Spices are some of the most widely used condiments throughout the world. They are revered as a culinary enhancing item by chefs and nutritionists. They are widely used in traditional medicine to heal many diseases. Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine are two areas where herbs and spices are widely used for their healing properties.
One such spice used both for cooking and to make supplements is turmeric. Got from the curcuma longa plant, the rhizome or roots are ground to make turmeric spice. Turmeric root is part of the ginger family. It has a distinct flavor and color and is used to add zest to curries or soups. It has a warm, pungent and bitter flavor and is also used to flavor butter, cheese or mustard and to lend color to other dishes.
Apart from being used as a spice, turmeric root is ground and made into herbal supplements. These days, turmeric supplements are used to treat a range of illnesses like arthritis, dyspepsia, bronchitis, lung infections, menstrual problems, skin problems, cancer and more. Turmeric supplements are made using curcumin – the phenolic compound which contains antioxidant properties. It must contain at least 95% standardized curcumin to offer therapeutic benefits. It must not contain preservatives or artificial colors, and must not have any starch, gluten or yeast.
Turmeric Spice – What is it used for?
Turmeric spice contains manganese, iron, vitamin B6, fiber and potassium. It is used as food color in dairy products, confectionary, ice cream, beverages, cereals, sweet and savory products. In dairy, the banana or lemon colors of flavored milk or desserts are got from turmeric spice. It is also added to pickles, relishes, dry mixes, sausages or fish products.. Oil from turmeric is used in the perfume and food industry for its flavor and coloring. Turmeric spice is also used to make milk or tea.
Turmeric spice is also widely used in the cosmetic industry. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which can be used to treat and prevent various skin conditions like acne, eczema, excessive tanning, and stop premature aging. Turmeric paste is used to cleanse the skin and to achieve a glowing skin along with other ingredients like milk, lemon or honey. Simply apply a paste made using turmeric powder on the affected areas for a few minutes and wash off when dry.
For minor ailments like sore throat or cold, a mixture of turmeric and milk can offer instant relief. It can also quickly heal wounds. Ayurvedic medicine uses turmeric spice for various ailments like urinary disorders, ulcers, liver conditions, high cholesterol, digestion, improve immunity, fight allergies, IBS, viral and bacterial infections and more. Eating turmeric enriched foods can reduce the risk of children developing childhood leukemia. Some of these and other diseases can be prevented or the risk reduced by including turmeric spice in food on a regular basis.
Apart from just benefits, personally I love turmeric's colour and taste in my curry. Just amazing!
Turmeric Supplement – What is it used for?
Curcumin is the main pharmacological agent found in turmeric. This has been used to make health supplements and numerous studies have been conducted on its various therapeutic benefits. It offers anti-inflammatory benefits similar to strong drugs like phenylbutazone and hydrocortisone. Hence it is effective in treating inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis etc. Since it does not cause serious side effects like ulcer formation, intestinal bleeding or decreased WBC, turmeric supplements are safer to use than conventional medications.
Epidemiological studies have also found that curcumin has antioxidant properties which can protect the body from cancer cell growth by preventing tumor cell formation. Hence, it can be used to treat colon, breast, prostate and lung cancer. Turmeric supplements also help improve functioning of the liver, lower cholesterol, offer cardiovascular protection and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The body is sometimes unable to use curcumin to its full potential due to its low bioavailability. Hence, it is often combined with other chemicals to improve its bioavailability. Quercitin is an antioxidant in onions. This can be combined with curcumin from turmeric to prevent colon cancer. Curcumin and another phytonutrient – phenethyl isothiocyanates – found in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli etc., can be combined to halt the progression of prostate cancer. Bromelain is a chemical found in pineapple. This is often combined with curcumin to improve its anti-inflammatory benefits and absorption levels. Piperine is a chemical found in black pepper. This is also added to curcumin to enhance its bioavailability and absorption.
Turmeric Spice Vs Turmeric Supplement
As far as dosage is concerned, turmeric spice used in food does not cause any side effects. However, you must regulate the quantity of turmeric supplements which you use. These supplements are available as tablets, tincture or fluid extract. The dose of standardized curcumin powder is 400-600mg thrice daily; cut root – 1.5-3g daily; fluid extract – 30-90 drops daily; tincture – 15-30 drops daily and dried, powdered root – 1-3g daily.
Turmeric spice does not cause any side effects. When turmeric supplements are taken within appropriate doses by adults, there are usually no side effects. However, excess dosage taken for long periods could cause stomach upset, nausea or dizziness. Special precautionary warnings are issued to pregnant and breastfeeding women, diabetic patients and those with gallbladder problems or GERD to avoid turmeric supplements for its effects are not known. Anyone taking anticoagulant medications must avoid these supplements since it can increase bleeding. Stop taking turmeric supplements two weeks before a surgery.
When choosing turmeric spice or supplements, it is important to choose the right product. Turmeric supplements especially must be made using standardized extracts of > or = 95% curcumin. Make sure the company you purchase the supplement from follows GMP (good manufacturing practices). If you purchase a product which does not have enough of the active ingredient, you will not get any benefits.
As we see, both turmeric spice and supplements offer various benefits. While the therapeutic benefits of turmeric are got more from the supplements, we can also experience more side effects with it if taken in excess. Turmeric spice used in food is safe but must be consumed in sufficient quantities to offer benefits. For anyone who does not like the taste of turmeric in food, they can go in for supplements. If cost is an issue, then you may need to opt for turmeric spice since it is cheaper than using turmeric supplements. So, the choice is really up to each individual. However, anyone with a medical condition or taking a specific drug must consult a doctor before using turmeric spice or supplement.
On a personal note, I feel it is better to take turmeric as a spice and make it part of food as we use salt etc. This ensures one has turmeric regularly and without any risk of overdoes etc.