Turmeric has long been recognized as a ‘superfood’ in the East and used as a natural medicinal tonic for centuries thanks to its powerful therapeutic properties. It’s had a bit of a renaissance of late in the West too – no doubt, you’ll have seen this golden yellow spice included in your favourite healthy foodies’ recipes for food and drinks. It’s ideal at this time of the year, as our bodies are dealing with trans-seasonal changes and can highly benefit from an immunity boost!
Health benefits aside, it also adds a delicious touch of flavour to your meals and is great for skin too. It’s an all-around spice superhero! We’ve rounded up the key benefits for your beauty and wellbeing below.
As an Indian spice, turmeric has been used for millennia in India. So we asked wellbeing and Ayurveda expert Eminé Ali Rushton of The Body Balance Diet Plan what makes turmeric so special. She said: “Turmeric is one of those spices that it's impossible to be hyperbolic about – it just is naturally rather miraculous:
- It's a hugely potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, so it not only boosts our immunity and helps our bodies better cope with modern life, stress, poor diet etc, it also calms our bodies internally too.
- Ayurvedically-speaking it's the real king of spices – believed to keep the energy meridians and 'chakras' clear, and aid the body in feeling strong, light, energised. In Ayurveda it's called a 'bitter' – so it's also used to bolster the liver.
- It contains many of the same compounds that are found in milk thistle and artichoke, so it's a great purifier; it's also an anti-spasmodic, and has been used successfully to ease IBS, and ward off gas and bloating... there's so much more too!
Also helpful to bear in mind is that turmeric is far more readily absorbed when it's taken with black pepper... add both to soups and stews, and you'll have a true health-booster on your side! It can even be applied topically to bruises, rashes, infections (it's a potent anti-bacterial) – just mix powder up with milk or water, and apply to the affected area as a paste.”
What is it? Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and traditionally called Indian saffron due to its similar yellow-orange colour. It comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant which has tough brown skin and deep orange flesh. In flavour, it’s peppery, warm and bitter, with a mild fragrance reminiscent of orange and ginger. Turmeric originally hails from India and Indonesia, where it has been used for over 5,000 years as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye and is also popular in Chinese medicine. It was introduced into Europe in the 13th century through Arab traders.
Why is it good for us? Turmeric contains curcumin – a yellow or orange pigment – which is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. Studies1 have shown that curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Iboprufen. But unlike the drugs, which are associated with toxic effects, curcumin produces no toxicity. It can also help treat a wide variety of conditions including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Curcumin also helps protect against damage to cellular DNA. Some data also suggests that curcumin causes cancer to regress—that is, to grow smaller. For that reason, it’s emerging as an important agent in the battle against cancer2.
Thanks to its skin-improving properties, turmeric is just as likely to be featured in a tonic from your local juice shop, as it is in your natural skincare! In one study, radiation-damaged skin was exposed to extracts of turmeric for six weeks. Scientists reported improvements in skin hydration and sebum content, along with possibilities that similar creams could be used in future photoprotective formulations.3
So, look out for our of super-hero #skinfood in our #ContentApproved favourites:
- Dr Alkaitis Nourishing Treatment Oil: A multi-tasking hero which can be used on body, hair, face, this fast-absorbing blend of cold-pressed oils is great for calming acne conditions.
- Problem Solver Mask from May Lindstrom: this is one of our ultimate skin saviors! It’s key ingredient is turmeric extract, which has been formulated to balance combination skin and reduce blemishes thanks to its anti-inflammatory action.
- rms beauty Beauty Oil: This lightweight multi-purpose oil is fantastic for healing, nourishing and protecting skin. The turmeric in it helps to reduce skin pigmentation and reduce the appearance of acne scars. Rose Marie Swift, founder of rms, tells all
- Guy Morgan Midnight Black Mask: The turmeric in it helps to reduce the redness from acne and other types of scarring. Apply this mask for ten minutes to reveal smooth, supple skin.
- Tata Harper Soothing Muscle Gel: As the name suggests, this gel is great for soothing sore muscles - also thank to the turmeric essential oils. It's also ultra hydrating.
A quick and delicious way to get it into your system is via a immune boosting cold-fighting tonic. Packed with anti-oxidants, it’s our immune-boosting remedy of choice - try our Content Cold Fighting Tonic recipe here. Now you have plenty of reasons to spice up your beauty regime, and kitchen creations with this super-food!
- Jurenka JS. - Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Altern Med Rev. 2009; 14: 141–53
- Shehzad A, Wahid F, Lee YS. - Curcumin in cancer chemoprevention: molecular targets, pharmacokinetics, bioavailability, and clinical trials. Arch Pharm. 2010; 343: 489–99.
- Kaur CD1, Saraf S. - Topical vesicular formulations of Curcuma longa extract on recuperating the ultraviolet radiation-damaged skin.