Turmeric: The Super Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Herb
If you’ve ever eaten Indian food, you’ve probably noticed the golden hue of many dals, rice pilafs and vegetable dishes. While the rich, warm color can be comforting on its own, it’s not just there for looks. Nor is it used simply for its distinctive bitter, earthy taste. The golden herb, turmeric, contains a treasure trove of healthy nutrients.
Used in the for more than 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions, recent studies have shown it to be promising in fighting free radicals, inflammation and even cancer. It is widely used in both Chinese herbal and in Ayurvedic medicine.
Turmeric is a perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It grows in southern Asia, most specifically in India where it thrives in warm, humid temperatures and abundant rainfall. The rhizomes and roots are dried and ground to make the powder we use in medicines, cooking and dyeing fabric. (Do be careful in handling turmeric; as a powerful dye, it can color your clothing and counter tops in short order!)
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It also lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation, making it effective in treating inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, one study found that arthritis patients using a combination of winter cherry, boswellia and zinc experienced a decrease in pain.
Other preliminary studies suggest that turmeric’s antioxidant properties may help prevent or help treat certain cancers such as breast and prostate cancers.