The Spartan Guide to Turmeric
Turmeric grows in the tropics of Southern Asia—mainly in India, where it’s the star ingredient in curry. A relative of ginger, it has a sharp, fragrant taste. Turmeric’s root is dried into the familiar yellow-orange powder used in cooking and medicine, and while it delivers several antioxidant compounds, one in particular, curcumin, is thought to be particularly useful for the prevention of chronic diseases.
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Though most of the research on turmeric has been conducted on animals and in test tubes, scientists feel confident that the yellow powder is the real deal. Curcumin has strong antioxidant properties, taking out damaging free radicals and halting or even reversing some of the damage they cause. Curcumin also lowers levels of two inflammation-causing enzymes and stops platelets from clumping into blood clots. Early evidence links turmeric to treating indigestion, ulcerative colitis, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stomach ulcers, neurodegenerative conditions (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), and even cancer.
“I use it as an herbal anti-inflammatory,” says Darcy McConnell, M.D., a functional medicine physician at the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. “It has efficacy in patients with inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, inflamed skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.”
How to Use It
There’s no easier way to use turmeric than to begin cooking with it. It’s perfect in curry, but it also works with eggs, vegetables, or even smoothies. For a bigger impact, pair it with crushed black pepper. “Turmeric works best when formulated in conjunction with pepper—this makes it absorb better into the system,” Dr. McConnell says.
For supplements, research has most often focused on dosages between 1 and 3 grams per day. Turmeric pills often also contain bromelain, another powerful inflammation-fighter that also helps with absorption.