Turmeric (Haldi, in Hindi) is a superfood that has been trusted traditionally, and is also much researched and validated for its antioxidant-rich therapeutic goodness in modern times.
Turmeric or haldi is also an oft used spice common in kitchens of South Asia.Brilliant yellow in colour due to an antioxidant group called curcuminoids in it, it gives curries its signature yellow hue.The turmeric plant is botanically called Curcuma longa, and it belongs to the ginger family or Zingiberaceae. The bulbous rhizome of this plant is used raw as well as in dried and powdered form.
The secret of Turmeric’s therapeutic goodness lies in its curcuminoid content. The major antioxidant among the curcuminoid group is curcumin which is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Consumption of Turmeric is believed to reduce severity of inflammatory disorders like arthritis, shield fromoxidative stress, detox liver, and cut down heart disease and cancer risks. It also helps boost brain health and reduce neurogenerative disorders like dementia and Alzeihmer’s.
Benefits of Turmeric :
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in South Asian kitchens as a spice. It is also used as a medicine in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian healing therapy system.
Clinical research has shown Turmeric to have multiple benefits, mostly due to its curcumin content. We summarise a few.
Anti-inflammatory effect :
Regular consumption of Turmeric lowers chronic inflammation to improve general wellness as well as reduce risk of associated lifestyle-related diseases such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even cancer.
As we stated earlier, the star anti-inflammatory compound in Turmeric is curcumin that happens to be one of the most potent anti-inflammatory compounds known to medical science. It blocks molecules that otherwise can activate genes linked to inflammation, and delivers results comparable to some anti-inflammatory medicines but without adverse side effects.
Anti-oxidative stress reduction effect :
Our internal organs are exposed to free radicals caused by toxins, pollutants and heavy metals hiding in our food, drink and the very air we breathe.These free radicals then impair nutrients and DNA causing harm to health and accelerating the aging process. As free radicals also work as toxins that overload the liver, Turmeric helps with liver detoxification as well. As liver health is directly linked to skin’s appearance, Turmeric also helps gain clearer skin.
Curcuminoids helps check this damage by neutralizing free radicals. It also helps activate body’s own antioxidant enzymes for more robust defence mechanisms.
Improved brain function and protection from brain disorders :
Curcumin helps increase the levels of a key hormone called brain derived neuropathic factor (BDNF) whose deficiency is linked to multiple brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression.
Increased BDNF levels in brain may help counter age-related brain disorders, and even boost memory.
Immunity boost function :
Curcumin in Turmeric helps boost immune function by enhancing functioning of immune cells that fight bacteria, viruses and fungi, that otherwise may cause infections.
Lower heart disease risk :
Curcmin protects the heart in three ways:
It improves functioning of endothelial tissue that lines blood vessels;
it reduces inflammation, and
it cuts down on oxidative stress.
All these three are causal factors for heart disease.
One study has proved turmeric to have effects comparable to statins, a group of drugs that helps lower cholestreol and keep blood vessels free of narrowing due to plaque.
Anti-cancer effect :
Curcuminoids in Turmeric helps kill cancerous cells. It also helps inhibit growth of blood vessels in cancerous tissues, and spread of cancer inside body.
Some studies have suggested that curcumin can even help prevent colo-rectal cancers.
Potential Side Effects of Turmeric :
Turmeric is very safe when consumed in reasonable quantities. After all, South Asians consume it on daily basis as part of food. Indian diet, averagely speaking, provides around 2000-2500 mg of turmeric that yields around 60-100 mg curcumin to the body. This is a very dafe dosage.
In rare cases, excessive consumption may cause stomach upset, loose motions, and nausea.
How to make Turmeric a part of your diet :
As stated earlier, Turmeric has been a part of South Asian diets since millennia. Its rhzome is dried and powdered and used as a spice that gives signature yellow colour to subcontinental curries. Turmeric milk (haldi doodh in Ayurveda) is taken therapeutically for a number of ailments as well as muscular pain relief. Many cuisines use fresh Turmeric rhizome as a pickling vegetable too.
Dr.Javeed Kakroo is Microbiologist Certified infection control Auditor Kidney Hospital Srinagar [email protected]