What does Turmeric do? (and why is it so popular?)

what does turmeric do

By now, I think everyone has heard of turmeric as a health food supplement for both humans and animals.  Turmeric is promoted as a miracle cure for virtually every condition under the sun,  but, whenever we are out and about, we are always asked the same question – 

What does turmeric do? (and why is it so popular)? 

The key active ingredient in Turmeric which was been the focus of most scientific research is Curcumin. This is what gives Turmeric its yellow colour. 

Turmeric as an Anti-inflammatory

Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory properties and works by inhibiting the production of both Leukotrienes and Prostaglandins in the body. 

Leukotrienes and Prostaglandins trigger inflammation. Inflammation is actually very important as it helps the body to fight infection and triggers a whole cascade of reactions which stimulate the body to repair the area that has become inflamed.  Think of a nasty cough of cold. The mucus is the result of inflammation and helps the body to flush out the bacteria and nasties in your airways. This will prevent long term damage to the lungs.  If you have bumped yourself and cut your skin, it will swell and bruise. Again, that swelling is your body is the result of all the important nutrients going to the area to help repair the damage. 

But, in some conditions, the inflammation becomes long term (chronic) and becomes part of the problem, such as in arthritis, colitis and even allergies. This is when supplements like turmeric can help – by helping to inhibit the production of  leukotrienes and prostaglandins so that they no longer trigger the constant inflammation. 

Turmeric as an Anti-oxidant

Colourful food is good for us, and Turmeric is no exception. The bright yellow colour is an indicator of all the anti-oxidants it contains, known as curcuminoids.

Free radicals are damaging molecules in our body which cause oxidation. They are responsible for ageing, but also many diseases. Our body makes anti-oxidants in order to capture the free radicals and flush them out of the system, but sometimes the demand outstrips supply.  Curcuminoids are powerful anti-oxidants, even stronger than vitamins such as vitamin C and E. As well as having anti-oxidant properties itself, turmeric boosts the action of anti-oxidant enzymes already within our body. It therefore provides two different anti-oxidant benefits which both support the immune system. 

Anti-inflammatory AND Anti-Oxidant

These two huge benefits are what make turmeric so popular, and so widely used. There are many, many health conditions which involve both inflammation and oxidation. Turmeric has been well studied and known to have no adverse side effects, so why wouldn’t you try a natural approach? 

Turmeric is suitable for all animals. Curcumin is poorly absorbed and is best fed with oil. Also piperine, which is found in black pepper, will enhance the absorption of curcumin.

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photo by Sophie Callahan