Turmeric, a relative of ginger, is a spice that comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant that grows in the tropical areas of South Asia. The roots of the plant are in the shape of bulbs that produce rhizomes. These are boiled, dried and then crushed into the familiar yellow powder which we call haldi.

The use of turmeric as a coloring agent and dyes dates back to 600 B.C. Turmeric has a long medicinal history in India as it has been in use in Ayurvedic herbal medicines for various conditions such as breathing problems, rheumatism, body pain, and even fatigue. Turmeric is also used for dyeing clothes. In fact, Marco Polo compared turmeric to saffron in his notes when he traveled to China in 1280. In medieval Europe, turmeric was called the “Indian Saffron”.

Turmeric has a peppery bitter flavour and is sometimes used as a colouring agent in foods. It is used in canned products, baked products, dairy, juices, and other food products. Turmeric leaves are also used to wrap and cook food. These leaves tend to impart a distinctive flavour to the food.

Turmeric by itself is a miracle spice but when mixed with milk, its benefits can double. Turmeric is made of a chemical compound called curcumin which is fat soluble. Turmeric is prepared by heating milk and adding a spoon of turmeric powder to it.

India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of turmeric in the world. Turmeric from India is considered to be the best because of its high content of curcumin. India accounts for 80% of the total world production of turmeric.

Some basic facts about Turmeric

  • Botanical Name: Curcuma longa
  • Family: Turmeric belongs to the ginger family called Zingiberaceae
  • Common Name: Turmeric, Haldi (Hindi)
  • Sanskrit Name: Haridrā
  • Parts Used: The roots or rhizomes are used in medicine and food
  • Native Region and Geographical Distribution: Mostly grown in South Asia, turmeric is found in India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Peru.
  • Interesting Facts: The name Curcuma Longa comes from the Arabic name for the plant, Kurkum. It is called Jiang Huang in Chinese.
  1. Turmeric nutrition facts
  2. Turmeric health benefits
  3. Turmeric side effects
  4. Takeaway

Turmeric is made up of 26% manganese and 16% iron. It is also rich in fiber, Vitamin B6, potassium, Vitamin C and magnesium. Turmeric is also said to have therapeutic qualities due to the chemical compound Curcumin that is present in it. It also contains antioxidants and is an anti-inflammatory agent.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100g of turmeric contains the following nutrient values:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 12.85 g
Energy 312 kcal
Protein 9.68 g
Fat 3.25 g
Carbohydrate 67.14 g
Fiber 22.7 g
Sugars 3.21 g
Calcium 168 mg
Iron 55 mg
Magnesium 208 mg
Phosphorus 299 mg
Potassium 2080 mg
Sodium 27 mg
Zinc 4.50 mg
Vitamin B6 0.107 mg
Vitamin C 0.7 mg
Vitamin E 4.43 mg
Vitamin K 13.4 mg
Fatty acids saturated 1.838 g
Fatty acids, monounsaturated     0.449 g
Fatty acids, polyunsaturated 0.756 g
Fatty acids, trans     0.056 g
  • As an anti-inflammatory: Turmeric is often used topically due to its anti-inflammatory effects, which help in relieving pain and swelling due to an injury and avoiding chronic inflammation.
  • As an antioxidant: Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which imparts it an antioxidant potential and an anti-ageing herb. Its free radical scavenging actions reduce oxidative damage and delay ageing.
  • For arthritis: As an anti-inflammatory, turmeric helps to reduce joint pain and discomfort due to arthritis.
  • For the brain: Turmeric assists in proper brain function and may be effective against Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
  • For the heart: Curcumin helps in reducing the damage to heart vessels and walls thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
  • Against cancer: Curcumin is effective against of cancer as it inhibits abnormal growth. Activity has been found against breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, leukaemia, lymphoma and certain cancers of the gastrointestinal system.
  • For oral health: Turmeric is useful in the management of gum problems like gingivitis and periodontitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Actvity against oral cancer has also been found.

Turmeric for heart health

According to WHO, Ischaemic heart disease is the topmost cause of deaths worldwide. The reasons for heart diseases could be many, but we can always alter our dietary habits and lifestyle to have a healthy heart. According to research, curcumin is one of the herbs that can help prevent or reverse heart diseases. Curcumin acts upon the endothelial cells, the lining of the blood vessels of the heart, thereby, reversing the damage done to the heart. We all know that exercise has tremendously positive effects on the smooth functioning of the vascular endothelium. Also, one study shows that turmeric has similar effects on the functioning of endothelium. Regular consumption of turmeric will help keep your heart healthy in the long run.

(Read more: Heart disease symptoms)

Turmeric for brain health

Turmeric is not only good for your heart, but it is also beneficial for the functioning of the brain as well as enhancing the memory.

A research revealed that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a type of protein that forms the major component of the brain. It plays a vital role in the regeneration of nerve cells. Another study shows that people who are suffering from depression and Alzheimer’s disease have critically low levels of BDNF. Exercise proves to beneficial as it triggers the natural production of BDNF in humans. Surprisingly, turmeric has also shown similar results.

Regular consumption of turmeric can help increase the BDNF level, resulting in enhancing the memory, reversing any brain diseases and in the smooth functioning of the brain.

