If you’re a health junkie, then you may already be aware of some of the benefits of turmeric. But even if you know this orange root is good for you, more and more research indicates that it may just be the answer to better immunity, brain function, and overall health!
Turmeric root comes from the same family as ginger root. It’s ground finely to create turmeric spice, which gives curry its yellow coloring. Turmeric has been used in traditional Indian cuisine for thousands of years because of its many health-boosting properties, and now, modern science is starting to understand why.
Turmeric contains curcuminoids, which are medicinal compounds that have shown to boost our health in more ways than one. Of those compounds, curcumin, a powerful antioxidant which helps to relieve oxidative stress on the body and has anti-inflammatory effects, is the most potent.
Inflammation plays an important role in our health. When the body detects a threat, inflammation occurs to protect our cells against damage. While short-term inflammation is good for the body, chronic inflammation causes our immune systems to start attacking our regular, healthy cells, which could then cause a slew of health problems including metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and more. Since turmeric contains the powerful anti-inflammatory curcumin, it helps to tame chronic inflammation, improving immunity and fighting disease. In fact, curcumin has been found to be just as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs — without the potentially harmful side effects.
Another of turmeric’s impressive health benefits is its ability to boost your brain. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a type of growth hormone that promotes the multiplication of neurons and the formation of neural connections in our brains. Many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers have been linked to low BDNF levels. Interestingly, curcumin has shown to increase BDNF levels. Some studies even suggest that curcumin could enhance memory and ward off depression — another condition associated with low BDNF. All in all, the curcumin in turmeric seems to be an effective mood enhancer, anti-ager for the brain, and could protect against age-related brain diseases!
Turmeric also demonstrates efficacy for the prevention of heart disease. Because it’s high in antioxidants, turmeric relieves the oxidative stress that is often linked to cardiovascular conditions. Additionally, the endothelium, or lining of your blood vessels, is responsible for regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, and other factors that contribute to heart health. A poorly-functioning endothelium is linked to many heart conditions, but curcumin has shown to boost heart health by improving endothelial function. Studies have shown that curcumin improves endothelial function just as well as certain prescription drugs and cardiovascular exercise. Wow!
While adding turmeric to your cooking is a great way to boost the health factor of any meal, turmeric and curcumin are most effective when taken in a supplement. Many of the studies discussed above involve concentrated turmeric and curcumin extracts, which are more potent and thus boast incredible health-boosting benefits. To get the most of your turmeric supplement, be sure that you’re purchasing one that also contains piperine, a compound that helps to activate the curcumin in the body and boosts absorption up to 2,000 percent! As always, get a doctor’s OK before trying any new supplement. We love this one from NatureWise ($23.06, Amazon).
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.