Even if you’ve never taken turmeric as a supplement, there’s a good chance you’ve tasted it; it’s a common spice and kitchen staple used in almost all Indian dishes, as well as many Thai and Persian foods.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) grows mainly in southern and southeast Asia and is known for its brilliant deep yellow hue. As part of the ginger family, turmeric has a pungent, peppery taste that contributes a great savory flavor to many dishes. The rhizome, or underground stem, is the part of the plant utilized for medicinal purposes.
Decades’ worth of research has shown that in India, where turmeric is a staple, the occurrence of chronic illness is dramatically lower than in Western countries (especially the U.S.). The active constituent of turmeric is curcumin (scientifically referred to ascurcumanoids), a compound that has a multitude of powerful, protective health benefits that provide more than 50 healing actions—probably why it has been used medicinally in India and China for more than 2,000 years.
Turmeric’s diverse range of therapeutic uses include as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, a circulation stimulant, an antibacterial and an anti-fungal. It has also been used for its anticancer, liver-supportive and cholesterol-reducing properties. Turmeric can be used daily to maintain and prevent disease, or can be used in a range of health conditions, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver dysfunctions
- HIV/AIDS support
- Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis, back and joint pain, or psoriasis and eczema
Turmeric can be found in a number of different formulas, listed either as turmeric or its active constituent curcumin. Some formulas also contain bioperine—a natural, patented form of pepper (also known as piperine, Piper nigrum) that has been proven to increase the absorption of other nutrients.
Here are some of my favorites:
Thorne Research’s Meriva-SR, Meriva is a patented time-release formula of curcumin that has superior bioavailability (i.e. absorption).
New Chapter Turmeric Force, a very pure and potent formulation.
Pharmaca brand Turmeric includes bioperine from an always-trusted source for herbal medicines
Jarrow Formulas’ Curcumin 95
Integrative Therapeutics’ Curcumax Pro, which uses the better-absorbed Meriva curcumin and pairs it with boswellia extract, which helps support range of motion in the musculoskeletal system
Pure Encapsulations Curcumin 500 with Bioperine, a patented formula that includes black pepper for enhanced absorption
Natural Factors’ CurcuminRich Theracurmin is a newer curcumin formulation with markedly increased absorption by way of finer granulation and suspension technology. This enhanced form has absorption rates of over 30 times that of regular curcumin.
Turmeric was once referred to as “poor man’s saffron,” due to its deep yellow hue (and much lower price). People now call it Indian gold because of its plethora of health benefits. Try taking turmeric for general illness prevention, maintaining good health or treating a current illness. With its wide range of therapeutic actions and powerful health benefits, turmeric can be a great asset to your wellbeing.
Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.