Turmeric is a spice with several healthy properties. It is the spice that gives curry its yellow colour and its medicinal benefits come from compounds called curcuminoids. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin.
Curcumin and Turmeric are often spoken of interchangeably as they are in effect the same plant, but the difference is that the curcumin extract is the healing part. Turmeric only contains about 3% curcumin with fresh curcumin containing more than the powdered varieties.
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammation which is beneficial for the brain and body.
Heating can destroy some of the benefits of turmeric because the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the curcumin are destroyed when heat is applied to it. About 25-30% of the curcumin is lost within 10 minutes of cooking and after 20-30 minutes of cooking around 85% of the benefit is lost. To avoid losing the benefit of your curcumin, rather add it towards the end of the cooking process.
The average person needs 500mg to 1000mg of curcumin daily to benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties.
It is very hard to physically consume that amount of curcumin from turmeric in the spice form. For maximum medicinal benefit, curcumin should be taken in supplement form because it is just not possible to eat the required daily amounts in our food. There’s no reason, though, to not still use it as a spice in our cooking.
Curcumin is not well absorbed on its own so can have reduced health benefits if its not adequately absorbed.
It is commonly paired with piperine which is a compound in black pepper to aid absorption and effectivity. Piperine increases the absorbability by 2000% and many supplements will contain piperine as well as curcumin.
Curcumin is a fat-soluble compound, so it is broken down and dissolved more effectively with fats or oils so consuming curcumin supplements with fatty meals is optimal.
Cancers, obesity, cognitive disorders, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes are all a result of chronic inflammation in the body, so it is a good idea to assist our bodies to manage inflammation as much as possible to avoid the onset of disease.
Curcumin is beneficial for managing the pain associated with arthritis so can be used in the place of anti-inflammatory medication or if medication is necessary, can reduce the medication requirements.
As with all spices and herbal remedies, people can experience side effects or sensitivities, the most common being digestive distress such as constipation, diarrhea, digestive pain, nausea, and vomiting. Due to its chelating properties, curcumin can also lead to lower levels of iron if taken in high doses for too long. It is a beneficial supplement for those who do have high levels of iron, or a condition called hemochromatosis.
Turmeric can be used freshly ground or already ground in foods and drinks. If you add it to coconut milk or another milk of your choice with a pinch of black pepper, some cinnamon, and a little honey, it makes a delicious, healthy bedtime drink.
Listen to my interview with Liomee from Radio Cape Pulpit on 1 July 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am