric it does have its fair share of negative side effects when taken in too large and frequent of doses. These can include, but are not limited to, higher risk of bruising since it reduces blood clotting, it’s a blood thinner, it reduces blood sugar in people with diabetes, it can make already existing gall bladder issues worse and can restrict the absorption of iron when taken at high doses.

Overall and in all the time I’ve incorporated turmeric into my lifestyle I haven’t experienced any adverse side effects and would recommend people to do some research on their own to see if it’s something they feel could benefit their health.