Turmeric is having a real moment. We’ve seen menu items and recipes pop up of turmeric soups, lattes, smoothies, juices… all boasting anti inflammatory effects and immunity. But where did this all come from? Is it popular because the bright chartreuse yellow makes it super Instagram worthy? Or does it actually have these healing powers that every juice bar, healthy restaurant, and wellness blogs claim? We just had to find out more about what makes this nutty tasting root so special.
First of all, the turmeric spice is nothing new. In fact, it’s actually really really old. We’re talking over 4,500 years old. Around 500 BCE, turmeric emerged as a critical component of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of natural healing that has gained popularity in recent years, hence the resurgence of turmeric. The main active ingredient that gives turmeric it’s good rep is curcumin.
Side note: in Indian culture, turmeric is more than a medicinal supplement. A Hindu wedding day tradition is for the groom to tie a string dyed with tumeric paste around the bride’s neck to indicate that the woman is married and capable of running a household. This tradition is comparable to the symbolic exchange of wedding rings in Western religions. Mer + Ry, just a thought for your special day.
So, let’s talk about the benefits of this ancient remedy.
Turmeric and anti-inflammation:
Turmeric's component curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Inflammation is important in that it aids in repairing damaged cells and helps your body fight foreign invaders. However, chronic inflammation can be a major problem. It’s actually believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a huge role in nearly every western disease such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. So, anything that can help chronic inflammation is incredibly important to treat and prevent these diseases. To put it in perspective, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory abilities are so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of many anti-inflammatory drugs.
Turmeric and antioxidants:
Turmeric increases the antioxidant capacity of the body. Antioxidants protect our bodies from free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons that react negatively with important organic substances such as proteins, DNA, and fatty acids. Turmeric’s curcumin neutralizes free radicals, and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. This is what you call a “win-win”.
Turmeric and cancer:
Turmeric can help prevent and perhaps treat cancer, which is characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells. Studies have shown that curcumin can affect cancer growth and development at the molecular level, reducing the growth of cancerous cells and even contributing to the death of cancerous cells. Now, clearly there is not proven cure for cancer, however, there is some evidence that it may help prevent it occuring in the first place, especially in the digestive system.
Turmeric and brain disease:
Curcumin boosts the brain-derived neurotrophic factor that is linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases. The brain’s neurons are capable of creating new connections and multiplying-- all driven by a growth hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Decreased levels of this hormone have been linked to brain diseases and disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s. Curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF.
Not so fast though. Before you start eating spoonfuls of turmeric, know that there is only about 3% of curcumin content in turmeric. So, most of these studies are based on extracts, with dosages over 1 gram per day, which would be really really difficult to reach by just using turmeric spice in your foods. In order to get the health benefits discussed, you’ll need to take an extract of curmunin (or supplement, sold here) alongside black pepper and a fatty meal to aid in proper absorption. But that doesn't mean we should stop enjoying the delicious nutty taste and bright color it adds to our meal.
Here are a few spots in town where they are serving up turmeric spiced menu items:
Rooted Juicery + Kitchen: The Golden Latte (turmeric + ashwaghanda blend + honey + mylk) (pictured above)
Lemongrass Thai: Yellow Curry (lemongrass + turmeric + coriander + pineapples + baby corn + snowpeas + carrots + choice of meat)
First Watch: Morning Meditation Juice ( orange + lemon + turmeric + ginger + agave nectar + beet)
Off The Vine: Almighty Juice (kale + romaine + spinach + cilantro + parsley + carrot + beet + lime + lemon + tumeric + ginger)
Chocolats Latour: Bollywood Bar (Dark chocolate + turmeric + curry + mango + coconut + golden raisins)
Know of any other places in town with turmeric on the menu? Let us know in the comments section below!