The Ultimate Guide to the Power Root
Of all the ancient foods enjoying massive revivals in popularity, turmeric may be the biggest star of them all.
What is turmeric?
Turns out that turmeric is a cousin of ginger and if you’ve seen either root in its raw form, you can see the resemblance.
Turmeric, scientific name Curcuma longa, is a rhizome, which means horizontal root. It’s native to southeast Asia where it gets both the plentiful rainfall and the warm temperatures between 68°F and 86°F (20 and 30 °C) it needs to thrive.
Turmeric’s known usage goes back thousands of years as both a medicine in Siddha, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Before it was used in medicine, it looks like turmeric first became useful to humans as a dye. Medicinal and culinary uses then followed.
Today turmeric is being touted as one of the greatest anti-inflammatory agents around, in addition to its multitude of other health benefits. As consumers become more aware of toxic food additives and chemicals used in the textile industry, turmeric is also seeing a revival in its original use as a dye.
If you suffer from chronic inflammation, knowing more about turmeric is an absolute must.
Other medical conditions that turmeric shows potential in helping include diabetes, cancer, depression, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, also known as IBS) and heart disease. If you’re coping with a decline in cognitive function, turmeric may provide you some benefits as well.
What about turmeric makes it so special that it can combat such a variety of disease states on top of being delicious?
Science keeps coming back to one thing: curcumin. Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric, accounting for an average of 3.14% of dried turmeric. Molecularly speaking, 3.14% is a lot.
Scientifically speaking, curcumin can do a lot for our health.
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Everything You Need to Know About Turmeric Curcumin - An Infographic by the team at AlgaeCal
What is Curcumin?
While turmeric has several curcuminoids, curcumin is the most well-known and plentiful.
Curcuminoids are naturally occurring compounds found in certain plants that give them their distinctive yellow-orange color.
Curcumin has been found to reduce circulating C-reactive proteins, the physiological byproduct of stress that has been found to be horrible for heart health. The benefits of curcumin don’t stop there….
Curcumin is listed as a nutraceutical, (a standardized, pharmaceutical-grade nutrient) because of its antibacterial, anticancer, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antithrombotic and antiviral properties.
Top 7 Turmeric Curcumin Benefits
With all those reported health benefits it’s no wonder that turmeric is enjoying its perch as the latest “miracle” food from ancient times.
But the thing is, turmeric is here to stay because science continually discovers more and more benefits of turmeric, namely from curcumin.
65 clinical trials on curcumin have shown its promising positive effects on diabetes, cancer, mental health, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and neurological diseases.
What’s more, there have been over 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles published in the last two decades discussing the effectiveness and benefits of turmeric curcumin.
Here are the top 7 conditions that turmeric curcumin helps with…
#1 Decreases Pain and Chronic Inflammation: Curcumin has been shown to have tremendous anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, one study published in The Journal of Oncogene showed that curcumin is more potent than Aspirin (Bayer etc.) and Ibuprofen (Advil etc.) when it came to suppressing inflammation and blocking the process of tumor cell proliferation.
Takeaway: Curcumin shows massive potential as a natural pain and inflammation reliever without the side effects of prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs.
#2 Potential Alternative for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Curcumin may provide an effective, less expensive and more tolerated option for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, sometimes referred to as IBS). In one 3 month study, participants were given curcumin and the results showed curcumin had inhibitory effects on major inflammatory mechanisms. This suggests that it is a bright prospect as a treatment for IBD.
Takeaway: While additional research is still needed, curcumin may be a prospective treatment for IBD.
#3 Reduces Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis: In addition to curcumin’s incredible anti-inflammatory properties, it also boasts anti-arthritic properties. Anti-arthritic refers to the distinct signs and symptoms of arthritis, which typically both stem from- and feed- inflammation, creating a toxic, constant feedback loop. In a preliminary double-blind, randomized trial curcumin was shown to reduce tenderness and swelling of joints with no related adverse effects.
Takeaway: It’s possible that we’ll soon see curcumin being used as an effective treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis once additional research is conducted.
#4 Boosts Brain Function: For many years, it was generally considered that the brain was insensitive to insulin, but now we know that’s not the case. In fact, this hormone plays important roles in learning and memory. Insulin resistance is a key pathological feature of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have investigated the effect of curcumin on brain insulin receptors (IRs), memory function and oxidative stress…and it looks promising.
Takeaway: Curcumin has been shown to have beneficial effects with neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia of Alzheimer type. While research is still limited, results suggest that curcumin may have a protective effect on dementia due to its ability to affect insulin receptors.
#5 Improves Heart Health: Curcumin’s known anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic ( decreases blood clots), and anti-proliferative (inhibits cell growth) properties are well known. Curcumin is being looked at as a potential supplement in both the treatment and prevention of a host of cardiovascular disease states. Studies are showing strong correlations and promising effects. In fact, one study showed that curcumin has the potential to reduce risk of heart attacks.
Takeaway: If heart disease runs in your family and/or you currently have signs and symptoms associated with heart disease, look into the potential benefits of curcumin while exploring recipes with turmeric.
#6 May Protect Against Cancer: One powerful study showed the multitude of ways that curcumin may be beneficial in treating and preventing cancer. Namely, by changing the actual pathways through which cells proliferate, regenerate and communicate. That’s on top of curcumin’s ability to cause changes to the way cells’ organelles function and selectively kill tumor cells while leaving healthy cells alone.
Takeaway: With a little more research we may soon be seeing curcumin as both a potential prevention and treatment modality for cancer.
#7 Reduces Symptoms of Depression: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long used turmeric (curcumin) in its herb blends to treat depression. Now animal studies are showing curcumin’s ability to decrease depressive behaviors while increasing neurotransmitters associated with happiness – serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Another study is the first to show potential that curcumin may be a safe alternative to antidepressant medication without side effects such as suicidal ideation.
Takeaway: Curcumin shows potential as an approach to depression. So keep an eye out to see what further scientific research shows.
The one thing that keeps being reiterated in these studies (and many more) is the potency of turmeric curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties. And we all know the importance of suppressing inflammation in our body for our bone health, right?
Turmeric Curcumin, Inflammation and Bone Health
The link between curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties and bone health may not seem obvious at first, but if you dig a little deeper it becomes apparent.
Bones are continually being broken down and built back up. This is a normal process.
Over our lifetime the rate of breaking bone down outpaces building it back up, which accounts for a loss in bone mass as we age.
While some level of this is a normal part of life, an extreme progression of bone loss that leads to osteopenia or even osteoporosis, is not normal.
Anything that promotes inflammation promotes osteoclasts, the cells that break bone down, and thus inflammation progresses bone loss.
You can stop inflammation in its tracks by decreasing pro-inflammatory lifestyle choices, like refined sugars, processed foods etc. and replace them with anti-inflammatory choices like turmeric curcumin, fish oil and additional antioxidants.
That’s exactly why AlgaeCal offers Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil, which counts organic turmeric curcumin as one of its main ingredients.
Turmeric Curcumin Dosage
While there is a lot of science proving the benefits of turmeric curcumin, there has yet to be a standardized recommended dosage for overall consumption, let alone disease-specific recommendations.
As with any supplement, the recommended dosage and the time before you’ll see tangible benefits depend upon how severe the deficiency and/or disease state was to begin with.
Many nutrients come with an upper-intake level that’s not recommended to exceed. At this time, curcumin doesn’t have one as it has shown not to have prolonged, or severe side effects at high dosages.
For a general recommendation, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests the following:
- Fresh root: 1 to 3 grams daily, which comes out to roughly 1 to 2 inches
- Turmeric powder: 1 to 3 grams daily as well, which is roughly 1/3 to 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- Standardized curcumin powder (supplement form): 400 to 600 mg up to 3 times a day
Turmeric Curcumin Side Effects
Turmeric and its powerhouse nutrient curcumin are safe for consumption.
As with anything, if taken in mega-dosages, you’re going to experience some side effects, especially if you don’t slowly build up the amount you take.
The distinctive flavor of turmeric has a way of acting as a deterrent in adding excessive amounts to food dishes. General side effects include upset stomach, nausea, gas and diarrhea.
For individuals with diabetes, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), depressive disorders, fertility concerns, bleeding disorders or who are pregnant, speak with your doctor before adding large amounts of turmeric to your food or supplementing with curcumin.
To reap the benefits of turmeric, use it in recipes such as curry, soups and lentil dishes. You’ll find that turmeric is a versatile spice that boosts the flavor of many dishes. On that note, try out the latest health craze: a golden milk latte (recipe shown below).
