2. Traditional Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a beautiful flowering tropical plant native to India.
Cooking residue found on pottery shards shows that people in parts of Asia cooked with turmeric 4,500 years ago. (2)
It is one of several spices used to make curry powder, an essential ingredient in south Asian cuisine.
It’s usually used dry, but the root can also be grated fresh like ginger.
It was applied externally for wounds and skin conditions.
It was also used as a beauty treatment. (5)
Soaps and creams containing turmeric are experiencing a surge in popularity today.
Turmeric paste is still applied to the skin of both the bride and groom in a ceremony before marriage in some parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to beautify skin and as a form of good luck.
The Relationship Between Turmeric and Curcumin
Many websites, even authoritative medical sites, incorrectly use the terms turmeric, curcumin, and even curry powder interchangeably.
This makes it hard to understand the information on turmeric.
Let’s clear up any confusion.
Curry powder is a mix of many spices including the spice turmeric.
Turmeric contains hundreds of compounds, each with its own unique properties.
But of all the compounds in turmeric, curcumin is by far the most promising and is the most widely studied.
You can find many websites that make unrealistic claims about turmeric.
A few natural health websites boldly state that turmeric has been proven beneficial for over 600 ailments.
But the vast majority of studies were done on the isolated compound curcumin, not turmeric.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says this about turmeric studies: “… there is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.” (6)
Why would this be?
It’s easier to study a compound like curcumin which can be isolated and standardized and acts more drug-like than spice-like.
But the overriding reason may be that there is little monetary incentive to research a spice that’s already found in millions of kitchens worldwide unless it can be transformed into a substance that can be patented.
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