Move over acai bowls and matcha lattes… there is a new ‘super’ ingredient in town and if you believe the marketing, it would seem just about anything can be fixed with turmeric!
Turmeric is a widely available spice that comes from the Turmeric plant, part of the ginger family. It has a warm, bitter taste and a deep mustardy-yellow colour. The turmeric ‘bulb’ itself can be eaten, but it is usually dried and ground into powder. It is used in a lot of traditional Indian and Asian cuisine and especially in curries. Turmeric contains a chemical ingredient called curcumin that gives it its colour. Curcumin is often used as a colourant in food and cosmetics.
Turmeric has been marketed for use in the treatment and management of such wide reaching health conditions as:
- Joint and arthritic pain and osteoarthritis
- Digestive problems
- Gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Gallbladder disorders
- Stomach ulcers
- Bloating (water retention)
- Haemorrhage (bleeding disorders)
- High cholesterol
- Skin conditions, itching and skin inflammation
- Menstrual problems
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bladder inflammation and
- Kidney diseases
As you can see, this list is extensive and while anecdotal evidence of the health benefits of turmeric is abundant, there have been very few extensive clinical studies conducted to confirm some of the claims that are made.
What we do know is that curcumin (the chemical compound in turmeric) has been shown to aid in the reduction of swelling and inflammation. Therefore, many diseases and health conditions that result from inflammation, or have an inflammatory response, may be improved by the use of turmeric as a dietary supplement.
Reputable research thus far has suggested that use of turmeric is possibly effective in the treatment of high cholesterol, osteoarthritis and itching. There really is not enough reputable evidence to support the majority of other health benefit claims, however, many clinical studies into other medicinal uses are underway with positive results.
A further point to consider is that most of the clinical studies underway are using curcumin itself, which comprises only around 3% of turmeric powder. If health benefits are proven, a curcumin supplement would be far more beneficial than turmeric powder.
Turmeric is considered a very safe product, with very few side effects. Some people can experience diarrhoea or nausea but this is quite uncommon. There are contraindications for people on blood-thinning medication or anti-platelet therapy, or other medications that can slow blood clotting such as aspirin, clopidogrel, ibuprofen, diclofenac (Voltaren) etc. If you have any doubts, do not commence a Turmeric supplement without advice from your Doctor.