If it is not already a staple spice in your kitchen, you might have heard of turmeric through the “golden milk” drink that has gained popularity in the United States in the past few years. Before being the latest food fad, golden milk, also known as Haldi Doodh, was an ancient home remedy used in India to treat colds and sore throats. Although Western countries seem to be just waking up to it, the use of turmeric dates back 4000 years. Earliest traces of turmeric use can be found in India, where it bears not only medical but also religious importance. Today India produces nearly all of the world’s turmeric and consumes 80% of it1. It is, however, increasingly consumed worldwide. According to the 2016 Food Trends Report, between 2011 and 2016, Google searches for the word ‘turmeric’ have gone up 300%.
Turmeric & Skin Health
Why all the hype? Well you’ve probably guessed it: this bright yellow spice is incredibly healthy. Full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric added to your food and drinks will definitely help get rid of that winter cold that just won’t go away. In addition, in Ayurvedic medicine turmeric has been used to alleviate all sorts of skin conditions, including chicken pox and shingles. Recent studies have indeed confirmed that the ancient knowledge is not misguided. Both applying a turmeric paste to your skin and ingesting turmeric are beneficial for skin health, helping with acne and more serious skin diseases2. The bright yellow of turmeric can stain your skin and although it is rare, some people can have allergic skin reactions to it, so before applying your turmeric mask, be sure to first test it on a very small area on your arm for example.
Anti-cancer Properties of Turmeric
Turmeric’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent spice to consume to prevent or help cure cancer. Indeed, studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are so strong that they are more effective than aspirin and ibuprofen… without any of the undesirable side effects these two drugs can have. More and more studies are being done to see exactly what kind of anticancer activity this spice has. A study on mice showed that the turmeric extract they were given inhibited the growth of cancerous cells3.
In addition, adding black pepper to your turmeric might boost its effectiveness. As well as having health-promoting qualities of its own, black pepper enhances the bioavailability (absorption into the blood stream) of turmeric. Recent studies on the impact of curcumin and piperine (the main active ingredients in turmeric and black pepper) indicate that these substances have been able to target and eliminate breast cancer stem cells4
Turmeric Helps with Depression
Finally, turmeric can help with depression. Indeed, in a study, 56 people with major depressive issues were divided into two groups. One group was given curcumin and the other was given a placebo. After 4 weeks, the group receiving the turmeric extract showed significantly more improvement in mood-related symptoms5.
Happiness, health, beauty… with turmeric, you can have it all! Granted, turmeric won’t solve all your problems, but in addition to making your food ever more flavorful and delicious, it’ll boost your physical and mental health. You can buy it fresh in some places, or ground up into a powder you can easily add to curries, vegetables, baked goods or hot drinks. It pairs well with many other spices, including cumin and coriander. Turmeric is more than one of the latest food trends – it is an essential component of any type of healthy diet.
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA & a world traveler.