I started looking into why turmeric is good for you about five years ago when my Aunt mentioned she was giving turmeric to her elderly dog, Scruffy. He was having difficulty getting up the three stairs from her lounge to the kitchen and she was amazed at the results.
She also noticed many of the fatty lumps he had all over his little body had reduced tremendously, this is purely anecdotal but it was her experience and it got my attention.
Turmeric is not just a humble spice
While researching why turmeric is good for you I was blown away by the stories I heard. I had always thought of turmeric as the rather unexceptional spice that lived in the back of my cupboard and was sometimes employed to turn my rice yellow, I have been well and truly humbled!
I have outlined 7 interesting facts about turmeric and a recipe for Golden Paste, the best way to take turmeric, at the end of the article. So if you came for a recipe and are not interested in my musings about why turmeric is good for you, the button will take you straight to it!
1. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory
Turmeric has an impressive record of being used for medicinal purposes for nearly four thousand years. Modern medicine has finally caught up and started to recognise why turmeric is good for you with over 3000 publications dealing with turmeric coming out in the last 25 years.
A compound in turmeric, curcumin, has many health benefits. It is a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It is such a powerful anti-inflammatory that it rivals the effectiveness of many anti-inflammatory drugs without the nasty side effects.
While acute inflammation has an important role to play in our bodies, it helps fight invaders like bacteria, it is a problem when it becomes chronic. It is now believed that inflammation plays a huge role in most chronic diseases including the big guns like cancer.
2. Turmeric is not easily absorbed by our bodies
Curcumin is fat soluble, which is why recipes for golden paste call for it to be made with coconut or olive oil.
Unfortunately, curcumin is not easily absorbed into the blood, which is essential to receive the health benefits it has available to us. This is where black pepper enters the equation. Black pepper contains a bioactive compound called piperine, and this compound enhances the curcumin absorption into the blood by up to 2000%!
Other properties of piperine include the ability to relieve nausea, headaches and poor digestion, so it is beneficial in its own right. It is for this reason that recipes for Golden paste include fresh ground black pepper.
3. Turmeric has potent antibacterial properties
Another reason why turmeric is good for you is that the curcumim has shown a broad range of pharmacological properties. In the last 50 years it has been proved to be a powerful antibacterial and is found to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).
Encouraging news indeed given how current antibiotics are becoming less effective due to overuse!
4. Turmeric is linked to better brain function
Turmeric has been linked to better brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases.
It is common knowledge that neurons in the brain form new connections. However it is not as widely known that in certain areas of the brain they also have the ability to multiply in number. This is caused by a type of growth hormone in the brain, a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDFN). Diseases like Alzheimers have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone.
Studies now show that curcumin has the ability to increase levels of BDFN in the brain according to Science Direct.
This means that this amazing spice could make it possible to delay or even potentially reverse brain diseases and decreases in brain function! Another exciting reason about why turmeric is good for you.
5. Turmeric has antifungal properties
Turmeric has proven, potent antifungal properties and has been extensively studied. According to the National Institutes of Health using curcumin in conjunction with existing fungicidal agents provided a more significant effect against systemic fungal infections like candidemia and candidosis in studies
Not quite as exciting as potentially reversing brain diseases but still another great benefit to this amazing spice!
6. Marco Polo was fascinated by turmeric
The legendary Venetian merchant, explorer and writer, Marco Polo, who travelled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295 marvelled at the properties of turmeric. He is quoted as saying: “I have found a plant that has all the qualities of Saffron, but it is a root”. (It’s also a fraction of the price of saffron!)
7. Turmeric is very effective in treating arthritic pain
As we discussed above, curcumin is known to possess potent anti-inflammatory properties, and this includes anti-arthritic properties. This is beneficial when dealing with the pain and discomfort of arthritis.
I read a really interesting article in the National Library of Medicine. In a study of 45 people with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers assigned curcumin supplements to one third of the patients, another two thirds were assigned the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, or a combination of the NSAID and curcumin supplement. The group that took the curcumin only and not the NSAID showed the most improvement.Even more importantly, the curcumin treatment was found to be safe without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.
This is not a full list of why turmeric is good for you, I picked 7 interesting facts but there are loads more reasons to incorporate turmeric as golden paste into your diet.
Recipe for Golden Paste
(Use organic where possible)
- ½ cup ground turmeric
- 1 ½ tspn fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ cup raw coconut oil or cold pressed olive oil
- 1 cup water with 1 cup spare
- 1 ½ tspn ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 ½ tspn ground ginger
(Ginger and cinnamon are both packed with health benefits and can be incorporated into your golden paste to give you a boost! However they are not essential and most Golden Paste recipes won’t include them).
- Mix the turmeric and water in a pot and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for around 7 to 10 minutes until you have a thick paste. You may need to add extra water from the spare cup to keep a good consistency while cooking. (I usually add an extra half cup of water).
- Remove from the heat and add the oil and freshly cracked black pepper. If you are using the cinnamon and ginger, add them at this point.
- Stir well to ensure the oil is incorporated evenly and leave to cool.
- Although the golden paste keeps in the fridge for about 3 weeks, I find it best to divide it into smaller glass jars, pop one in the fridge and freeze the rest. In that way it stays fresher and far more pleasant.
- I find mixing golden paste into a small glass of orange juice or oat milk is quite pleasant and easy to take.
- Make sure you use freshly ground pepper and not pre-ground pepper. The active ingredient in black pepper, piperine is oxidised when exposed to air and loses much of its effect.
- Turmeric has blood-thinning qualities so if you are on medication, such as Warfarin, it may be worth discussing with your doctor before taking golden paste.
- Try taking a quarter teaspoon twice a day with food and slowly build up if you are not used to turmeric. Although it is a food, too much at once could cause an upset stomach if you are not used to eating turmeric. It only stays in your system for around 6 hours to taking it regularly will give you the best effect. Good luck!