Today, we highlight one of our favorite functional ingredients, turmeric, with some information from our founder, Dr. Adrienne Youdim, about the value and importance of turmeric:
My heritage is steeped in the tradition of food. Whenever I watch my grandmother cook an authentic Persian meal, I am reminded that food is love and that it is also medicine. Her cooking was always done with both attention and intention, combining wholesome ingredients, herbs, and spices to create a culinary masterpiece that was also rich in nutrients.
While my grandmother didn’t have the benefits of advanced science and medical studies, she did have intuition and knowledge passed down through generations. Through this knowledge and experience, her generation – and many that came before her – effectively used food for healing.
One of my most memorable childhood dishes was a chicken soup of which the core ingredient was turmeric. This soup was the go-to remedy to help a respiratory infection or a seasonal cold. At the time, all I knew was that it worked. Now, through modern science, I understand that this was likely due to the anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing properties of turmeric.
What is Turmeric?
Commonly used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, turmeric is nothing short of a powerhouse of a spice. This warm, orange-yellow spice adds flavor and bright color to many traditional dishes. However, the use of turmeric is steeped in thousands of years of tradition and has many benefits beyond its culinary talents.
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the rhizome of the turmeric plant, which resembles ginger root. In order to turn it into the spice we know and love, the rhizome is boiled, dried, then ground into a powder. The primary active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which provides many of its health benefits.
Turmeric and Curcumin Benefits
Turmeric holds a revered spot in Ayurvedic medicine. Known as haldi or haridra, it has been used for generations as a healing agent, as part of yogic practices, and as part of the Hindu religion. Around the 18th century, it gained traction in the western world and has become increasingly popular as a result of its potential healing properties.
Turmeric and curcumin are antioxidants that are believed to enhance the bodies anti-inflammatory response, support brain function, may promote heart health, and joint health, and may help with depressive symptoms.
Scientific Evidence Supporting Using Turmeric for Health
Many herbs and spices are purported to have medicinal properties, but not all have been studied extensively. Yet, turmeric’s benefits are well researched. Studies testing the claims of traditional herbalists regarding the benefits of turmeric have yielded potential for beneficial effects on inflammation, the joints and may support cardiovascular health as well as help support mood.
Interestingly, research has shown that the most beneficial part of turmeric, curcumin, is not very effective on its own. It is more usable, or bioavailable, when combined with other ingredients, such as coconut oil and flaxseed, or when consumed with the entire spice of turmeric. Ancient wisdom supports this modern research, as turmeric was always consumed in whole and it’s long been thought that whole ingredients work best, as they’re in harmony and the way nature intended.
Based on this research and experience, our Vegan Cherry/Turmeric Dehl Bars contain turmeric in its entirety (NOT just curcumin extract) to increase bioavailability and to provide the holistic benefits of the supplement. Further, to ensure maximum absorption by the body, we also use coconut oil and flaxseeds.
To learn more about the science behind the claims of turmeric’s benefits, check out this comprehensive analysis from Memorial Sloan Kettering.