Turmeric (Curcuma longa): An Ancient Healing Spice

A perennial native to South Asia, turmeric has been a staple in worldly cuisines for ages. Its Latin name is Curcuma longa, and it is the plant’s long orange root that produces the familiar yellow spice found in so many Indian dishes.

With its historical roots in Ayurvedic culture, turmeric root is one of the oldest known medicinal herbs.

Between its countless uses and numerous health properties, turmeric is one of those spices and foods that should be a staple in every household.

Its nutritional contents and versatility as food are just two of the reasons why. It is also popular because of its orange-yellow coloring and has been utilized for even beauty purposes.

Not only is the root good for the body nutritionally, but it can have some major benefits to the mind.

Curcuma longa has a unique chemical profile that allows it to be included in a variety of treatments for health issues ranging from cold and flu to circulation problems. [R]

The properties are good for health, sure, but are also what gives it its distinct flavor and undeniable appeal.

It is for those reasons that health gurus can testify that turmeric in all forms can help keep the body healthy and prevent diseases.

Turmeric Benefits

Used for centuries for its healing properties, turmeric root is thought to have many powerful benefits.

1. Full of Nutrients

Curcuma longa possesses numerous nutrients and factors beneficial to health. These are vitamins, minerals, amino acids, natural oils, and phytochemicals. [R]

The phytochemicals alone are what cause the amelioration of bodily functions. These include better functioning cell tissues, organs, and muscles. [R]

The compounds will also help prevent certain diseases due to their health properties that serve to boost the functions and pick up slack where vitamins and minerals may be lacking in the body.

Turmeric contains more than 300 components that are found naturally in the root.

These include, but are not limited to, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, beta-carotene, iron, flavonoids, zinc, niacin, and potassium.

2. Prevents and Treats Cancer

Laboratory studies have shown that curcumin found in Curcuma longa can target cancer cells and kill them. It has anti-cancer effects. [R]

Not only can it kill cancer cells, but the curcumin can actually be used as a preventative measure to stop more from growing. [R]

Lower rates of cancer have been found in countries where more turmeric is ingested on a daily basis.

3. Treats Arthritis and Supports Healthy Joints

Arthritis is a common inflammatory disorder characterized by painful swelling in the joints.

Various studies have shown that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis by keeping the joints from getting swollen and inflamed. [R]

In some cases, curcumin was even more effective than prescription drugs when given to osteoarthritis and RA patients. [R]

4. Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agent

Turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory component called curcumin that helps regular the natural inflammation of the body. [R]

Inflammation is a constant problem in the body, either bringing pain or some form of swelling largely due to the foods that a person consumes.

By helping to prevent inflammation, turmeric can actually be a factor in preventing things like heart disease, obesity, and heart problems. [R] [R]

Turmeric fights inflammation at the molecular level. [R][R][R]

5. Fights off Bacteria

Curcuma longa contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial components that are beneficial in fighting bacteria and viruses. [R][R]

It also allows for a boost in the immune system (your body’s natural defense against diseases).

The same unique blend of vitamins and nutrients in turmeric target specific areas of the body where the average Western diet is lacking.

Through this, a balance is restored and the capacity to fight off bacteria is heightened.

6. Boosts Stress Tolerance

Turmeric has shown progress through its antioxidants to lower oxidative stress in humans. It can also help to cure mental stress with the way in which its many nutrients work together. [R]

Particularly when used as a tea, the turmeric root can have a calming effect on the brain. [R]

7. Aids Digestion

Turmeric can aid digestion and absorption in the body. Its nutrient formula can help open up passages for the nutrients of other foods to properly be absorbed into the body.

Its work as a detoxifier also helps this process. In addition, metabolism is helped by the influx of natural products found within turmeric’s chemical formula. [R]

Turmeric’s antibodies also provide the base for a way to quell nausea. When taken as a hot tea, the root is perfect for settling the stomach and helping the digestive process run smoothly. [R]

8. Remedy Acid Reflux

While it would be difficult to ingest enough turmeric in a single day to be able to properly treat acid reflux, it does help. [R][R]

Curcuma longa can play a key role in the way acid reflux is treated as curcumin is rapidly metabolized by the liver.

Even in small doses, ingesting turmeric for its extracted curcumin in order to help balance the pH level of your body will work.

There also exists a way to get the full recommended amount of this healing spice, and that lies in supplements.

Organic turmeric extract can be taken and used as a simple way to get the full daily medicinal dose.

9. Treats Hay Fever

Turmeric, in its spice form, has often been used as a medicinal ingredient to treat hay fever. The symptoms that this spice treats include a sore throat, congestion, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing and some headaches. [R]

Turmeric tea is often preferred for treating these symptoms due to its warmth and ability to retain a wholesome dosage.

This spice is excellent as a natural alternative to taking pharmaceutical drugs when hit with a cold or similar.

10. Fights Against Depression

The curcumin contained within turmeric has been tried and tested to help relieve the effects of depression. [R]

Those already taking anti-depressant drugs had seen a decrease in their symptoms when they added turmeric to their steady diet. [R]

11. Treats Stomach Ulcers

Research has shown that the chemical found in turmeric, curcumin, has the potential to treat stomach ulcers. It may be consumed in powdered form — taken 3-4 times daily for 6-8 weeks. [R]

However, it’s recommended that you consult with a health care practitioner before including that much turmeric in your diet.

There are certain groups of people that should not consume turmeric in large doses like that (see side effects/caution).

How to Use

When eating turmeric in its raw form, the curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream.

