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Natural Awakenings Boston

The Esteemed Turmeric Root

Apr 30, 2020 01:47PM ● By Matthew Herrold

People are ready to buy anything that promises to bolster their immune system. With COVID-19 cure scams on the rise, consumers must be wary. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sending out cease and desist letters to false advertisers, and plant medicines are not immune to this scandalous wave of marketing.

There is, however, a need for trustworthy solutions for people that want to protect themselves. Plant medicines are poised to step up, and the esteemed turmeric root brings thousands of years of medicinal use behind it. Turmeric and its constituents boast a wide array of accepted health benefits and can help the immune system function optimally.

Current perspective accepts that a compound called curcumin is the main driver of turmeric’s health benefits. Curcumin itself was first isolated from the turmeric root in 1842. In 1949, curcumin was identified as a biologically active compound that has antibacterial properties. Scientists’ interest in curcumin has accelerated over the decades from two studies in 1960 to more than 18,000 scientific publications on this one compound to date.

New discoveries about turmeric have continued to emerge. In the 1970s, curcumin became the subject of scientific investigation, and three independent groups discovered diverse characteristics of curcumin, including cholesterol-lowering, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities. Later, in the 80s, Ramadasan Kuttan and colleagues demonstrated the anti-cancer activity of curcumin in both in vitro and in vivo models.

There are also growing interests in suggestive evidence for improving gastrointestinal conditions and to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Given the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectorant properties of curcumin, this does make sense. More time is needed to tell just how powerful these relationships are.

One particular challenge is curcumin has poor absorption in the body, and whatever is absorbed metabolizes very quickly. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help overcome curcumin’s poor bioavailability. To help maximize turmeric and curcumin’s health benefits through ingestion, combine it with pepper and healthy fats. Heat is often recommended to help combine these ingredients. Piperine—extracted from peppercorns—can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2,000 percent. Another way is to consume turmeric in tincture form. Turmeric tinctures can be made with ethanol or medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil plus piperine extract.

Less talked about are the ways turmeric can improve skin health. Master esthetician Barbara Moore-Lee likes to point out that turmeric offers skin benefits when applied topically. “Turmeric is a skin brightener. It lightens acne scars and dark circles,” she maintains. She says to take an eight-ounce jar of lotion and ¼ to ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder and “whisk it really good.” Another option is to incorporate a few drops of lavender and tea tree oil. First mix it into a teaspoon of grapeseed or jojoba oil as a carrier then mix that concoction into a favorite face lotion. “That does wonders for acne,” Moore-Lee says.

There is some particularly good news for summer. Newer research was published on the effect of turmeric on grilled meats. The study looked at a very popular dish, called satay, where turmeric is often used to marinate meat before the meat is grilled. Researchers concluded that turmeric helps prevent harmful compounds commonly formed when grilling meats. What makes this discovery especially interesting is that this prevention takes place outside of the body.

Moreover, turmeric works to push the body toward balance by interacting with different systems within the body. The human body has 12 major systems that all function like a team. If one suffers, then the others must pick up the slack. Over time, that can cause additional problems. Homeostasis is the tendency of the body to try and balance itself. Supporting homeostasis in the body with medicinal plants like turmeric or the fast-rising star, cannabis, can help prevent systems like the immune system from breaking down.

The pressure is certainly on right now for people to take care of their bodies and minds. Plants like turmeric offer accessible and safe ways to combat stresses on our various bodily systems. As a reminder, always seek guidance from a qualified health professional before beginning a new health habit.


Matthew Herrold is a certified wellness program coordinator and currently helps to develop the Massachusetts marijuana industry through branding and education. Connect at [email protected]