Turmeric, a bright yellow spice known for its strong flavour and distinct colour, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it a staple in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The compound curcumin makes up about 2% to 8% of turmeric and is responsible for its many potential health benefits. In fact, even its distinct, vibrant colour comes from curcumin.
One of the most impressive health benefits of turmeric is its high antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Hence, before inflammation can even begin, antioxidants neutralise free radicals or lower the severity of their effects. The result is a body with a stronger defense against diseases and premature aging.
Turmeric has been used to reduce the symptoms of joint pain and arthritis, both of which are caused by inflammation. Curcumin inhibits the activity of enzymes that play a role in inflammation. It also inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that promote inflammation in the body. These properties make turmeric an effective natural alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In fact, a 2021 study revealed that curcumin can help relieve osteoarthritis pain without the side effects of traditional painkillers.
This is also the very reason why caution is advised when turmeric is to be paired with taking ibuprofen or any other medications with a similar effect. They may interact with turmeric and cause adverse effects. For your best interest, always consult your doctor before incorporating it as a regular spice in your diet.
Promotes Relaxation and Mood Boost
Turmeric, as tea, is known to have a calming effect on the body. It contains an essential oil, called turmerone, that can help relieve stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation. Most people who drink turmeric tea report feeling rejuvenated and happier - effects that are attributed to curcumin's ability to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, the hormones responsible for regulating mood. This makes turmeric tea a good alternative as a bedtime drink instead of caffeine-laden tea or coffee, which can disrupt sleep.
Other Considerations When Using Turmeric
While turmeric has many health benefits, there are certain considerations to keep in mind. For instance, its bioavailability or the body's ability to absorb and use curcumin is low. That means taking turmeric in its natural form may not provide enough curcumin to have a significant impact.
To increase bioavailability, it is recommended to consume turmeric with black pepper or pair it with healthy fats like coconut oil, as these can enhance absorption due to their bioactive compounds.