Turmeric is a plant native to South east Asia and widely used as a spice, especially in Indian, Middle Eastern and Thai cuisine. The world’s largest producer of turmeric is India, with its Sangli city, the main center of production.
Turmeric normally means only the plant Curcuma longa, but there are several other species attributed to this botanical genus.
The name comes from the Sanskrit turmeric and saffron is the litteral translation of the original term. That explains the frequent use of the name Saffron of the Indies. In Hindi, turmeric is called haldi.
The spice powder is obtained from the rhizomes of the plant. Inside them we can find the active which this spice is known for. The rhizomes are boiled and dried and then ground into a powder.
The turmeric powder is an ingredient of the famous masala (which roughly coincides with what is often called simply curry), which gives it the yellow intense and characteristic colour. The flavour is very volatile, unlike the color which remains unchanged in time. For this reason it is a substance widely used in the food industry as a colorant, with the code E100.
Turmeric is used in the food industry but is also known for its beneficial and healing properties, used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
Curcumin is one of the interesting principles contained in turmeric, thanks to its antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and the recently those discovered to fight cancer. The prestigious National Cancer Institute (USA) in fact includes turmeric among the active in the bowel cancer prevention, since it seems to be able to neutralize the toxic substances present in foods.
Besides curcumin, we can find in good quantity also potassium, vitamin C and starch (about 26%).
Our body benefits from the active of turmeric for minor ailments such as bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. As anti-inflammatory, turmeric helps in the treatment of arthritis, osteoarthritis, muscle aches, menstrual pain, post-surgical pain, conjunctivitis, Crohn’s disease, hemorrhoids.
Curcumin regulates blood circulation, promotes digestive action, stimulates the body’s immune response, just increasing the number of circulating antibodies.
Also the type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s (neurodegenerative disorder whose action is opposed by important antioxidant qualities of curcumin) seem to undergo the beneficial action of the healing properties of turmeric.
Turmeric is also part of the “anti-free radical” non-enzymatic (such as vitamins A, C, E) and can be used almost every time that our body is under physical and mental stress.
To take advantage of its active ingredients, incorporating turmeric in our daily diet is enough. A couple of teaspoons a day are the ideal dose and can be added at the end of the cooking of many foods, to various types of yogurt or even be used to make a dressing sauce.
It’s also important to remember that turmeric should be taken along with black pepper, green tea or fats (such as extra virgin olive oil), to facilitate its absorption.