In the past few years, Turmeric and Curcumin have become buzzwords in the health industry. However, terms such as turmeric, curcumin, and curcuminoid are often confused, so let’s clarify what’s what.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a root and a member of the ginger family, widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. It gives curry powder its golden color and is used as both a cooking ingredient and a medicinal product.
What is curcumin?
Curcumin is the main active component in turmeric, and part of a group of compounds called curcuminoids. By weight, pure turmeric powder contains only 3% curcumin and store-bought turmeric and curry spices have been shown to contain even less. Turmeric extracts normally contain about 75%.
Curcumin is poorly absorbed and has lower solubility in water. Adding black pepper to dishes (or piperine, the derivative of pepper) boosts its absorption by 1000-2000%+.
What are the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin?
Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, with antioxidant properties. It has few side effects and appears to be helpful for a number of conditions. Curcumin is believed to be largely responsible for turmeric’s health benefits.
Jump ahead to
1. Alleviates joint issues
Research suggests that curcumin may promote joint health and alleviate joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. It’s thought to ease joint issues (and other issues) by modulating several pro-inflammatory pathways.
2. Eases symptoms of depression
Some studies suggest that curcumin is helpful for alleviating symptoms of depression, especially in middle-aged adults – but it may not work immediately. Supplementing for a longer duration appears to yield better results.
3. Assists with skin issues
Curcumin appears to have a variety of benefits for skin. Although research on curcumin and skin if still in its infancy, a systematic review conducted in 2016 showed that topical and oral curcumin produces a statistically significant improvement in skin conditions including acne, alopecia, atopic dermatitis, facial photoaging, pruritus, psoriasis, radiodermatitis, and vitiligo. Curcumin may also be useful for wound healing.
4. Helps your heart
Turmeric and its active components may help buffer oxidative stress and lower inflammation associated with heart disease. Studies to-date indicate that turmeric and curcumin help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides in people at risk for heart disease. In addition, some evidence suggests that turmeric and curcumin may be useful for improving blood vessel function, a critical component of heart health.
The bottom line
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine for a variety of problems, from bug bites to the common cold. Recent scientific research suggests that turmeric is particularly helpful for heart health, joints, mood, and skin, although the full potential of the golden spice is still being explored. Are you interested in incorporating turmeric into your diet?
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