Whether it's ibuprofen or aspirin, most of us reflexively reach for a pill when inflammation flares up. (There's a reason they make those gigantic 1000-count bottles, after all.) But a powerful compound found in nature can do the trick just as well—and you can find it in the spice aisle.
Turmeric, the jewel in the crown of Indian spices, is a health powerhouse. Though it's best known for it's role in certain curries, the yellow powder (derived from a rhizomatous plant related to the ginger called Zingiberaceae) contains nearly 30 anti-inflammatory compounds, and is loaded with magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6.
What makes it so special? Curcumin. This little compound is found in other anti-inflammatory spices like cinnamon, but is most plentiful in turmeric. (It's also responsible for that signature golden hue.)
Curcumin combats inflammation in the body, and in patients with arthritis—which is essentially extreme inflammation—it can be more beneficial than over-the-counter pain relievers.
Inflammation itself is believed to be the root cause, or at least a major contributing factor, to many chronic diseases. The onset of obesity, cancer, and Alzheimer's have all been linked to excessive inflammation in the body.
Curcumin actually blocks a molecule that turns on inflammation in the genes called NF-kB. That means that inflammation is stopped at a cellular level before it even begins. Along with affecting NF-kB, turmeric plays a role in influencing over 700 genes in the body, which explains why this spice has been used in Ayurvedic and Indian medicine for thousands of years.
It's also worth adding turmeric into your day-to-day routine if you're an athlete. The potent yellow powder has been shown to help athletes recover more quickly and efficiently without any adverse side effects.
Plus, turmeric will help you look good while living a longer, healthier life. Used to help skin repair and regenerate, turmeric has even been applied to treat patients with psoriasis. Because it affects the body's inflammatory response so much, turmeric can also stave off signs of aging. Less pain and fewer wrinkles? Yes, please.
Turmeric is also antimicrobial, so it can be helpful for everything from balancing gut flora to accelerating healing of surface wounds. In fact, some even use turmeric as a teeth whitener—if you're already a fan of oil pulling, you might want to consider adding a dash of turmeric to your coconut oil.
So how can you use it at home? Dried turmeric spice is earthy and slightly bitter, with a ginger-like flavor. It's the key ingredient in many Indian-style curries and but don't be afraid to try it in recipes with sweeter profiles like these turmeric muffins.
Want to double down on your turmeric intake? Try a supplement. Just remember to swallow down your turmeric pill with a meal, because this super spice is fat soluble, so it's more readily absorbed with food.
Instead of reaching for the aspirin next time you wake up sore after a tough workout, try this golden spice to boost your beauty, health, and wellness.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont