You’ve definitely heard its name. You might have seen it on the board at your local smoothie shop, in powdered form on your spice rack, or even at the store in its original rhizomatic root form. But you might not be so sure what turmeric actually does—or why it’s so good for you.
That golden-orange spice that lends pizazz to curries and mustards comes from turmeric (Curcuma longa), an herb with numerous health benefits. The secret ingredient? Turmeric contains curcumin, a biologically active compound known for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
So why should you use turmeric? Traditional Indian and Chinese Medicine practitioners use various forms of turmeric when treating conditions such as heartburn, digestive ailments, arthritis, and chronic pain. Numerous modern studies indicate that curcumin is also active against chronic diseases in which inflammation plays a significant role, including diabetes, obesity-related health complications, irritable bowel syndrome, some types of cancer, and cardiovascular, autoimmune, and digestive diseases.
What does curcumin do?
Research shows that curcumin blocks inflammatory enzymes at the cellular level in a natural, gentle, and effective manner. When inflammation in the digestive tract is reduced, the gallbladder can better carry out its important function in the digestive process. For instance, obesity is associated with digestive diseases and various cancers including gallbladder cancer. Studies indicate that curcumin has therapeutic value in the treatment and prevention of obesity-related cancers. Studies have also shown promising, but not conclusive, results for curcumin’s effects on gallstones.
How do I incorporate turmeric into my diet?
While dietary intake of turmeric is not likely to reach therapeutic levels in terms of disease treatment, including turmeric liberally in your diet may provide digestive health benefits. For example, sprinkle turmeric over soup, yogurt, roasted veggies, or eggs. To help your body maximize absorption of turmeric’s key compounds, add it to healthy fats such as olive oil, an omelette, lean meat, or fish while they are warming.
If you are interested in exploring turmeric for a medical concern, speak to your health provider about the appropriate nutritional supplement for your needs. Turmeric extract is prepared in capsule, powder, or tea form and taken at different doses for different medical needs. Your practitioner will be able to recommend a supplement that has the best bioavailability to be properly absorbed through the digestive tract.