Turmeric antioxidant properties

As we grow old, the number of free radicals (reactive oxygen species) exponentially increase in our body. The free radicals are highly reactive and can cause oxidative damage as they tend to react with proteins or fatty acids. The presence of too many free radicals can even damage our DNA as well as cells. The levels of free radicals in the body increase due to various reasons such as smoking, air pollution, levels of pesticides in the food, fried foods etc. We can combat the effect of this increasing level of free radicals in our body by enriching our diet with natural antioxidants. These antioxidants can be naturally found in vegetables and fruits. A research has suggested that turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, which neutralizes these free radicals. It also stimulates the production of the antioxidant enzymes. Therefore, people who consume turmeric on a daily basis tend to live a healthier life.

Turmeric as an anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is very important for our body as it helps to repair damaged tissues and fight foreign bodies. Inflammation helps our body fight against the pathogens entering our system. Short-term inflammation, such as acne or a small cut is beneficial for our body but it gets worrisome when the inflammation becomes chronic, as it starts attacking its own body tissues. A long-term inflammation, even at low levels can cause heart diseases, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties as it interrupts the NF-kB (nuclear factor kappa beta), a molecule that activates the genes related to inflammation in the cells. A study shows that turmeric fights inflammation at the molecular level.

Turmeric prevents cancer

The abnormal growth of cells in the body leads to cancer. Studies show that Curcumin in turmeric can be used in cancer treatment as it affects the growth, development and spreading of cancer cells at the molecular level. Curcumin has been found effective against many cancers such as gastrointestinal cancers, breast cancer, lung cancer, neurological cancers, ovarian cancer, leukaemia, and lymphoma. According to a research, curcumin does not affect the normal cells but has an ability to kill various tumour cells. Because of this, curcumin has proved to be a beneficial medicinal plant, which can be used in various drug development. Thus, regular consumption of turmeric may help you fight cancer and prevent it.

Turmeric for Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the leading causes of dementia worldwide. An extensive research on Curcumin, an ancient Indian herb has proved to be beneficial in the modern medicine also. It has been used for various treatments such as gastric ulcer, breast cancer, atherosclerosis etc. Curcumin has also been used for the treatment of brain injuries. A research proved that curcumin derived from turmeric has a potential role in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, curcumin proves to improve the condition of patients suffering from this disease. Due to the lipophilic property, curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, which ultimately helps it to reach the brain cells and treat Alzheimer's disease. Hence, regular intake of turmeric can help you to keep neurodegenerative diseases at bay.

Turmeric for arthritis

Arthritis, a condition that occurs because of joint inflammation is a common problem among people of all ages. The anti-inflammatory property of curcumin in turmeric has a potential to help people suffering from arthritis. A pilot study showed that curcumin is safe and effective to treat people suffering from arthritis.

Turmeric for depression

Turmeric can help ease out the symptoms of depression and it also has a potential to treat people suffering from depression. In a controlled study, 60 patients were given Prozac (a common antidepressant), curcumin and a combination of both for six weeks. It was evident that curcumin was effective for people suffering from depression and they did not have any concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders. Also, curcumin has clinically been proven to be used as a safe and effective treatment for people suffering from depression.

Turmeric for anti-ageing

It is believed that free radicals and inflammation are some of the main reasons for ageing and other diseases. It is evident that curcumin possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Because antioxidants neutralize the free radicals, curcumin can be used to reverse the signs of ageing. Also, curcumin triggers the antioxidant enzymes in the body, thereby slowing ageing. Therefore, adding turmeric to your daily diet can help you to age slower.

Turmeric for dental health

For ages, turmeric has been used for its various medicinal properties in traditional medicine. According to a study, turmeric can be used to detect dental plaque, which is barely visible to the naked eyes. Beni-koji, an extract from turmeric is the reason behind the yellow pigment which imparts a yellow color to the plaque. Also, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric aid in treating gingivitis, relieving pain, periodontitis and oral cancer.

Turmeric has been in use in Indian households since time immemorial. Recently, turmeric has gained popularity in the west as well. Though turmeric has great qualities, it should be kept in mind that too much of anything can be harmful.

  1. Turmeric can cause allergies in certain people because the curcumin present in turmeric is a contact allergen. It is also known to cause contact dermatitis. People might develop skin rashes and allergic reactions after contact with or ingestion of turmeric.

  2. Diabetes: Curcumin, the chemical found in turmeric, might decrease the blood sugar level in people with diabetes.

  3. Gallbladder: It is advised to avoid turmeric if you have problems with your gallbladder, especially in the case of gallstones or a bile duct obstruction. Research shows that curcumin induces contraction of the gallbladder.

  4. Stomach Complications: Turmeric may interfere with antacids. It may cause increased stomach acid if taken with antacid drugs such as Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Nexium, or Prevacid. Studies show that high doses or long-term use of turmeric may cause gastrointestinal problems and upset stomach.

  5. The curcumin in turmeric causes gastric irritations which can lead to common symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea

Turmeric has been a part of our culture for ages. Turmeric has more benefits than side effects but it is still advisable to consult a doctor before consuming any form of turmeric, especially if you are diabetic or pregnant.

Turmeric is used not only in medicines and food products but is also used in many natural beauty treatments. Haldi, as it is known in India, plays a major role in our lives, for we use it not only in cooking but also in medicine and cosmetics.

Turmeric is indeed a miracle spice with multiple uses. It is said that one glass of turmeric milk mixed with one spoon of honey is the Indian method of keeping the doctor away.

Medicines / Products that contain Turmeric

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