If last year was the year of avocado and kale, this year’s superfood buzzword is turmeric. We asked Marilena Epitropou, Nutritionist at John Bell & Croyden, what we need to know about this herb and its superpowers, which include tackling exzema and arthritis.
What are the benefits of turmeric?
Turmeric or else curcuma longa is one of the most widely studied and used herbs. It has numerous benefits in the body, with the most popular benefit being its anti-inflammatory action. It has anti-viral,anti-microbial and anti-fungal action. It is a strong antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals, so it can benefit those exposed to carcinogens like smokers, chemical industry workers etc. In traditional herbal medicine, it has been used to support liver function and to treat digestive problems. Additionally, due to its anti-platelet activity it can be used in the management of heart conditions.
Why is it having a moment now?
It has been used for thousands of years not only in traditional medicine, but as a spice and a colouring agent. However in the past few years it has gained popularity and has been branded as a “superfood”. People are turning to tradition for finding solutions to minor ailments and turmeric is a herb extensively studied and researched. With so many health benefits, it is no surprise that turmeric is having a moment.
How does it work?
Turmeric’s active ingredients are called curcuminoids. Their strong anti-inflammatory properties is part to their ability to inhibit the synthesis of inflammatory prostaglandins. As a cell protective, it works by inhibiting the replication of damaged cells. As a liver tonic, turmeric enhances glutathione-S-transferase’s activity in the liver which is one of our body’s most potent antioxidants.
How can it be used?
Turmeric can be taken as a spice in curries, soups and stews. It can be taken as a tea, in smoothies or mixed with milk alternatives. For those that wish to take turmeric in greater concentrations, turmeric powder as well as curcumin (which is the active ingredient) capsules are available in pharmacies and health stores.
Anyone in particular who can benefit (and anyone who can’t?)
Anyone can benefit from supplements in their lives. Those suffering from inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, rheumatism, sports injuries, dysmenorrhea or eczema. Those exposed to chemicals and carcinogens. People fighting bacterial infections, or those that wish to enhance their digestion and liver function. However, as with other herbal supplements, it can interfere with certain prescription medications such as NSAIDs. Due to its anti-platelet activity, turmeric cannot be taken alongside with anti-coagulants. Concentrations can stimulate the immune system, thus is not recommended for those on immunosuppressants. If taking a prescribed medication, consult your doctor about taking a herbal supplement.
Products or supplements to know about?
Curcumin by Solgar, £28 (185x greater bioavailability than standard curcumin) and Jeeva Turmeric Coconut Water, £3.50. Both available at John Bell & Croyden.
You can also get your fix in your afternoon cup of tea. Sebastian Pole, Medical Herbalist and author of Cleanse, Nurture and Restore with Herbal Tea told us: ‘Turmeric is a renowned super spice, famed for its anti-inflammatory and pain relief benefits. Modern research has shown that this remarkable spice may have a range of benefits in skin, from protecting us from premature aging, to skin-clearing, to supporting skin healing and cell renewal. Try Pukka Herbs’ Turmeric Gold tea.’