If you love the taste and aroma of Indian cooking, you’ll be happy to know that turmeric, a spice used in curry, offers an abundance of health benefits. Used for centuries in India as a home remedy and in Ayurvedic medicine, this golden herb may relieve pain, boost energy and treat skin disorders. More recently, research has shown that a compound in turmeric called curcumin may have antioxidant properties that lower your risk of heart disease and fight cancer. You can buy powdered turmeric in capsule form, as a tea or extract, or as a topical product. Turmeric is safe for most people and has few side effects, but taking more than the recommended dose may cause diarrhea, indigestion or nausea. Here are seven health benefits of turmeric.
1. Relieves Pain
Curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its golden hue, is an anti-inflammatory compound that may help relieve pain in your muscles and joints. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine use this herb to relieve the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Researchers have found similarities between the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and the effects of over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams and oral pain medications.
2. Soothes Irritated Skin
For generations, mothers in India have applied turmeric paste to scraped knees and elbows to speed wound healing and prevent infection. When used in a topical paste, ointment or lotion, turmeric may also relieve the irritation and inflammation of skin disorders like eczema. Be careful when applying topical turmeric products, because the herb’s golden pigment is a popular dye for foods and fabrics and may stain your skin.
3. Aids Digestion
If you suffer from heartburn, a cup of turmeric tea may soothe that fiery feeling. Turmeric is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for relieving gas, bloating and other symptoms of indigestion. To keep your digestive system running smoothly, take turmeric regularly as a supplement or use the powdered herb to spice up sauces, veggies and meats. Mixing turmeric into rice gives it a saffron color and a mildly curried flavor.
4. Detoxifies the Body
Turmeric helps the liver perform its cleansing functions. Studies have shown that turmeric can raise levels of detoxifying enzymes in the liver, supporting this vital organ in its work of clearing the toxins that may contribute to cancer and heart disease.
5. Boosts Energy
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used to raise energy levels in people suffering from lethargy or depression. This stimulating spice may boost your energy by supporting your natural immunity and clearing toxins from your system. The scent and taste of turmeric, when used in foods and teas, can uplift your senses and invigorate your body.
6. Lowers Cholesterol
Turmeric may help your heart by reducing the low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, in your bloodstream. By triggering your liver to produce more of a protein that clears LDL cholesterol from your body, the curcumin in turmeric prevents the buildup of fatty arterial plaques that eventually restrict blood flow to your heart.
7. Prevents Cancer
The antioxidant compound in turmeric may protect you against cancer. Curcumin may help prevent the cellular damage caused by free radicals, which can encourage cancer cells to spread and form malignant tumors. Regular use of turmeric supplements has been linked to lower rates of breast, lung and colon cancer.