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By Deanne Mascioli
Inflammation – most people associate it with joint pain, but it stems much further than just joints. It can be an underlying cause to many health obstacles from food sensitivities to painful menstrual periods, skin conditions, poor gut health and even headaches.
How do we relieve it? This is where turmeric comes in – it’s the anti-inflammatory spice taking over the world. Not only does this spice shine bright like the stars, but it also packs a punch when it comes to targeting inflammation. Here’s how.
Science nerd alert: Inflammation works by signalling our body’s immune system to respond and repair injured or damaged tissue. Pro-inflammatory messengers in the body cause blood to flow to the injured area providing extra nutrients and white blood cells to kick-start the healing process.
For the body, inflammation serves an important role, especially during injury, infection and even stress. The easiest way to think about inflammation is to think of a recent muscle injury and what happens moments later – the area heats right up, visible red and swelling oh and HELLO incoming wave of pain and tenderness. This is inflammation. This is the body’s response to repair the injury.
If you’ve ever experienced an injury, you’ll know this all too well but what you may not know is that this can happen not only externally but also internally – with perhaps a food you’re sensitive to, stress or even environmental toxins. So while your body calling its immune cells to fight whatever is bad may sound like a positive, if it happens for too long – it can become chronic and show up in many forms from skin conditions to poor gut health joint pain and even headaches (no thanks).
Turmeric is the ultimate herbal remedy – a standout when it comes to reducing inflammation. Grown in India, eastern Asia it’s been a hero in holistic medicine for hundreds of years – with Ayurvedic medicine noting its anti-inflammatory actions long ago.
Its rhizomes (the plant’s stems) are rich in curcuminoids – this is also what’s responsible for the plant’s vibrant, beautiful yellow-orange colour. The most powerful curcuminoid is curcumin, which is key in the plant’s ability to help ease inflammation.
Turmeric targets those pro-inflammatory messengers we spoke about earlier but more specifically, it’s a dual inhibitor of the arachidonic cascade (the pro-inflammatory pathway).
With its broad reach and action in reducing inflammation, it’s commonly a go-to for many Naturopaths when dealing with an inflammatory picture, such as – arthritis, food sensitivities, and poor gut health.
When chronic inflammation is around, oxidative stress is bound to be near. Oxidative stress results from free radicals circulating in the body, causing damage deep at a cellular level. We hear the word ‘antioxidant’ all the time, yet, never underestimate its importance because an antioxidant’s role is more vital than you think.
An antioxidant’s job is to scavenge or collect those free radicals so cells are protected. Turmeric is therapeutically an antioxidant. Not only does the rhizome (plants root) scavenge for free radicals, but it also enhances the antioxidant activity in our body. Fun fact – Turmeric’s antioxidant effects are 10-fold more potent than vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and even grapes (resveratrol).
There are many ways to help get the most out of this golden herb. For ease, I prefer a liquid herbal extract of turmeric as it can be easily dropped into my day. I simply drop it straight under my tongue, in water or in a smoothie to-go.
As for cooking – if you’re using a turmeric powder to get the most out of the spice, add it with healthy fat and black pepper. Turmeric loves healthy fats, so when incorporating turmeric as part of your ritual, use it alongside healthy fats – coconut milk, olive oil, avocado oil. Cue turmeric latte with coconut milk anyone?
Wondering what the deal with black pepper is? Piperine is the hero in black pepper as it aids the absorption of curcumin (found in turmeric). So, if you are cooking with turmeric, always add some black pepper. Bon appetit.
Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs : herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone.
Braun, L. and Cohen, M. (2015). Herbs and natural supplements : an evidence-based guide. Volume 2. 4th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Bone, K. and Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy modern herbal medicine. 2nd ed. Edinburgh Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier.
Paultre et al. 2021, Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review ‘, BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med, Vol. 7, No. 1, doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935.
Song E-K et al. Diarylheptanoids with free radical scavenging and hepatoprotective activity in vitro from Curcuma longa. Planta Med 67.9 (2001): 876–877.
Deanna Mascioli is a Melbourne-based naturopath (BHSc Naturopathy), Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor. Living and breathing intentional self-care Dee believes that you already have the innate power within you to unlock your true self. When body, mind and spirit are balanced that’s where the magic really is.
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