Turmeric has long been used in Indian meals as a flavouring agent. However, turmeric uses are not limited to providing taste and colour. It is widely used as a medicinal herb to prevent and cure several diseases. Moreover, turmeric benefits our health in many ways due the presence of a bioactive compound called curcumin.
Indians are no strangers to one of the most common ingredients in the pantry - turmeric. From being grandma’s secret for glowing skin to having it stirred in milk on a cold winter night, turmeric uses are immense in an Indian household. What was once used as a traditional remedy is now backed by scientific evidence, and the golden spice has proven why our ancestors held on to this medicinal herb so dearly. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of turmeric and various turmeric nutrients.
Types of Turmeric
Turmeric is grown in India in more than 30 different types, each one unique to a particular region, ranging from the delicious Lakadong turmeric found in Meghalaya to the IISR Alleppey Supreme kind grown in the same-named Kerala city. These many varieties of turmeric are either grown in rainfed conditions or in controlled irrigated situations, depending on the region and the time of year.
Some of the most common varieties of turmeric available in India include:
- South Indian varieties: Kasturi, Balaga, Mundaga, Yalachaga.
- Maharashtrian varieties: Rajpuri and Lokahandi.
- Andhra Pradesh varieties: Tekurpeta, Nizamabad, Duggriala, Katuri, Pasupa, Chayapasupa Amoar.
- North Eastern Varieties: Lakadong, Dehradun local, GL Puram, Daghi.
- And more
Other than the varieties, due to turmeric’s versatile nature, it is also available in different forms. Although it can be found as a paste and is sometimes used whole, it is most frequently used in food as a powder.
Simple variations in scent, colour, and quality across numerous turmeric types are insufficient. The most important chemical component of turmeric, curcumin, is the star of the show.
This enigmatic chemical component of turmeric is thought to be responsible for its exceptional medicinal properties. Curcumin is also the spice's main source of yellow colour and the reason behind many turmeric benefits.
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Health Benefits of Turmeric:
Antioxidant properties:Curcumin is the main polyphenol found in turmeric. It is the pigment that imparts a distinct yellow colour to turmeric. It has the potential to scavenge or destroy free radicals like reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, which could rupture our cells.
Anti-inflammatory functions:Turmeric’s molecules are also anti-inflammatory in nature. As they break the chain of free radical formation in our body, they reduce the oxidative stress resulting from them. By minimising stress, curcumin can help reduce the inflammation associated with it. Hence, it helps in the management of degenerative and inflammatory eye conditions. This is considered one of the most prominent turmeric uses.
Cardiovascular and anti-diabetic effects:The antioxidant activity of turmeric nutrients is beneficial for the heart as well. It may also help in reducing the amount of cholesterol absorbed in the intestine and lower blood glucose levels, thereby controlling or preventing diabetes.
Antimicrobial activity:Another function of turmeric is that it can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and funguses. When consumed alongside antibiotics and antifungals, curcumin exhibits a synergistic antimicrobial effect - it helps to amplify their function, a phenomenon that may not be achieved with individual action. Thus, turmeric finds application in the treatment of skin and wound infections, urinary tract infections, as well as root canal infections. Applying its paste on open wounds has been one of turmeric medicinal uses for centuries.
Skin health:Curcumin is known to extend therapeutic benefits to the skin and may be used in the medical field to help combat skin-related problems and infections. It may prove exceptional in delaying ageing, as it can improve skin firmness and may also be applied as a moisturising agent. Due to being rich in antioxidants, turmeric benefits skin greatly and is used in many homemade face packs.
Essential for the brain:In cases of traumatic brain injury, supplementation with curcumin prevents the impairment in cognition to some extent. Turmeric benefits also include its ability to protect the brain's mitochondria (the powerhouse of cells that is responsible for supplying energy). Due to various effects of curcumin, including its ability to delay the degradation of nerve cells, it can improve memory in patients with AD.
Beneficial against depression:Major depressive disorder (MDD), commonly known as depression is one of the causes of ill health across the world. It is learned that consumption of curcumin may alter the behaviour related to depression and lessen its symptoms.
Positive influence on the gastrointestinal tract:Turmeric is shown to have a protective effect on the gastrointestinal tract. It can help prevent the formation of ulcers that may be caused by alcohol and stress. It can help with the secretion of certain hormones and enzymes beneficial for digestion. It can also reduce inflammation caused by certain infections or diseases of the GI tract.
Provides photoprotection:Our skin cells contain fat that can become susceptible to the harmful effects of free radicals. When the skin is exposed to the UV rays of the sun, the radiation can further accelerate the damage caused by these harmful radicals.
Turmeric is not just an essential spice due to its colouring, flavouring, and preservative attributes; it is also necessary to maintain one’s overall health. Administration of its bioactive compound - curcumin - present in turmeric may aid in the prevention and treatment of various conditions, including depression and anxiety.
The antioxidant property of turmeric is known to be helpful in preserving the function of all important organs like the heart, liver, kidneys, and brain. While it is typically added to curries and several Indian dishes, you can also try out easy milk-based recipes containing turmeric, like haldi kesar milk or turmeric latte. Just as the health benefits of turmeric are many, so are the options to include it in your regular meals!