Turmeric Recipes You’ll LOVE
If you want to incorporate turmeric in your diet – use it in delicious recipes.
Make sure to choose turmeric that is USDA organic to get maximum benefits. Like all dried herbs and spices, it’s best to keep your ground turmeric in the refrigerator to keep the beneficial oils, compounds and flavors from going bad.
If you’re using fresh turmeric root, you can keep it on your counter in a shaded place like you would ginger, garlic etc.
Turmeric has a very distinct flavor that will keep you from adding too much. If you’ve ever had a turmeric-heavy dish, you know that flavor well. However, don’t let this deter you from adding it in reasonable quantities to your food.
A great place to start is looking up recipes that call for turmeric and try them out. A few surprise recipes that turmeric makes even better are chili, tacos and guacamole.
Try the following fun recipes and let us know which you like best!
We also have drink recipes too…
5-Minute Turmeric Tea Recipe (How to Make the Ultimate Golden Milk)
Sometimes it’s nice to drink your nutrients. That may be a reason turmeric tea and turmeric lattes (also known as golden milk) are gaining popularity.
Check out our delicious versions below!
Warming Golden Milk Tea
- 1 cup coconut milk (or almond milk or milk)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp. raw honey (optional)
- 2-3 black peppercorns (increases absorption)
- 1/4 tsp. ginger powder or small piece of freshly peeled ginger
* choose organic ingredients whenever possible
- Pour ingredients into a saucepan on medium heat until hot (3-5 minutes)
- Strain out peppercorns and fresh ginger
Cooling Golden Milk Tea
Using the same ingredients….
- Whisk coconut milk, water, turmeric, cinnamon, honey and ginger in a small bowl.
- Add peppercorns and let sit for 5-10 minutes while the flavors marry.
- Strain out peppercorns and ginger
- Add ice to a glass
- Pour over ice and drink!
Power Pairings for Turmeric Curcumin
To get the most out of turmeric curcumin, pair it with black pepper. Black pepper increases curcumin’s absorption and thus efficacy. The two spices make a delicious pairing, meaning it’s easy to find a recipe calling for both. Many curcumin supplements will contain black pepper as well to boost its powerful benefits.
You can also combine turmeric with ginger, cayenne, hemp and coconut as these all increase curcumin absorption, too.
Because of their anti-inflammatory effects, fish oil and turmeric curcumin may seem like an obvious pairing.
Scientific studies are showing that they may be an even better pair than you think. The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil binds with curcumin and helps it pass the blood-brain barrier in the brain, thus improving its ability to have positive effects on brain-related disorders.
This is yet another example of nutrients working together and another reason turmeric curcumin is incorporated into Triple Omega 3 Fish Oil.
- Why do people take turmeric? Individuals dealing with inflammation-related disorders or any of the aforementioned disease states may benefit from incorporating turmeric into their diet and exploring the option of a curcumin supplement.
- How much turmeric should you take? To get the benefits of turmeric curcumin, without the gastrointestinal side effects of big dosages, aim for 1 to 2 inches of fresh turmeric root or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric a day. If you’re going to supplement with curcumin, let your healthcare provider know and look for a supplement with 400 to 600 mg curcumin.
- Can you get turmeric naturally from foods? Yes, turmeric root is available at most health or grocery stores. It is commonly used as a spice in curries, or other dishes, including drinks.
- Should you take turmeric with food or on an empty stomach? Since the absorption and utilization of curcumin increases when paired with things like black pepper and fish oil, it’s best to take it with a meal.
- What are turmeric side effects? Large amounts of turmeric, like large amounts of any food ingredient, can cause upset stomach, nausea, gas and diarrhea.
- What is turmeric tea? It is a tea made with turmeric root or turmeric powder, along with other warming spices like ginger and cinnamon. For a wonderful turmeric ‘golden milk’ recipe, see ” 5-Minute Turmeric Tea Recipe (How to Make the Ultimate Golden Milk)” section above.
- What does turmeric look like? Turmeric is a beautiful golden orange spice when dried and ground. When in root form, it looks like branched tubes with a brown covering and bright orange inside.
- What is the best turmeric to take? Look for turmeric that is USDA organic to get the most health benefits. For supplements in particular, make sure it is standardized to 95% curcuminoids. This ensures that you are getting concentrated and powerful antioxidant protection – plus a healthy inflammatory response.
Do you have any further questions about turmeric curcumin? Let us know in the comments below!