Turmeric - the golden child of spices
For thousands of years, turmeric has been hailed for its healing properties in the East. Over the past decade or so, the Western world has become aware of how much truth there is in the wisdom of the ancients.
The root of the curcumin longa plant is highly prized and mostly dried and ground down to a fine powder which is then used in food and medicinally. The plant is part of the ginger family.
So what exactly is it that makes turmeric so special? How does it benefit us? Why is it not enough to just spice our food with it?
Today we spice up a hearty meal and explore the natural wonder that is found in turmeric
Curcumin - the secret ingredient in turmeric
Turmeric is made up of several components. The active ingredient that we are mostly concerned with when it comes to turmeric is called curcumin. Curcumin makes up only about 1% of turmeric.
Curcumin gives the turmeric its golden colour. It also has many beneficial effects in and on the body.
What are the health benefits of curcumin?
There are many health benefits ascribed to curcumin, especially since it has a range of different effects in the body.
12 health benefits of curcumin
- Curcumin may stimulate the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies
- Curcumin may decrease LDL (bad) Cholesterol and increase HDL (good) Cholesterol
- Curcumin may alleviate inflammation throughout the body
- Curcumin may prevent different types of cancer formation
- Curcumin may stimulate cellular suicide (apoptosis) of some cancer cells
Curcumin and cancer
This deserves special mention.
Recent studies have shown that when curcumin is given intravenously, it can act as a photosensitizer, or dye, to cancer cells.
There is new research coming out showing that, if one then shines a laser into the vein via fibre optic cable at a specific wavelength, one can selectively destroy the circulating tumour cells. This is part of an exciting field of medicine called photobiomodulation.
Why don’t we just add a spoon of turmeric to our food to make the medicine go down?
Whilst turmeric contains sufficient amounts of curcumin to be extremely beneficial to our health, there is a catch. That catch is our digestive system.
Turmeric is mostly dissolved in fat. The digestive system is a watery system which causes most of the turmeric to be excreted rather than dissolved and absorbed.
The fancy description is called bioavailability, or the proportion of a substance entering the circulation to have an active effect.
How can I make turmeric more absorbable?
All is not lost, however! It is possible to trick the body in order to either let the turmeric stay in the system for longer, or for it to be absorbed at a better rate.
4 ways to enhance the absorption of turmeric
- Add some freshly crushed black pepper
Freshly crushed black pepper contains a molecule called piperine, which enhances the absorption of turmeric by slowing down the processing rate of the liver.
- Mix your turmeric with good fats
Mixing your turmeric with a fat such as coconut oil can bypass the liver and allow for much greater absorption
- Whole food vs powder
Turmeric root as a whole food is better absorbed than the dried variety
- Heat me up
The bioavailability of turmeric is enhanced by heating it. This opens up a world of possibilities with regards to incorporating turmeric in food.
Here are some of our favourite ways of using turmeric in food. Delicious, practical and focused health!
This delicious drink is perfect for a winter warmer!
- 400 ml milk (from almond to coconut, take your pick!)
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Fresh grind of black pepper
- Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk together until hot. Do not let it boil.
- Pour into mugs, add a dash of cinnamon on top and enjoy!
Spicy Turmeric Ginger Gummies
- 1 cup orange, carrot or pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 3 cm ginger root, thinly chopped
- 1 tablespoon agar agar powder or gelatin
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon stevia (optional)
- Place the juice into a pan.
- Sprinkle and mix the dry ingredients into the pan.
- Simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes, constantly stirring to make sure that it doesn’t stick or start setting.
- Remove the ginger slices.
- Leave to cool for 5 minutes and pour into ice trays or moulds.
- Chill for 30 minutes.
These gummies will last for up to a week in the fridge.
Not all curcumin supplements are equal
Because of the fact that turmeric and curcumin essentially look the same, many people get confused as to which type to buy.
The important things to look out for are, of course, on the list of ingredients and the description.
Check that you are buying curcumin instead of turmeric and that it is combined with bio-perine.
Adding curcumin to your supplement regime can greatly enhance your overall health
Curcumin is one of our favourite supplements for the overall health benefits that it offers. It has stood the test of time and proven over and over again that ancient wisdom is still applicable today.