This is a guest post from my intern/assistant Coco: who is jazzed up about the benefits of Turmeric after studying it a lot in nutrition school. Be sure to follow her facebook page for more awesome info! It was great to be reminded of all the benefits of this powerful herb!
You’re in pain. Maybe your back hurts, or you have menstrual cramps, or are experiencing post-surgical pain. Which do you reach for?
PILL A: Will relieve your pain, but also increase your likelihood of heart attack, stroke and blood clots. It will put you at risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, perforation and ulceration of the stomach and intestines. It’s been linked to erectile dysfunction. Don’t choose this if you’ve ever had a heart attack! Kills 16,500 Americans and put another 100,000 in the hospital each year.
PILL B: Will relieve your pain, but if taken as directed for four days, you may be at risk for liver damage. Do not take if you regularly have more than three alcoholic drinks per day. Puts 42,000 people in the hospital each year.
PILL C: Will relieve your pain as effectively as Pill A. May protect your brain from Alzheimer’s, lower your cancer risk, and reduce inflammation. Good for your liver and safe to take with alcohol. Puts exactly zero Americans in the hospital each year.
Pill A is all NSAIDS (ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, aspirin, naproxen).
Pill B is acetaminophen-containing (Tylenol, Vicodin, Percocet).
Wondering what’s with Pill C?
Is it illegal? Expensive? Made by distilling the blood of unicorns? Nope. It’s an antioxidant called curcumin. Even if you’ve never heard of it, chances are you already have some in your kitchen.
Curcumin comes from the turmeric root, which is an Indian spice often used in curry dishes. Curcumin is the pigment that makes the spice bright yellow.
Benefits of Turmeric
Check out what the medical literature has to say about curcumin:
- Can relieve pain associated with Type II Diabetes, osteoarthritis, cramps, and surgery.
- A study showed 2 grams of curcumin to be as effective at relieving pain as 800 mg of ibuprofen (“Pill A” above).
- Kills cancer cells in laboratory dishes and slows the growth of surviving cells.
- Halts development of some forms of cancer in lab animals and has been found to shrink animal brain tumors by more than 80 percent.
- May reduce inflammation and delay or prevents obesity-induced insulin resistance.
- India, where people consume large amounts of turmeric, has 1/4 the rate of Alzheimer’s among people aged 70-80 as the United States. While not definitively proven, curcumin may help block the plaques and proteins that cause problems in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease.
The research surrounding curcumin is so promising, in fact, that many doctors now recommend it to their patients for pain relief.
Even though upwards of 10 grams of curcumin taken daily for upwards of three months has been documented as safe, unless you’re acting on the advice of your health care professional, it’s generally best to opt for whole foods (in this case, turmeric) rather than isolates (curcumin) for long-term and maintenance use. If you do opt for a curcumin supplement, run it past your doctor first, as curcumin hasn’t been cleared for use by pregnant women nor those with gallbladder issues, and it can interfere with blood clotting and some chemo drugs.
Turmeric is made up of about 3-5% curcumin. There are ways of incorporating this antioxidant into your diet that are easy (like taking turmeric pills), and tasty (like cooking with it):
- Our bodies aren’t effective at absorbing turmeric unless it is taken with black pepper. If taking a turmeric or curcumin supplement, be sure to choose one that contains black pepper or piperine. If you’re cooking with turmeric, add some black pepper to the dish.
- Turmeric can be added to many savory and spicy foods. Add a hearty sprinkle to tomato sauce, stews, soups, hamburger, sautéed vegetables, deviled eggs, and popcorn.
- Make turmeric hot tea: Starting with a base of hot green tea, add 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, 1 tsp. ground turmeric, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp black pepper and stevia or honey to taste. Stir and top with cream or coconut milk.
An overview published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2007 recorded that: in addition to providing pain relief, “Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.”
When was the last time you read that on the label of a drugstore pain killer?
Thanks for reading!
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Always be sure to add some Turmeric to food but also,
Get a great form of Turmeric/Curcumin here: