We’ve all eaten a delicious curry at some stage in our lives, whether it’s a tasty Thai curry with coconut milk, or a sumptuous Indian curry, but have you ever wondered what gives them their vibrant yellow colour? Wonder no more; it’s an amazing spice called turmeric.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in a huge variety of ways. Originally turmeric was cultivated for use as a dye. It was commonly used to dye Hindu priests’ robes, cloth, thread and many more items. It has even been used as the colouring in some mustards. Turmeric has been used in cosmetics, for religious and ceremonial purposes and of course as a spice. In India, it is widely used as a flavour and spice, as a medicine and in religious and cultural ceremonies. 80% of consumer turmeric is grown in India.
This wonderful herb has played an integral role in both Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, where it is commonly used for inflammation and digestive disorders. Turmeric has also been used medicinally for thousands of years for numerous health conditions.
It has now been shown that Curcumin (one of the active ingredients in turmeric) has a major anti-inflammatory and pain relieving action. When used topically, this pain relieving action is due to the Curcumin acting to deplete substance P - the neurotransmitter which transmits pain signals from the nerve endings. Used internally, Curcumin acts on multiple anti-inflammatory mechanisms in the body.
Interesting Facts on Turmeric
Did you know that turmeric belongs to the same family as Ginger? The part of the turmeric plant which we use for both cooking and medicine is the rhizome - an underground root-like stem. Sometimes turmeric is referred to as Indian saffron. Marco Polo, the famous explorer, even remarked on the similarities between turmeric and saffron.
In cooking, turmeric is often used as a cheap alternative to saffron due to their similarities in colour and faint bitter tang. Turmeric was also used to make a special turmeric paper to test alkalinity after chemists in the 1870’s found that it turned a reddish brown colour when exposed to alkaline chemicals.
Turmeric is also a potent antioxidant, with activity is twice as strong as resveratrol. Now let’s find out what turmeric can do in our body!
The actual compound that gives turmeric its vibrant yellow colour is called Curcumin. Curcumin is the major active ingredient in turmeric and the majority of studies performed on turmeric and its components have focused on Curcumin.
Curcumin has potent antioxidant properties and has a strong anti-inflammatory actgion in particular to mild osteoarthristis.
Osteoarthritis & Turmeric
Both turmeric and Curcumin have shown significant health benefits for a variety of conditions but one of turmeric’s major health benefits is for mild osteoarthritis. Both turmeric and Curcumin have a potent ant-inflammatory action in the body. Curcumin exerts its anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting certain inflammatory mediators. This anti-inflammatory action helps to address the inflammation in mild osteoarthritis. Curcumin may also help increase joint mobility, provide symptomatic relief, including helping to reduce joint swelling and manage the pain in mild osteoarthritis.
Although turmeric has potent benefits in the body, it's traditionally been very difficult to absorb, meaning that high doses needed to be used. However, new technology has allowed the active Curcumin to be bound to easily-absorbable phospholipids, making it much easier to get a therapeutic active dose of this potent spice.