Written by Annmarie Cannone, Naturopath.
Turmeric has been used for its medicinal and culinary purposes for over 4000 years. Its use dates to the Vedic era. In Southeast Asia, it has been used as a primary spice but also as a component in religious ceremonies. The Hindu religion sees turmeric as auspicious and sacred. In the 11th Century, Marco Polo, described the beautiful spice and found that it exhibited similar properties to saffron and it has now been termed the ‘Indian Saffron’. During this time, turmeric was introduced as a clothing dye and was used in Europe for this main purpose and was very rarely utilised for its medicinal properties.
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used for its strengthening and warming properties. It has been used for centuries to improve digestion, eliminate worms, relieve gas and cleanse and strengthen the liver and gallbladder, as well as reduce pain and swelling associated with arthritis and joint abnormalities. It was also used as a local application for burns, cuts, bruises, and sprains. The indigenous Hawaiians also used turmeric for its astringent properties and found it was a useful medicine for relieving sinus and ear infections.
India cultivates nearly all the world’s turmeric supply and consumes 80% of it as well. It is believed that turmeric, cultivated in India, is of the highest quality and contains the highest percentage of its bioactive compound called curcumin.
Although turmeric has been utilised for thousands of years in Southeast Asia, its modern use has only been present over the last 100 years, with interest being with its bioactive compound called curcumin. Multiple studies have been conducted to determine the therapeutic activity of curcumin and many positive results have confirmed its beneficial role as an anti-inflammatory, particularly when utilised with arthritis and other inflammatory joint conditions.
In certain clinical trials, curcumin has been found to reduce pain, inflammation and improve joint mobility.
Many studies, albeit being in very preliminary stages, have found turmeric to exhibit antioxidant and anti-cancer properties (1). In animal studies, its antioxidant effect has proven to be beneficial in the reduction of fatty liver disease. (2)
Turmeric can easily be added to many dishes as well as smoothies and consuming this medicinal herb daily, can aid with reducing general inflammation as well as benefit your digestive health and overall health.
- Perrone D, Ardito F, Giannatempo G et al. Biological and therapeutic activities, and anticancer properties of curcumin. Exp Ther Med. 2015: 10(5): 1615-23
- Yiu WF, Kwan PL, Wong CY, et al. Attenuation of fatty liver and prevention of hypercholesterolemia by extract of Curcuma longa through regulating the expression of CYP7A1, LDL-receptor, HO-1, and HMG-CoA reductase.J Food Sci. 2011 Apr;76(3):H80-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2011.02042.