Turmeric is a peppery, pungent and bold spice celebrated around the world, best known as the key ingredient enjoyed in delicious Indian curry dishes… and the antioxidant compound Curcumin gives it that bodacious yellow color!**
Turmeric has been used as a spice and traditional herb for millennia. With its signature yellowish-orange hue, it’s one of the world’s most brightly colored spices, with a flavorful “kick” like no other! Extracted from the root of its namesake flowering plant, it has a long history of use in India, and is sometimes referred to as “Indian saffron,” giving curry, chutneys and so many exotic dishes their distinctive character.
Fragrant and somewhat bitter, its storied past reaches back nearly 4,000 years. Not a bad run! Very few things survive the test of time, let alone thread through different cultures and civilizations, both as a traditional health tool and renowned spicy favorite.**
So how did Turmeric become the “hot new” nutritional supplement?
With over 3000 publications dealing with Turmeric coming out within the last 25 years1, it has joined the ranks of several other nutritional supplements as kind of the Next Big Thing in nutraceuticals.
But Turmeric isn’t a passing fad. Its benefits to civilization date back to the Bronze Age**:
“The use of turmeric dates back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance. It probably reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD, West Africa by 1200 AD, and Jamaica in the eighteenth century. In 1280, Marco Polo described this spice, marveling at a vegetable that exhibited qualities so similar to that of saffron. According to Sanskrit, Ayurvedic and Unani systems, turmeric has a long history… Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium, dating back to 250 BC, recommends an ointment containing turmeric.”1
Let’s just take a minute to talk about the word “Ayurvedic.” You see the word all the time in “alternative” health and wellness circles. Holistic practitioners, including N.D.s (Naturopathic Doctors), will often incorporate Ayurvedic traditions into their work.
The word “Ayurveda” comes from ancient Sanskrit and means “life-knowledge.” Nowadays, Ayurvedic is often used to talk about complementary (non-mainstream) formulas based on phytonutrients, a.k.a. plant-based ingredients.
It sure is amazing that Ayurvedic techniques and ingredients are still used today! Probably more so, as pioneering, open-minded scholars and researchers explore our collective past to draw upon all human knowledge and the great traditions of the past, embracing ideas that come from ancient cultures and applying contemporary thinking. Yoga has now morphed into Power Yoga!
These days, Turmeric is indeed popular in the world of ‘alternative’ health. Largely because of its key compound: Curcumin.
“Turmeric is a spice derived from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. Curcuminoids are polyphenolic compounds that give turmeric its yellow color; curcumin is the principal curcuminoid in turmeric.”2
Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found largely in fruits and vegetables, with potential health benefits as antioxidants.** And just a quick refresher on antioxidants: They help fight harmful free radicals in cells (groups of atoms created through the oxidation process that contain an odd number of electrons), causing healthy cells to become unstable, which prey on other cells.** By helping protect the body from oxidative stress by fighting these free radicals, antioxidants assist in supporting good health.**
So if you’d rather pass on the extra helpings of curry, look for a high-quality turmeric supplement to get the spice’s best wellness benefits.** If you get capsules, you can even break them open and sprinkle the powdered turmeric into hot water to make a delicious tea!
Turmeric is one of the best health supporting traditional Asian herbs… so why not soak in the bright, antioxidant-rich radiance of this sun-tinted spice today?**
1. Prasad, Sadheo, and Aggarwal, Bharat. “Turmeric, the Golden Spice.” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd Ed. Online. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK927522.