The reason this presents somewhat of a challenge for the body is that the chemical compound is not one it is used to.

  • Taking turmeric with black pepper, high in a compound called piperine, enhances curcumin absorption by up to 2000%. [R]
  • By eating Curcuma longa with healthy fats like coconut or avocado oil, it is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. [R]
  • A study also shows that heating turmeric for up to 10 minutes increases the solubility of curcumin 12 folds, thereby enhancing its absorption by the body. [R]

Here are some ways of incorporating this healthy spice into your diet.

1. Making a Tea

One of the easiest and most effective ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet is through an herbal tea.

By crushing the root, adding other herbs of choice, and steeping the mixture into hot water, a tea can be made. Let it cool before adding a sweetener of choice.

It is effective due to the way that the root is still practically raw when ingested. This means that any and all nutrients will be absorbed to the fullest extent. [R]

In addition, the heat from the tea can help with other conditions as well. It can help aid digestion, not only for settling the stomach but since it will lessen the effects of bloating or gases.

Making a pot of turmeric tea can also be an excellent way to use the root’s anti-inflammatory assets. The heat and facilitated entry into the digestive system will serve to add a bit of a boost to the already-there soothing nature.

During cold and flu season, drinking turmeric tea infusion daily can help fight off infections that might attack the immune system.

Turmeric tea is easy to make, helps soothe the digestive process and any inflammatory problems.

2. As a Spice

Perhaps the most common way to use Curcuma longa is as a spice. It has been used this way for centuries and is often times the main form in which you’ll find turmeric.

Curries, sauces, soups, breads, salads or dips. Turmeric is a spice that can be used in just about anything. Since it does have such a versatile set of nutrients in it, ingesting turmeric in your weekly diet is a must.

It has such a savory taste that it can easily be incorporated into any dish. Not only is using the crushed root as a spice the easiest way to ingest turmeric, but it is one of the most effective.

This ancient healing spice has antibodies and antioxidants that work inside the body to relieve many ailments. [R]

3. As a Paste or Poultice

Turmeric powder combined with castor oil can be a big aid when used topically on the skin any place on the body, which can help with inflammation through the nutrients soaking into the body by way of the skin.

Besides, applying a paste of turmeric and castor oil has the potential to improve one’s complexion.

All of the nutrients soak into the skin and have the capacity to remedy wounds and clear blemishes, including any spots on the body where the sun may have caused damaged or where oil may be built up. [R]

Other methods of preparation:

  • A paste can be mode out of turmeric and manuka honey to remedy cuts and wounds and reduce scarring.
  • Combine aloe vera and turmeric powder to make a soothing paste for sun damaged skin and skin bruises.
  • Reduce inflammation and scaling by applying a turmeric mask or cream on psoriasis-affected skin.
  • Mix together turmeric powder with water and apply to psoriasis-affected skin as a nighttime treatment. Leave on for a couple of minutes before washing off.

It is always important to know which beauty products not to put on our face due to chemicals. The chemical build up in store-bought products can often be harmful to the skin and make it less resistant to the sun’s rays.

By making your own natural turmeric paste, you can avoid this. Doing it at home ensures that everything is natural and organic.

This means that you are able to oversee exactly what is going onto your skin, safe in the knowledge that it is doing far more good than harm.

Placing a poultice or a spread onto the skin can also be great to soothe it. With the nutrients found within turmeric put to work, it can be a great relaxer.

Heat coupled with the minerals and electrolytes can work to soothe a rash or fight off an infection. The antibodies that are present in curcumin are perfect for that.

Infection and inflammation can be easily remedied by using turmeric as the base for your beauty paste.

Side Effects/ Caution

1. Blood Thinning Effects

Since turmeric can be used as a natural blood thinner, it should not be taken if you are on medication that thins the blood. This can cause serious medical issues. [R]

Additionally, when too much is ingested daily alongside other medications/ingredients that have the same properties, problems may arise.

2. pH levels

Especially when combined with certain drugs, pH levels can go out of balance when turmeric is used as a complementary remedy.

As always, check your prescriptions to make sure that they are compatible with the nature of turmeric.

3. Gallbladder Issues

Turmeric may exacerbate gallbladder issues when taken too often or in large amounts.

4. Can Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Curcuma longa can lower blood sugar levels. Those with diabetes are not recommended to add turmeric to their daily diet. [R]

When eaten consistently or in large quantities, turmeric can cause a diabetic’s blood sugar level to drop too low. This can become life-threatening in extreme cases.

5. May Affect Iron Absorption

When taken in large amounts, turmeric may hinder iron absorption.

Where to Buy

Turmeric, like most spices nowadays, can be bought all year. The root may end up being seasonal, depending on your location.

For the most part, turmeric root can be found in local grocery stores or farmer’s market.

Turmeric is also available online in powder form, capsules, and fluid extracts.

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7 thoughts on “Turmeric (Curcuma longa): An Ancient Healing Spice”

  1. Hey Andre,

    Thanks a lot for this comprehensive article! Turmeric is among the most studied medicinal plants and it’s essential to educate people about its versatile health benefits.

    I couldn’t help but notice one wrong conclusion, though:

    The fact that turmeric lowers blood sugar is actually quite beneficial for diabetic patients. The effects are not dramatic and can easily be adjusted by lowering the drug dosage if needed.

    Even the paper you quoted clearly showed that turmeric supplementation can greatly benefit diabetic patients.

    Hope this helps! Thanks again and keep up the great work!

    1. It’s not an error. Turmeric can make a diabetic’s blood sugar drop too low, especially if he/she is already on meds.

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