What is Turmeric?
Turmeric (jiang huang, 姜黄) is a flavour-filled spice that is primarily cultivated from the rhizomes of the Turmeric plant that grows in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. Aside from being used to give curry its vibrant yellow colour, Turmeric has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years too. The primary active component of Turmeric, the one that gives the spice its characteristic yellow colour and the reason for most of its potential health benefits, is none other than curcumin.
Sometimes called the Indian Saffron or the Golden Spice, it is also often used in Indian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Turmeric falls under the category of ‘Herb that invigorate the blood’. This herb can help to stimulate blood flow, promote the circulation of blood in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities, as well as to treat acute pain caused by Blood Stagnation.
Warm in nature, Turmeric can help individuals who have too much ‘Cold’ in their body, such as those experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance. Bitter and pungent in taste, Turmeric can help to cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. Also, Turmeric can promote the circulation of qi and body fluids. In particular, Turmeric is believed to target the Liver and the Spleen.
Functions and Benefits of Turmeric
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is believed that the health benefits of Turmeric are as such:
Firstly, Turmeric can relieve pain in the Heart, chest, hypochondria and abdomen caused by Qi Stagnation or Blood Stasis. By activating blood, moving qi and alleviating pain, it can address symptoms such as traumatic injuries, swelling and pain caused by Stasis, gynecological diseases such as mass, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation and postpartum abdominal pain. As it can also dissolve Stasis, relieve carbuncle and swelling, this herb is also often used for sores and abscess.
Secondly, Turmeric can expel Wind and promote the movement of blood. Through the actions of dispersing and warming to achieve dredging, this herb can dispel Wind-Cold-Damp pathogens externally, move qi and blood internally, dredge meridians and activate collaterals. Hence, Turmeric is often used to dredge arms and limbs to relieve arthralgia, muscle tension, shoulder pain and arm pain.
Aside from the above Turmeric benefits, modern studies have also discovered that Turmeric consists of anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce inflammation and consequently the aggravation that people with arthritis feel in their joints. Also, benefits of drinking Turmeric include protecting your liver from damage by toxins. For individuals who are taking strong drugs to address diabetes or other health conditions, this herb may be able to help them counteract the potential liver damage. Turmeric may also reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Other than adding flavor to food, Turmeric can also aid digestion. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this spice may be able to help with gut inflammation and gut permeability. In fact, this herb has been used in Ayurvedic Medicine as a digestive healing agent. The spice is even currently being explored as a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
How to Use Turmeric
Whole, cut and powdered Turmeric Root is available in a variety of forms, such as capsules and tablets. Turmeric tinctures and compound preparations are also available.
One thing noteworthy about Turmeric is that it is not easily absorbed by the human body. When you ingest it by mouth, it has to pass through your digestive system and liver, losing many of its active ingredients in the process. However, we can maximize the absorption of Turmeric’s beneficial compounds if we take it together with black pepper and a small amount of fat at the same time. That is because Piperine, the active compound in pepper, can improve the bioavailability of curcumin in Turmeric by as much as 2000%!
Also, as curcumin is fat soluble, taking Turmeric with healthy options such as a spoonful of coconut oil, olive oil, half an avocado or a small glass of full-fat milk can further increase your body’s absorption of Turmeric.
Other than taking it as a herb or supplement, you can incorporate Turmeric into your diet as a cooking ingredient as well. Other than being an ingredient for curry, you can also add a spoonful of it to scrambled eggs, smoothies, or salad dressings.
You could also try brewing a pot of herbal tea with sliced Turmeric and hot water!
Cautions and Side Effects of Turmeric
Individuals who are experiencing Blood Deficiency with signs of Stagnation of Blood or Qi should avoid this herb for the time being. Also, it is best for pregnant and lactating ladies to stay away from this herb while they are taking care of their little ones.
Patients with gallstones or obstructed bile ducts should also avoid this herb unless it is approved by their healthcare provider.
While there is currently no well-known drug interactions with Turmeric, some common side effects of consuming Turmeric include bloating, easier bleeding and blood-thinning.
We strongly advise you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding if you want to incorporate Turmeric into your regular diet!
Here is a summary for Turmeric:
- Herb name (Chinese): 姜黄
- Herb name (Pin Yin): jiāng huáng
- Herb name (English): Turmeric
- Herb name (Botanical): Rhizoma Curcumae Longae
- Origin of species: Curcuma longa L.
- Part(s) of herb used: Rhizome
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Sichuan, Fujian
- Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent, bitter; Warm; Administrates the Liver and Spleen meridians
- Actions: Eases pain due to poor circulatory processes in the body; Relieves symptoms relating to rheumatism.
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