Turmeric is a bright yellow color tropical spice related to ginger (they are cousins). It has an earthy, somewhat bitter, spicy flavor. You can purchase it as a whole root or powder in most supermarkets.
There has been an increase in research on the different health benefits of turmeric. In one important well-designed study, researchers studied the role of turmeric and other spices in reducing inflammation and protecting our DNA. They compared the cells of spice eaters versus non-spice eaters exposed to free radicals (stress), then counted the DNA breakages and levels of inflammation in both groups.
They found that consuming a pinch of heated turmeric suppressed DNA damage by 50% in one week. Ginger and rosemary cut the DNA damage by 25%. Regarding reducing body inflammation, they found that cloves, ginger, rosemary, and (unheated) turmeric reduced the inflammation caused by LDL (bad) cholesterol significantly (Percival et al., 2012). Heat-treated examples include adding ground turmeric to any hot dishes or beverages such as casseroles, oven-roasted vegetables, rice, or hot golden milk. Golden milk powder is a mix of ground turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and other spices you can blend with milk and drink hot or cold.
Active components in Turmeric
Turmeric has more than 300 active components in it. Curcumin is the most well-studied component, and is the pigment that gives turmeric its beautiful bright color. Curcumin is potent because it may activate our antioxidant enzymes (body protective mechanisms). One of our most potent enzymes is catalase. Catalase detoxifies millions of free radicals (harmful substances) per second. We can make catalase 75% more powerful by consuming at least three-quarters of a teaspoon of heat-treated turmeric daily (Percival et al., 2012). To help your body absorb curcumin 2,000% more, add black pepper and/or a healthy fat to turmeric dishes (Anand et al., 2007).
Consuming three-quarters of a teaspoon per day of heat-treated turmeric protects your DNA, and unheated turmeric reduces inflammation, so consume both ways daily. Add black pepper or healthy fat to the dish to boost curcumin absorption.
Turmeric pairs well with curry powders, egg dishes, Indian dishes, rice dishes, salad dressings, meat, veggies, smoothies, etc. Add with ginger for North African style cooking. To sweet dishes add turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Time to start looking for some recipes with turmeric.
How to grow it at home
Please refer to this article: Ginger and Turmeric in the Garden. Writen by our sustainable agriculture UF Extension Agent, Mark Bailey.
S. S. Percival, J. P. V. Heuvel, C. J. Nieves, C. Montero, A. J. Migliaccio, J. Meadors. Bioavailability of Herbs and Spices in Humans as Determined by ex vivo Inflammatory Suppression and DNA Strand Breaks. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 31(4):288 – 294.