Turmeric: properties and benefits
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous and perennial, herbaceous plant, which belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is native to south-eastern Asia. Its millennial tradition comes from us directly from the people of Thailand, India and the Middle East, who have been using it for centuries as a spice in the kitchen, and to dye fabrics. Currently, most of the production comes from India. Its name originates from Sanskrit (kunkuma) and from Arabic (kurkum).
The plant has large leaves and large yellow shell-shaped flowers. There are several varieties of turmeric, but when speaking of it as a spice, we mean Curcuma longa. Ground turmeric comes from its yellow rhizome, and is a precious spice, from a culinary point of view. Because of its characteristic color, it is often compared to our saffron, known as “Saffron of the Indies’ and used in many recipes.
Its main components are curcuminoids, mixtures of derivatives of cinnamoylmethane, such as curcumin, as well as other components; but it is the curcumin extracted from the rhizome, which is the beneficial ingredient that gives this plant its healing properties. In fact, according to Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin, present in turmeric, is endowed with many medicinal properties. Let's see which ones together.
Curcumin has antioxidant properties and helps to contrast the development and formation of free radicals, which are responsible for cellular aging and is useful to prevent inflammation, arthritis and all the formation of wrinkles and skin spots. A real elixir of beauty and youth.
Turmeric helps to keep areas with sebaceous glands clean, reducing acne and secretions, even in the case of seborrheic dermatitis. It is often added to the herbal dyeing for the well-being of skin and hair, with a very bland dyeing effect, but only if combined with other herbs such as Lawsonia inermis and indigofera.
Anti-gastric and painkiller
The use of curcumin is excellent for treating abdominal colic, irritable colon with related discomfort, such as swelling, flatulence, diarrhea and constipation. In the same way it can help with menstrual cramps and bleeding, thanks to its effects on hormonal regulation and anxiety.
Recent studies have shown the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric. Of great help against chronic inflammations, such as tumors, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis and in all cases of arthritis. Its action is comparable to that of anti-inflammatories of allopathic medicine. In case of Alzheimer's, dementia and depression, turmeric could help remove brain plaques and assist cell reconstruction. It can also be used at a sports level, associated with oils, thanks to the power of a beneficial massage.
Anti-hypertension and cholesterol
Turmeric helps to strengthen the heart tissue and the walls of blood vessels, prevents oxidation from cholesterol, protecting our carotids from heart attacks and strokes, in addition to the previously mentioned anti-inflammatory effect.
Curcumin could help to prevent the development of some cancers, such as those affecting the gastro-intestina systeml, breast, lung and skin, some leukemia, but especially the prostate. Inserted in the diet, and associated with some vegetables such as cabbage, increases its beneficial power.
By applying the rhizome of turmeric directly to wounds, burns, dermatitis and insect bites, the healing properties will help. So it is used not only as nutrition, but also as a soothing pack.
Use and conservation
Turmeric powder (not to be confused with curry) is used in food as a dye, as well as in the textile industry. It should be used raw, adding it only after cooking, to avoid dispersing its precious nutrients. In addition to nutrition, turmeric is also used in many wellness recipes for face and body, with masks, face, body and hair treatments, as well as massages, wraps and relaxing baths.
To make the most of all its potential, it is necessary to take it daily in our diet, in the form of a sauce, added to dishes and preparations, or at the end of cooking. Its absorption is guaranteed if combined with good fats such as olive oil and yogurt, or with green and black tea and black pepper.
There is hardly a contraindication of overdosing by inserting it into one's diet, because it is an extract with low absorption. One spoonful a day will be enough to have positive effects, moreover it is low in calories, therefore, it is ideal in case of particular dietary regimens and weightloss diets.
To better preserve it, turmeric should be stored in glass, preferably in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place and not exposed to direct light. Also for oil the recommendations are the same.
The only precaution is always to not exaggerate with its use and consult your doctor if you should take antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs, of which the turmeric can increase the effect. It rarely causes allergic reactions and changes such as nausea and diarrhea if taken in excessive doses. In case of pregnancy and lactation, it is advisable to speak with your gynecologist.