This precious orange root isn’t just about the gorgeous golden hue - it also packs serious anti-inflammatory properties. Find out why turmeric is one of our star ingredients.
Turmeric is a low-calorie but nutrient-dense spice known for having many health benefits. Its stand-out nutrient is curcumin, which also supplies that deep yellow color. It is an excellent source of iron and manganese, and it’s also a good source of dietary fiber, copper, folate, choline, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin b6.
• Curcumin - a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
• Manganese - plays a role in blood clotting, bone formation, and metabolism of nutrients.
• Iron - essential for blood production and transferring oxygen throughout the body.
• B vitamins - essential for macronutrient metabolism (converting food into energy).
• Dietary fiber - promotes gut health and may lower cholesterol levels.
What it does for you
Turmeric’s health benefits can be attributed to its several bioactive compounds; in particular, curcumin. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric, is the main active ingredient in turmeric and is known for its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In the nutrition field, turmeric is known to work as a natural pain reliever due its ability to reduce inflammation, and it has been much researched for its effects on individuals with osteoarthritis, who suffer from severe joint pain.
Many studies have been conducted to analyze the effects of curcumin supplementation compared to over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on knee pain, swelling, and side effects in osteo-arthritis sufferers. Several of these studies have found curcumin supplementation to be as effective, if not more effective, than anti-inflammatory drugs for reducing knee pain and swelling, as well as improving the ability to walk. In addition, because it’s a safer choice, participants were more willing to take curcumin supplements than painkillers. It is well known that long-term use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can result in ulceration, bleeding and ultimately perforation of the stomach wall. 1, 2, 3, 4
Several other studies involving turmeric have looked at its role in improving brain function, lowering the risk of heart disease, increasing the body’s antioxidant capacity, and its potential role in preventing cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers.
Origins and history
Turmeric comes from the tubers of curcuma longa, a perennial plant belonging to the ginger family and native to tropical south Asia. As many as 133 species of curcuma have been identified worldwide, but the lion’s share of the international supply comes from India. Recent erratic weather and flooding (linked to climate change) has threatened to disrupt the livelihoods of turmeric farmers, and some turmeric powder has been found to contain artificial pigments. So if possible, buy your turmeric from an ethical source - we get ours from small-scale organic farmers in India. If you're a fresh turmeric fan, it’s easy to grow at home on a sunny windowsill, and you can propagate it yourself from a fresh root.
In Southeast Asia, turmeric is used not only as a spice but also in religious rituals. For example, it plays an important role in hindu wedding ceremonies, and one of its historic uses was to dye the characteristic yellow robes worn by Theravadan buddhist monks.
Turmeric has a long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4,000 years. Modern medicine has more recently begun to recognize its importance: more than 3,000 studies on turmeric have been published within the last 25 years.
How to use it
Fresh turmeric, or turmeric root, can often be found in the produce aisle of larger grocery stores. it looks similar to fresh ginger, but slightly more delicate and with orange flesh. however, turmeric is more readily available in a powder form along with other spices. In fact, ground turmeric is the main ingredient in curry powder and is responsible for the saffron-yellow color of curry dishes.
Pro tip: because curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood, turmeric lovers know to consume turmeric with a pinch of black pepper, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances absorption of curcumin by more than 1,000%.
Turmeric is super versatile: add it curries, salad dressings, tea, and - our favorite - with steamed milk for a delicious turmeric latte. You can also find turmeric in several packaged items because it is commonly used as food coloring; but the fresher you can get it, the better.
You can find turmeric in kencko ambers. we love to use this smoothie to make a refreshing yogurt lassi, in a nod to its Indian roots. put 2-3 heaping tablespoons of unsweetened strained yogurt (greek style, dairy or non-dairy) into your shaker bottle, and top up with chilled water to the line. shake to mix. add a sachet of ambers and a pinch of black pepper (optional!) then shake again for a thick and creamy, cooling treat.