Food can be preventative medicine when you eat a diet packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. And certain ingredients have the potency to bolster your body’s defenses against illness. A beautiful, vibrant yellow, turmeric is one of the oldest medicinal herbs around and comes from the Curcuma longa plant, which belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and is still used by those looking to reduce inflammation today.
The most bioactive and beneficial components of turmeric are compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin contains over 100 molecular targets for the body. This means that curcumin helps decrease inflammation through a number of different routes. Curcumin has the ability to modify genomics and cell signaling pathways, down regulating inflammation via pathways such as NFkB and COX while also decreasing production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
The exact mechanisms of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are complex, multidimensional, and still being uncovered via exciting research.
- A 2019 study comparing 500mg of curcumin extract to an NSAID for osteoarthritis pain found that curcumin provides similar levels of pain reduction (1) with the added benefit of fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
- Research on curcumins impact on brain health is in its infancy but animal research suggests that curcumin can combat neuroinflammation and increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor potentially (2) providing a double edged sword for combatting neurodegenerative diseases.
- Research shows curcumin’s ability to up-regulate the anti-inflammatory signaling pathway called Nrf2 . Nrf2 is a promising target for the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and pulmonary injury. So in other words, turmeric helps increase signaling of Nrf2 which helps protect against oxidative damage and the onset of chronic disease.
The theme here is that turmeric is powerfully anti-inflammatory, and inflammation is ultimately the root of almost all chronic disease, whether it’s asthma, diabetes, or stroke. You can reduce systemic inflammation both by cutting out unhealthy foods – for example, trans fats and sugar are highly inflammatory – and eating more anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric.
On Your Plate/In Your Cup
There are curcumin supplements, which will offer the most potent dose of curcumin – however, turmeric is easy to incorporate into your diet. These are some delicious ways you can add more turmeric to your diet:
Whip up a turmeric shot (coconut water, lemon juice, black pepper and ground turmeric)
Scramble eggs in turmeric
Spice up a curry or stir fry
Warm up with a golden turmeric latte
Relax with a post-dinner/pre-bed time turmeric tea
Add to rice, farro or quinoa while cooking the grains
Pro Tip: Curcumin isn’t well absorbed in the blood. To enhance your body’s ability to use it, pair turmeric with black pepper. Black pepper contains a chemical called piperine, which can boost the absorption of curcumin by 2,000 percent.
 DOI: 10.1186/s13063-019-3327-2
 DOI: 10.22088/IJMCM.BUMS.9.1.1
 DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.08.001