A key ingredient in curries, turmeric, or Curcuma longa to give it its scientific name, is a perennial plant that grows in the world’s tropical regions. It is part of the zingiberaceae family (1).
Like ginger, to which it is closely related, turmeric is primarily used for its fast-growing roots: the plant’s flowers, however magnificent, are of no culinary or medicinal interest.
Bitter, slightly spicy, light, dry, clarifying and warm, turmeric has been enjoyed as a condiment for thousands of years ... but it also features widely in phytotherapy. Like many Asian spices, it frequently crops up in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine (2).
Tip: if you like to cook with turmeric, choose the fresh root, as it is more fragrant and subtle than the dry powder.
Curcumin, a phenolic compound with low water-solubility, is the most potent active ingredient in turmeric (3).
As well as giving turmeric its distinctive, warm, ochre-yellow colour, curcumin is largely responsible for its health benefits too. It appears, in particular, to help inhibit a number of harmful molecules (4-5).
Remarkably versatile, turmeric has important antioxidant properties (6). It also helps to:
A daily dose of between 1500 mg and 3000 mg turmeric powder is generally recommended. In terms of herbal teas, drink two cups a day, infusing 1000-2000mg of turmeric in 15cl of boiling water for 15 minutes. Be aware, however, that turmeric has poor bioavailability.
An easy way of increasing your turmeric intake is to take a course of dietary supplements in capsule form (we recommend up to 2500 mg of turmeric a day):
It’s best to take these supplements with food, as turmeric is absorbed better with fat. So there you have it – all the key information on this amazing Ayurvedic spice. If you’ve been struck by the unique characteristics of this medicinal root, it simply remains for us to wish you happy turmeric supplementation!
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