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Ground turmeric root has been used in Indian and Chinese cooking and traditional medicine for centuries. Today, turmeric is available in powdered form as a culinary spice, and in tablets and capsules as medicinal extracts. Many dietitians agree that the peppery-tasting, golden-hued spice has multiple health benefits

As a culinary spice with a history spanning thousands of years, turmeric has been used in all kinds of recipes, particularly curries and mustards. It has gained a reputation mainly for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some have hailed it as a natural defense against inflammatory bowel disease high blood sugar, arthritis, and even certain cancers and it may be no coincidence that people in India who eat curry on a regular basis have one of the lowest instances of Alzheimer’s disease in the world.

Most dietitians agree that while curcumin, the most active compound or curcuminoid in turmeric, is not a cure-all, there’s no question there are some important health benefits. It enhances digestion. It also has positive effects on the heart. In a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, the researchers discovered that taking curcumin capsules four times a day can support a healthy heart. Externally, using turmeric can smooth and clarify skin by helping to decrease the amount of oil produced by overactive sebaceous glands without drying out the skin.

That said, “The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin” a new review of scientific literature on the curcumin published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in January 2017 says that despite the thousands of research papers published on curcumin, there have been no double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (the gold-standard of medical research) to support the claims made about it in the media. The review suggests that future studies should take a more holistic approach and look at turmeric as a whole spice or a component of entire meals to account for all of its potential compounds.

For those who don’t eat curry or take tablets, there are many ways to incorporate curcumin into your diet. One of the easiest ways is by making turmeric tea. Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup. Add honey and/or lemon to taste. Add a pinch of black pepper to increase absorption. Some people like to add a teaspoon of ginger along with the turmeric.

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